My superstar husband, the grace of God, and (almost) three years


I wrote earlier about a huge trial that my husband and I went through a few years ago. In point of fact – it’s been almost – key word: almost – three years since the beginning of the year that changed my life.

It was a journey of faith unlike anything I had thought I would ever face, and I was totally unprepared for it. Looking back, I still can’t believe that we came through it, by the grace of God, so well. Even that I came through it sanely!

It began on a Monday in December, and – well, I guess it hasn’t really ended quite yet. I was working – I still remember the session I was in – and Pete called our “emergency signal” – ringing my phone twice in a row. He was in the hospital and they said his problem was either his gallbladder or his pancreas. I was naïve enough at the time that I thought the pancreas problem would probably be the easier of the two! What followed was a two/three week span in which a surgeon inserted a bile tube, and eventually took his gall bladder out without checking his pancreas. Big mistake.

On December 23, a day that will live in infamy in the Gigliotti household, said surgeon, white-faced, broke the news to our family that Pete had developed necrotizing pancreatitis and the survival rate was less than 40%. A harrowing race to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center ensued in the icy conditions that made helicopter travel unsafe. In the Surgical ICU, we were told that there was also a blood clot right behind his pancreas that might cause some trouble of its own. The situation looked grim. So much so, in fact, that, at 10 p.m., when we finally left the hospital and went to a much-delayed dinner at Pizza Hut, I was shaking so badly I had a hard time even eating my pizza.

That night and for many nights to come I slept with my phone in my hand.

It was a LONG journey. A very long one, fraught with lots of desperate days. Pete was in the hospital initially for about 10 days, came home for two, and went back for three months, came home for one week, and went back for a week. Many of those days were in one ICU or another at Hershey. Most of those days were desperate ones for me. I can’t describe – and don’t honestly want to remember – what that time was like. I know I felt scared, desperate, powerless, powerful, hopeful, depressed, loving, unloved, supported …. And so very much more.

Pretty early on, against Pete’s wishes, I made our journey public because I wanted as much prayer support as it was possible to get. That eventually evolved into an online Facebook “blog” that I updated every night. Many, many days, while Pete slept in his hospital bed and I sat and prayed – played Criminal Case – answered email – stressed – the comments from folks near and far were what sustained me and gave me hope. In the end, Pete was prayed for in almost every state, many of the prisons in PA, and a number of foreign nations. Prayers went up literally around the world for his health and my endurance.

We obviously got our miracle. Whether storming Heaven was a successful strategy or it just wasn’t Pete’s time, God heard our prayers and restored my husband to me. That sounds easy, but in fact, there was a lot of work involved in his recovery, and a long path forward. He eventually went back to work part-time in September of 2015, and then fulltime in January 2016. He retired in August 2016, in very good health. And, again, by the grace of God, he’s – mostly - stayed that way. No idea why God allowed this miracle, but we are grateful every day for it.

Recently, our oldest son had – you guessed it – gall bladder problems. Obviously, Hershey became involved. When our son was hospitalized on the 5th floor, it became apparent that Pete was a celebrity – many knew him, many more knew OF him … he was a legend of sorts for surviving the disease others seldom survive.

Even more recently a routine screening took us to Hershey to one of the same doctors who had performed miracles in 2015. The doctor’s first words to Pete: “Look at you, having a screening exam!” The inference being: You shouldn’t even be here! In the recovery room, this – wonderful - surgeon, told Pete that many of his doctors did not think he would survive and were so glad he had. He was, again, a superstar.

But the real superstar is our God: God, who holds our lives and our hope in the palms of His hands. God who knows the end from the beginning and what is true and right and proper according to His timing and will. I will forever be grateful to Him for bringing my Superstar Pete back to me this time. As we near the third year anniversary of this ordeal, I want this blog to bear witness to that – without this miracle, nothing that’s come subsequently in my life – including Sanctuary Christian Counseling – would have happened. By the grace of God, Pete lived. But in a real sense, I lived, too. Praise be to God.

Postscript: I delayed the posting of this blog – some of you may be aware I like a new blog to be posted every Wednesday or so – because, at a even more recent routine exam, one of Pete’s liver numbers came up as a problem.

This was terrifying for me. I was – honestly – paralyzed by fear.

The options were scary. There could be an issue with the fat in his diet that was causing trouble. OR it could be scar tissue constricting his bile duct, which would require another of those dreaded ERCPs (he's had 10) … themselves a major factor in the development of pancreatitis. It could be other things as scary, or, even, potentially scarier.

We agreed to more testing. We participated in more prayer. We asked a few – a very few – good friends to pray with us. We went to Hershey in the middle of the night for an MRI and lab work (the earliest they could get us in).

Just today – a few hours ago actually – we got the news. Although there is some scar tissue constriction, none of Pete’s doctors think it’s something that requires action at this time! His liver numbers are drastically improved. Once again, it’s been the grace of God giving us that chance to live again.

Please pray with us that the scar tissue is either unchanged or gone by the time he has another MRI in December.

Praise be to God.

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