Posts Tagged ‘healing’

Brad and Heidi Stokes—Love, Lupus and Liver Transplants

February 5, 2013
Heidi and Brad Stokes

Heidi and Brad Stokes

Heidi and Brad Stokes
are alive and well, and that in itself is a miracle given all they’ve been through. Heidi and Brad are friends of mine, and I interviewed Heidi about their epic journey from death’s door back to health and happiness. Here, in Heidi’s own words, interspersed with actual journal entries from their CaringBridge journal, is their incredible, inspiring story.

by Heidi Stokes

When I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with lupus and told I wouldn’t make it past twenty-one. At twenty-six, my husband, Brad, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a fatal and untreatable liver disease. Doctors said there was no hope for either of us.

Brad and I are now fifty-two years old, with a son, Christian, who has an auto-immune disease of his own, type 1 diabetes. People often can’t get past the illnesses to see how rich and beautiful our lives are. Not long ago, when we were all very sick and lying around in our PJs, Brad mentioned how comforting and wonderful it was just to be home with each other. Our bodies are completely dysfunctional but our family isn’t.

The three of us have defied death more times than I care to remember, but we’re still here, loving life and each other. There’s just something about staring into the maw of death that makes you appreciate the miracle of life. And when it comes to our health, we don’t just believe in miracles, we depend on them.

Brad had his first liver transplant at thirty-five, soon after transplantation for his condition had become viable. At forty-three, his blood work told us that the PSC was reasserting itself; but it’s a slow-progressing disease and we didn’t panic. Four years later, he had surgery for kidney cancer, but it wasn’t virulent and didn’t require chemo. Still, it was a painful, difficult surgery. He lost a lot of weight and muscle tone, and never got any of it back because his weakened liver couldn’t process food well enough to nourish him.

Brad’s decline picked up speed over the next three years, most of which he has no memory of. He was perpetually fatigued, couldn’t keep any food down, and exhibited signs of dementia because of excess ammonia in his brain. Worst of all was the merciless nonstop itching over his entire body. Brad told me that his fantasy was to get run over by a street sweeper; he didn’t want to cure the disease, he just wanted to be scratched! So Christian and I went to the mall and got him a little Lego street sweeper, which he kept on the table by the side of his bed.

As the months flew by, Brad grew weaker, and Christian and I felt powerless to help. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, Brad was beyond the reach of comfort. His only hope was a second liver transplant, but he had deteriorated so much—he was six feet tall and 116 pounds—that I doubted he had the strength to withstand another surgery, much less a demanding and painful recovery process.

By August of 2009, Brad was barely alive. I sensed it was the beginning of the end when he started hemorrhaging in the middle of the night, throwing up blood. PSC can smolder for years, but when it hits a tipping point you can be in big trouble very quickly. I helped Brad into the car and headed for Abbott Northwestern Hospital in downtown Minneapolis. But Brad being Brad, he refused to throw up in the bucket I had brought for him. Instead, I kept on having to pull over on the side of the road. There’s a fine line between preserving your dignity and “Get your butt in the car, we’re going!”

The efforts to control Brad’s internal bleeding have so far been unsuccessful. He has been given numerous units of blood in order to raise his hemoglobin and to all around make him feel better. The doctors are prepping him for surgery to finally stop the bleeding. This procedure is quite risky, but the doctors are confident.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/08/09

Surgery the next morning stopped the bleeding, but rerouting the blood away from Brad’s liver put his kidneys in duress, raised the ammonia levels in his blood, and caused him to spike a fever. All his doctors advised against transporting him to the Mayo Clinic ninety minutes away, but I (more…)

Meeting Eva Kor, One of My Personal Heroes

September 20, 2012

My daughter Erin and I were privileged to meet Eva Kor after her talk at St. Cloud State University

Two years ago, I interviewed Eva Kor for my blog. Eva had been sent to Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of ten, where she and her sister Miriam were experimented on by the brutal Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele.

Tonight, I finally got to meet Eva in person. She lectured on her life and philosophy to a packed auditorium at St. Cloud State University. Afterward, she signed copies of her books for dozens and dozens of people who waited patiently in line. Many also wanted photos and a few had personal questions for her. I was amazed by Eva’s energy and capacity for joy. She gave each person a friendly smile and as much time as they wanted. It was after eleven o’clock by the time she put down her pen.

It is Eva’s stance on forgiveness that has made her an iconic and controversial figure all over the world. On January 27, 1995, in a public ceremony marking the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops, Kor declared her forgiveness toward the Nazis who murdered her parents and two older sisters. Standing by the ruins of (more…)

Back from the Brink

May 27, 2012

My friend Judy, who shared the story of her friend Rosa’s miraculous healing in an earlier post, has more such stories of divine intervention. This short but powerful story about her friend’s husband’s brush with death offers further evidence of the infinite power of prayer.


I answered my cell phone one afternoon to hear the voice of my friend Krista sobbing, “Jeff’s just had a heart attack, and they’ve rushed him to the hospital.” Her husband, a top CEO in Seattle, had been in good health. “Please pray for him!” she cried uncontrollably. “I’m really scared.”

This humble, kind man had mentored and guided so many over the years and had helped hundreds of homeless and hopeless people find jobs. I loved him like a brother and Krista like a sister. After she and I had prayed together over the phone, I sat in meditation and asked God to watch over Jeff and bless him. With the loving confidence of a child asking her mother for something she knows is attainable, and with the unwavering conviction that God had complete control over this man’s life, I immersed myself in prayer.

Suddenly, a strong, intuitive feeling told me that Jeff was going to die on the operating table. From the depths of my soul, I silently beseeched God, “NO, NO, NO—don’t take him! Keep this man alive! He has too much to live for. He is not ready to go!” WIthout warning, my intensity and urgency vanished, giving way to serenity and peace.

At the point between the eyebrows, the center of God consciousness, I inwardly saw a (more…)

One Prayer Away from a Miracle

April 30, 2012

In a recent Sunday service at the Self-Realization Fellowship temple in Encinitas, the minister read this letter from Judy, a member of the congregation. Her story was so moving it brought tears to my eyes. After the service, I asked Judy if I could share her story here. It is a powerful reminder of a truth we must always hold on to:

Never lose hope. You may be one prayer away from a miracle.


Rosa said of Paramahansa Yogananda: "That's him. He came to bring me back."

Rosa is a twenty-nine year-old Catholic, Hispanic teacher who had just finished her Master’s Degree in Education and had started teaching in the inner city of L.A. She was devoted to her five-month-old little girl, Maria, who was always laughing and giggling.

Her family and I were close, so late one night when I received a phone call saying that Rosa had just had a sudden heart attack I was stunned. She had been rushed to the hospital, and on the surgical table her heart had stopped four times. Though the doctors had revived her, she remained in a coma—on life-support systems and kidney dialysis as she awaited open heart surgery and a liver transplant. One hundred family and friends were crowded into the L.A. emergency room. Her parents slept nightly by her bedside, refusing to leave. As she wavered between life and death, her right hand turned gangrene, and her white blood cell count spiked to 48,000, indicating a major, life-threatening infection.

She had been unconscious for a week when I walked into her ICU room and stood at her bedside. Her sister, Ella, had begged me to “just come and pray,” so I made the two-and-a-half hour trip to Rosa’s side. Though I’d been a nurse for thirty years, I’d never (more…)

Ibrahim Jaffe and the Healing Doves

March 3, 2012
Dr. Ibrahim Jaffe

Dr. Ibrahim Jaffe

I enjoyed interviewing Dr. Ibrahim Jaffe, founder of the University of Spiritual Healing & Sufism, for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. Here is an excerpt from his incredible story, which took place during his first year of residency at the University of Illinois Medical School.

She continued to spiral downward until she reached a point where we knew she only had a few days left. Her vital signs were out of control. Her pulse, which should have been about 80, was 150. Her respirations, which should have been around 12, were up around 40 to 50. Her temperature was hypothermic, around 94 to 96. And her blood pressure, which normally should have been at 120/80, was down to 50 over zero, barely enough to sustain life.

As she neared death, three Orthodox rabbis who had been regularly visiting her decided to consult with a head rabbi in Jerusalem. The head rabbi found a passage in the Talmud that said that the way to heal yellow hepatitis is to clean the feathers around a dove’s sexual orifice, and then place the dove over the belly button of the person with hepatitis. The passage said that if the dove dies, it means it’s absorbing the disease, and to continue to put doves over the belly button until they stop dying. At that point, the disease has been absorbed and the person may be healed.

One of the rabbis asked the chief of medicine whether he would allow doves to be brought into the ICU so that the girl could potentially be healed. The chief of medicine, who was also Jewish and who was very sad about losing this young girl, agreed. So the rabbis went around to pet stores and soon came in with a giant cage filled with (more…)

Dream a Little Dream for Me

February 22, 2012

Dreams may be a last refuge of hope and comfort when life presents us with a nightmare. A good example is this story by Pat Cook of Leavittsburg, Ohio, which was featured in a Guideposts e-letter. Click here to sign up for Guideposts‘ free Mysterious Ways newsletter. You’ll also be able to download a free e-book, Mysterious Ways: 9 Inspiring Stories That Show Evidence of God’s Love and God’s Grace.

When my daughter was hospitalized with a head injury, I prayed for a sign she’d be well again

Sleep is supposed to release you from your worries, your worst fears. Yet as much as I wanted and needed sleep, I doubted it would ease me. My 12-year-old daughter, June, had just emerged from a coma. Now the doctors were telling my husband and me that she’d need a series of brain surgeries if she were to survive.

Lying in bed, wrung out after another long day sitting at her bedside in the hospital, my mind replayed the horrific accident. One moment, June was riding on the (more…)

It Is God’s Kindness to Terrify You

October 21, 2011

The moment you recognize the blessings inherent in your suffering, the greater your capacity to transcend your anguish, even as grief and pain threaten to consume you.

Whenever evil befalls us, we ought to ask ourselves, after the first suffering, how we can turn it into good. So shall we take occasion, from one bitter root, to raise perhaps many flowers.
Leigh Hunt

No matter how lost, scared, vulnerable, or powerless you feel, you can treat this very moment as a portal to peace, wisdom, and healing.

This place where you are right now, God (more…)

As the Rose of the Soul Unfoldeth

October 13, 2011

Nobly enduring suffering bestows wisdom; and wisdom provides insight into the value and the necessity of suffering.

God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

Conversely, drowning in self-pity defeats the purpose of your suffering and brings (more…)

The Intuitive Art of Wooing Nature

September 28, 2011

Fighting your suffering disrupts the flow of life. Surrender to your suffering and the gates of understanding swing open.

Suffering is magnificent music—the moment you give ear to it. But you never listen to it: you always have a different, private, stubborn music and melody in your ear which you will not relinquish and with which the music of suffering will not harmonize.
Hermann Hesse

No matter how deeply you are wounded, there are great (more…)

The Tenderness of the Best Hearts

July 18, 2011

Your life as an earth angel will begin when you learn how to think with your heart as well as your mind.

The prudence of the best heads is often defeated by the tenderness of the best hearts.
Henry Fielding

Of course, no matter how kind you are, others may be having a bad day. Or a bad life. Let their rudeness serve as (more…)

Jason’s Choice

May 18, 2011

If your beloved were killed in an accident by another driver’s carelessness, how would you react? In the May 2011 issue of Guideposts, Jason Hotchkiss of Durango, Colorado, surprises even himself when it comes time to decide the driver’s fate.

After his wife is fatally injured in a car accident, a husband
experiences spritual growth by forgiving the other driver.

The lava rocks glowed red in the fire pit inside my backyard sweat lodge, but I saw only the dark outlines of Chip and Shannon, friends I had turned to for support. A Connecticut Yankee, I’d come to value this sacred Native American tradition, how the intensity of the heat can bring focus and clarity. It was where I’d often felt closest to God. But now I wasn’t sure I’d find him here. We weren’t exactly on speaking terms since the accident six months ago that killed my wife Cassandra, a beloved Navajo activist.

“Lord,” I prayed, my plaintive voice filling the small tentlike enclosure, “please (more…)

The Tao of Touch

May 12, 2011

One reason why I enjoy working as a certified massage therapist is because it’s a wonderful way to receive the benefits of nurturing touch, even though I’m the only one doing the touching. Connecting with another human being in that way is therapeutic to both the giver and receiver. If you’re single—or sadly, often even if you’re in a relationship—chances are that you are touch deprived, often severely so. I like the way that Marge Piercy addresses the issue in this poem.

by Marge Piercy

What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.

Yet the touch of a stranger
the (more…)

My Video Interview With ThetaHealer Anke Banderski

April 30, 2011

Anke Banderski

I am happy to present an eighteen-minute video interview with Anke Banderski, the founder of Heart River Healing. Anke is a ThetaHealing practitioner and instructor, a Theta Yoga instructor, a Way of the Heart practitioner and a Passion Map facilitator. Anke, who lives and works in Encinitas, California, also (more…)

The Power of Every Prayer

April 15, 2011

Deep healing occurs when you initiate a loving prayer and allow divine intelligence to do with it what it will. In the end, every prayer you offer up serves the highest good of the person you are praying for.

Our prayers should be for blessings in general, for God knows best what is good for us.

Your intercessory prayer bridges any (more…)

Leave the Windows Open

March 31, 2011

The Last Song by Elton John is one of the most hauntingly sad but beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. The first verse is profoundly evocative and heartbreaking, and never fails to (more…)

Caroline Myss Videos: Healing and the Mystery of Grace

December 30, 2010

Caroline Myss

If you are familiar with Caroline Myss, you will love this lecture she gave on “Healing and the Mystery of Grace” at the Omega “Being Fearless” conference in New York City in April 2008. If you’re not familiar with Caroline, you’ll be a fan after watching this eighty-minute presentation.

Caroline was kind enough to write the Foreword for and contribute a story to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. Read an excerpt from Caroline’s story here.


Caroline also generously agreed to write the Foreword for my new book, Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World.