MY FIFTY SEVEN DAY JOURNEY

By Pam Morris-Walton

"My Journey"... is something I have to talk about the rest of my life... I've never been sick a day in my life other than a cold, flu-like symptoms. 
In the hospital overnight for several days- for the birth of my two remarkable sons' (John & Kenneth) and 43 years later, I'm in need of "a heart" due to a 'weak heart muscle.' I have a 'weak heart muscle.' Major heart surgery. What a surprise I must deal with. I know it's our body's hardest working worker. Can't imagine life without it.

I am reminded that the heart is truly Nature's engineering masterpiece. Midway in its size, between a baseball and a softball, its oblong football shape can fit nicely in your hand and mine is weak. Damaged.
Yes. I ask the question, "why me Lord?" I live for you. I follow you. I obey your Word. I help people every chance I get. 

"I have been given LIFE!" A second chance to give you my Testimony!!!! After 57 days, yes...I have something to share...  It's still somewhat-strange to me.
I had to stop asking God why. "I was in God's hands." In fact, I knew 'my life' was in His hands. "He was in control."

Surely, things happen for a reason...it’s important to just-believe!
It's now-September in Chicago. Autumn season. Nature will repaint the leaves on the trees mostly everywhere.

I remember my day's being longer than a half a dozen Amtrak commuter trains going from Chicago to Washington, DC.
Coincidentally, I remember Day 45. Sunday. September 11. 2016. I think back about 9-11.  I sit in Room 4028, in that large dark grey chair signing a document for Monday mornings' right heart cauterization procedure-biopsy about the same time as the first tower was hit in New York City fifteen years ago. I knew that cotton smock would enter into my room. I would change out of my attire to the smock that tied in the back -in three places...
--- and, I thanked my awesome God for so many reasons with "tears" running down my face from my left eye. "I cannot stop crying." I don't cry often, but I kept crying.
I called on the "Name of Jesus". I prayed. When I think of what He's done for me. I called on the "Name of Jesus". I commanded Him to bring His angels to me. "Cover me.”His name is Wonderful!
"He's Amazing." "He's Precious." "He's Glorious." "He's Wonderful." "He's a Mighty God." 

I called on the name of Jesus. He answered "my prayer." I had no sophisticated Prayer. I needed His help. "I called on the Name of Jesus!" "He delivered me!" At the "Name of Jesus," every knee shall bow and everything tongue shall confess that, "He is Lord." See, I called on the Name of Jesus countless times. I needed Him to hear me.

Sometimes, we are overwhelmed with the obstacles, the surprises, we are given in our lives and we ask "Why me?" We believe the answers elude us, we believe that the trails through which we suffer are really unfair and very, very harsh. But I come to know that there are answers, may I recognize them---I know there is a reason for whatever happens. Time heals us! One day at a time! I went through a difficult time in my life but knew that things would be better. I trust God!

Clearly, as I relive this experience...The University of Chicago Medicine" located at 5700 South Maryland Avenue, directly across from the historical DuSable Museum of African American History on 57th & Cottage Grove Avenue on the south side of Chicago, would be my home indefinitely, and-it was for 57 days-a few days from being 2 months.

"Enough." It's a word we don't hear too often. "Enough is enough", I said “Enough is Enough" over and over again... Day after day ..."no more needles ...I said "no more needles.” after nearly 60 blood draws or more...
"No more pills," "no more pills." I can't take another one -please. I stopped counting the number of pills, which I took. "No more-please."

These words, I repeated time and time again in my head. I remember, I had cried countless tears, some days longer than others. Tears that rolled down my face. Taking my right hand, reaching over to wipe the tear drops away. Tears kept flowing down my face. I remember, actually screaming to the top of my voice one night when Nurse Practitioner Jason and that needle just didn't make it into my left vein for IV. Three painful attempts. (The NuPulseCV iVAS Bridge-To-Transplant was implanted in me July 28. As a patient, I was NuPulse 004. # 4 in Human Study...in the World) ---let me step back---I screamed, "take it out." Please, take it out. Please, "take it out."

The NuPulseCV iVAS was designed to provide long term support for those with advanced heart failure. It supports persons/patients as they wait for. Heart transplant. During this clinical trial. I'm 004 to qualify.
I'm reminded on this particular - day of the "Florida Mass Choir" song, lying in bed at 3am listening on YouTube, and, to the anointed late Bishop G. E. Patterson, moving & anointed sermons, and to my husband, Franks' recorded Gospel 860 AM radio programs on his Kindle. Gospel and Smooth Jazz music.

"God is doing something wonderful in me" so wonderful, so beautiful. God is doing something wonderful on the inside, so marvelous to me, was the song that grabbed me every time the program repeated itself.
Unquestionably, I couldn't get enough of that song...I'm thinking ..."Where would we be -without music?" 
So good for the soul. Indeed, it carried me through the night after night! Day after day. "Music is a universal language," but "Gospel music" is "good news." WOW! ...and, it blessed me. Over & over again.

Let me step back, it was Wednesday, January 20, 2016. Approximately, 3pm in the afternoon...I'm sitting in Urgent Care lobby in Atlanta, Georgia catching my breath, holding on to Frank's right leg with both of my arms. I was miserable. Uncomfortable. In serious pain. Wondering how we would make the Southwest flight 5 hours later to the resort in Orlando, Florida. I felt so sick. I could not hide the awful pain. I could not hide the distress, the discomfort, in my body. But -I tried. I really tried.

Saying to myself, "Not me." What is happening? I can hardly breathe. I'm struggling for my breathe. I'm struggling. I'm fighting for my life. "not me, not me." But-it was me. Pam-was sick.

Later that night, we arrive in Orlando, Florida. Frank has got our luggage, the rent-a-car and is driving around-looking disparately for a Walgreens pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled and into my body. The Doctor has put me on five days of bed rest with four different meds I'm taking because the cold I thought I had, was diagnosed by Dr. Meares in Atlanta, as pneumonia. Pam - has pneumonia. No way...
One month later. It's Tuesday, February 23, 2016.  8AM. Frank is preparing to drive us, to Dunbar Genesis Center in Dunbar, West Virginia to visit my ailing Mom, Paskalena, in the Nursing facility. 
Frank and I, at my primary Dr. Robinsons’ request, 
 make an early morning stop at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, Elmhurst, Illinois in ER for a check up on why my breathing is so difficult. I remember, It was my eldest son, John's 45th birthday! My primary Doctor-Dr. Forest Robinson highly recommended that, we make this stop in ER at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, Elmhurst, Illinois. Dr. Robinson called ahead of our arrival and they were expecting our arrival. They immediately sat me in a wheelchair. A wheelchair? Yes...

I remember, after arriving early on that beautiful lovely morning, I was checked in and tested me immediately. 
Dr. Barr said stepped into the room. We hugged. I sat down. Dr. Barr announced to me & Frank that I had "congestive heart failure." "A weak heart muscle." I dropped my head in shock. Totally surprised. I glanced over at Franks face. He just looked in dismay.

During my brief stay at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, I would utter to myself, "Not me." I was in total denial. "Not Pam." WVON's gospel sister was really sick! The Clergy - Interfaith Liaison. Franks' wife. A 2009 retiree from The City of Chicago. John & Kenneth's Mom. Christopher, Sheridan, & Chloe's - Grannie. "What was happening?"

After Fridays' discharge and three months of swallowing four different meds every morning at 9 am, my "weak heart muscle" wasn't any better. In fact, It showed absolutely-no improvement.
Dr. Lawrence Barr M.D. highly recommends to Frank & me, the hospital closer to my home, "The University of Chicago Medicine," which was fifteen minutes away from our Michigan Avenue home and cardiologist specialist Dr. Gene Kim. 
One Thursday, in the early part of the evening, like around 6:15pm, Dr. Kim called.  We talk. He keeps asking me, how I am I feeling.

See, God plants companions in our lives. Oh, now maybe we could exist without them, but God in His infinite, never-ending wisdom gives us the pleasure of companions that He plants right into our hearts... He gave me Frank Charles Walton! 

Frank & I had an office visit days later. "Was I that sick?" "Not me." But, yes-I found out, I was.
Without holding anything back from me, cardiologist -Dr. Gene Kim said, during our office visit. "you are sick". "Tests don't lie." I was given an echocardiogram and several other tests. That news was so shocking to me & Frank. I asked Dr. Kim to give me and Frank a few minutes along. He stepped out of the room. He suggested I be admitted right then.

 It's the week before "Father’s Day" weekend, Frank’s cousins Home-going services in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Rev. Galen Leverette’s' Church Gala at The Chateau De Mar in Hickory Hill was on Sunday, June 19, at 6pm. We were very 
special invited guest of Archbishop Lucius Hall. Pam needed to be admitted immediately into the hospital. "No way." We were so shocked. "Not me." I'm that sick? Very sick. I said, "No." I said it over and over again.

Certainly, l'm thinking. I have things to do. Places to go. People to see. 
So early, on that following Monday morning, 5:30am. I am admitted on the 7th floor into the University of Chicago Medicine. It was Monday, June 20. On Friday, June 24 wearing a Zoll Life vest and IV in my left arm flowing thru a PICC line, I was discharged to return home. 

One month, and several days later---Here I am-wearing two monitors being carried in my black patent leather "Coach" purse. Both connected to me. "Not me." Not the gospel sister! How was I going to make this work? I'm thinking to myself. "I have Church". I love my Church! I have my friend Beverly. See, having Beverly as my friend...(never lose the chance to make them) ... Our friendship boast of many qualities because we finish each other's sentences, laugh at silly jokes, and lean upon each other when our own strengths seems to give out. A very long period of cultivation in our friendship. Beverly & I often, have to go shopping at Stein Mart, DSW, stop at Target. T J Maxx. Marshalls. Costco. Sam's Club. Nordstrom Rack. Home Goods. Hobby Lobby. 
Days later, the morning after "Father’s Day" It's Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 5:00 AM. Frank drives me to the hospital for a surgical procedure because of my "weak heart muscle." 
Ok, it was a right heart cauterization going thru my neck on the right side. I'm saying”Not me." "Not Pam". That's what I say to myself, over and over again. 
Weather update: it has gone from hot steamy summer temps to a taste of autumn on Day 45 for me and I'm thinking----it's okay I'm still here! 
I remember, when I think of July 28 ...that nearly one whole entire day was wiped out of my life and... to relive parts of it 4 days later waking upon a large rocking chair, in ICU Room 8077.

Suppose this was you. But-Frank knew. I didn't. See Frank, my incredible, loving and wise husband, was with me, all the way and still there side by side sharing, loving, caring keeping family and close gracious friends updated.
My family is rather large, living in different states around the country, not to mention close blessed gracious friends-a true friend is life's greatest blessings...where do I start and where do I end. I know that a hug is worth a thousand words and family friend is worth so much more. However; being surrounded by the large circle of family and friends that flew in town, drove to town, some, caught Bus 5 across town, was very special. So supportive. So concerned. Do caring.

Now, I remember the heart monitor hooked up to me by electrodes placed on my chest held by adhesive glue to record heart activity over a period of time(wearing it 57 days).  EKG's. MRI. Many types of Stress tests. Echocardiograms. Ultrasounds. Early morning Chest X-Rays. Like 4:30 am. Catheters in my neck. A "catheter" in my groin. Tube, in my bladder. Three long round tubes coming from out of my chest. So many, they (the tubes) are later, removed and the soreness is lessened as each are pulled and they keep coming those Incredible, efficient nurses with more to do to me.  

Nurse Katie was shorter than Nurse Meagan. I ask God-how much longer? Is nurse etiquette-good manners out of date? I ask myself. One nurse called Nurse Geraldine called me "Sunshine." I smiled. Nurses at The University of Chicago Medicine became my family. I believe that good manners are built around one theme- the concern for the other person, putting the needs and feelings of others ahead of our own. They cared for me. Day after day. Week after week. Hour after hour.

Why did this happen to me? Can I take any more of this pain? Can I stand the pain? Can I? "God is amazing." Awesome. A mighty God. He will see you thru! "He did!"
Frank's sister, Pastor Belinda Thomas calls me with the song by Betty Keller,"You can make it." You can make, this trail that you're going thru, God is gonna see you thru," ring deep in my sanctified soul. We sang the song together on my iPhone. So special!
See, my overnight hospital stays were many dozen of years ago as I mentioned earlier, when I birthed two incredible and outstanding sons, John Finley, then one year and half later, came Kenneth Alexander, into the world. They are now-adults with their families.
How do I say "thank you" (English) or "Gracias" (Spanish) even "Grazie!" (Italian) Every nurse, every Doctor, had been so very attentive, as well as, knowledgeable greeting me morning after morning with a smile. I recognized how people really can be. 

Realizing you must eat every day, during your hospital stay, it's week 8 and the food became unbearable for my congestion system. "Thank God" for outside selections of foods that came often to me. "Thank you Jesus!"
Weather updates; Temps one day were dry, then hot outside the hospital walls. I knew my day would come to walk outside in the hopefully near future...
I missed a whole lot of beautiful days outside during my extensive stay at The University of Chicago Medicine. 57 days.

ABC7CHICAGO  Weather person Tracy Butler said---Stray showers and pop up showers on this particular, but I didn't worry, because I expected to see many beautiful days ....and Nice weekends, I will make up hopefully with no Spotty showers Patchy fog clouds or
Isolated thunderstorms forecast-hi tempts 
Heat index 97-107
WOW!

I remember, on this particular day, this was so exciting to me just because I'm out of ICU in the regular room, I saw days before while walking the halls with Nurse Mark. I asked God to let me have this corner suite, even though it was then occupied. "God did it" I had the corner suite Room 8011 for 27 days! 
Evelyn Turrentine- Agee, out of Detroit, Michigan sings a song titled "God Did It," l He did. "He just keeps on proving Himself over and over again," was another song that grabbed me in my sanctified soul.

Days later ----Sitting on the 7th floor 7 hours after family & friends came together from near and far, Frank surprised me was so very special. I had just walked over to the chapel to prayer. Joyce from Los Angeles was in the ladies room on 7. Joyce and I had known EACHOTHER for 60 years. Nurse assistant Margo who is about 5' 6" and has a very attractive smile, passes me on 7 going to Sky Cafe. I sit. I cross my legs and smile with the yellow face mass covering my nose and mouth with white cords around my ears...and you could not see my infectious smile. I thanked God for so much. Margo would come in my room and sit and share great conversations often during my 57 day stay. I thank God for Margo. Ola. Katie. Mia. Geraldine. Curtis. Meagan. Ta-Aqua. Mylanda. Laura. 

Oh...Pharis Evans song "Thank you" came all over me. I started humming it. 
Oh, let me tell you. Day 27, days later, after being admitted into The University of Chicago Medicine Medical Center, family from out of state, aunts, uncles, cousins, Goddaughters, close friends, my incredible assistant Daphine, my Pastor & wife, several recording artists, visited me. I felt so special! 

As time passed, for 27 days. This day stands out. It's Wednesday, August 24. I am wearing the NuPulse balloon pump that Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, Dr. Nir Nriel, Dr. David Onsager and team have placed in me. I'm 004 NuPulse patient in the World. 0h, "the right heart' has come for me to have "a heart transplant surgery." Nurse Davita walks into my room and said, "no food no water." Dr. Nitasha Sarswat steps in the room and says "Congratulations." "You have a new heart!"
 I went to be prep for surgery at 9pm. Again-It was Wednesday, August 24 that Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam and team of Drs. mentioned preformed critical major surgery on me. It was a transplant experience. 12:18 am Thursday, August 25, 2016 my damaged heart was replaced with "a new heart" from a gracious donor whose family I pray to meet one day and just say "thank you."
I think..."Thank God again for the donor and their family."

I woke up in intensive care unit the next morning asking what's in my mouth. It was tubes and lines in my body. A breathing tube in my mouth. It went down my windpipe into my lungs. It was helping me breathe. I wanted it out. They pulled it out. Dressing covering the incision and three tubes underneath it. Chest tubes. Many special IV lines were inserted into me which included my neck. They monitored blood pressure, lungs and my body and would deliver fluids and medications.

I had made it thru major surgery and had 'a new heart.' 
"God did it." My God is Awesome. By His stripes I am healed. Prayers gone out for me from across the country. Prayer works!
God smiled on me after 27 days in Room 8011. I had another chance at life! My incredible and loving husband Frank and eldest son, John on Wednesday, August 24 was up all night waiting on 7.
Tracy Butler weather update: A cool start with temps with some sunshine this Sunday is reported on abc7 morning news. We are in the month of September.
Clear skies expected 
Quite in the Midwest as we head into the week temps climb and I'm looking forward to going home.

I honestly admit, as time passed, throwing medicines away came into my mind so many times. I became closer and closer to pouring the mountain of pills in one of the sheets of tissues next to my left arm sitting on the table. But God...
Blood draw every day except on this two particular days, I remember, I had four blood draws and then two, that brought tears running all down my face, from both eyes. I could hardly stand it. Breathing treatments twice a day by the Respiratory Therapist...But God. He is so amazing!

Excruciating pain continued day in and day out in my body. Pain you would wish on anyone. Not anyone. No matter who. Not anyone! 
One particular Nurse. Nurse Mia said, “I can only imagine your pain and what you are going thru. I said immediately, "no you can't." You have not been where I am. No, no, l said.

My late Aunt Mabel visits me in the spirit world and said to me, "get up, and get dressed." I'm thinking---I'm in the hospital, where am I going? I got up. Went into the bathroom. Got dressed. Sit in the chair, not that far from my Bed. Oh-that bed became more uncomfortable every day of my days there. I remember sleeping on the couch for three straight nights with four pillows under me. One sheet wrapped over me. One blanket -near. 

Tracy Butler's Weather update; Sept 12 abc7 at 5:08 AM that-it's a day of beauty. Dry and comfy start with showers expected later this week. 
I smile. I wonder just how much longer I will be here. It's Day 53. Another Blood draw that was every morning real early. Pills. Pills. Pills. Pills. More Pills. It seemed they never stopped coming and they didn't. 

My uncle Beauford and wife Yvonne, who had visited me earlier from Atlanta, Georgia told me, take every pill. I responded to Bruce, "I will." I did, and still taking every pill. My Aunt Norma from Washington, DC said the same.
I'm happy that family and close gracious friends like Joyce & Leeaada and their spouses, from Los Angeles, (they surprised me) Pastor Monica Parcia Price from Wisconsin,(she surprised me too) Dr. Gloria Jackson Bacon from New Orleans surprised me, several of my beloved neighbors, Mary from Atlanta-my Pastor Dr. Horace E. Smith MD and wife Susan, Cynthia from Orlando, my husbands' family from Dallas, Evanston, Hillside and Atlanta surprised me, Valerie and Kedra from Atlanta---Daphine, my neighbors Pat & Herman, Pam & Mike, surrounded me.  My Aunt Norma, Uncle Kenneth and cousin Carolyn from DC. Girlfriends-Sheryl, Pat & Carol---Visited me. Surprised me. Prayed for me. Loved on me and several more very special persons in my life...

I made it and "My Journey” is my testimony to be shared and a blessing to countless people everywhere.

Finally. It was Day 57. Thursday. September 22nd. 
Waiting patiently on my Wednesday biopsy full results--at exactly 10:30am in my Room 4028, my telephone rings and its Heart Transplant Coordinator Tiana says, "hello" to me. I have your biopsy results. It's O rejection.

 I'm working now on your Discharge papers so you can go home! I literally screamed "Thank you Jesus!" "Thank you Jesus!" Oh my God, Thank you!
Several hours later (it seemed to take so long), Frank and I walked out of The University of Chicago Medicine together-holding hands after 57 days. Smiling. Praising God! I'm going HOME! 

It's impossible to share really how I felt! Praise God! Sitting in the back seat of our automobile, (thinking Frank was driving Mrs. Daisy) Frank drives south from Medical Center---then north down Lake Shore Drive turning right on 31st exit then left to King Drive to 26th Street turning left, on over to arrive at our home! All I could say-was-Hallelujah!!!! "Thank You Jesus!"
“I know what Prayer can do."

"God keeps proving Himself, over and over again." I feel remarkably blessed.
He is real. "Prayer works!"
God has given me a second chance at life to Live; enjoy my incredible & loving husband, my family, and my friends. I am grateful. I am happy. I feel Blessed!
We must trust & believe God! My "heart" overflows with thanks to my Creator. My God-for LIFE!

You must ...Become a DONOR! Save a life! Someone-saved my life!!!
"My Journey" is my testimony. It's a two-word summary of Pam Morris-Walton life with a "new heart." at The University of Chicago Medicine. My "second chance at life!"

"God is Good." "Amazing." "Awesome."
"Prayer Works."