God's Perfect Timing - A Miraculous Story
I wanted to share this story with you, which took place back in 1990-91. Although a lot has happened since then in this young man's life, this story of healing and God's miraculous healing is still a vital testimony today. It is my prayer that it will give encouragement and hope to someone out there who may be suffering or struggling in their faith. God's Timing is Always perfect...no matter what.
God’s Perfect Timing
"Mom, my head sure aches! I wish it would let up so I could do something." This had become the constant plea of our eighteen-year-old son Matthew in the spring of his senior year of high school. The headaches started in March, following a prolonged bout with a sinus infection. The doctor prescribed several different pain medications, but to no avail. Finally after Matt's repeated complaints our family physician ordered a CT Scan, just to be sure he wasn't missing something important. The report came back with good and bad news. There didn't appear to be any sign of a tumor, but the films did show that Matt was "hydrocephalic", better known in layman's terms as having "water on the brain". We were then referred to a neurosurgeon for further consultation.
We waited nervously while the neurosurgeon carefully studied the CT Scans we had brought along with us. After looking over the films for several minutes, the doctor said to us, "Your son has an excessive amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of his brain. However, it doesn't look too bad. I think perhaps he may have even been hydrocephalic at birth, but it just wasn't bad enough to cause him any symptoms. However, just to be sure, we need to run another test. Matthew needs to have an MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which will better show us the soft tissues of the brain and help us see for sure if there is any other cause for this condition."
The following Sunday evening Matthew was scheduled for the MRI. We were told that the results would be sent to our neurosurgeon, and he would report to us at our appointment the following Thursday. However, on Monday afternoon we received a call from the neurosurgeon's office telling us to take Matt back to the MRI Clinic to have another test run, this time with dye. I tried not to give in to the numbing fear that was settling into my mind, but a lot of questions were certainly forming. Thursday morning our doctor prepared us for the worst. "Mr. and Mrs. Steiner, the MRI has shown that Matthew has a small blockage in the ventricles of his brain, and that is why the cerebrospinal fluid is backing up. We do not know for sure just what this blockage may be, and due to its location, it may just be a type of cyst. However, we will need to take a biopsy to rule out the possibility of a tumor. I am sending you to an expert in the field of "Stereotactic Biopsy". You will need to see her to schedule a date for surgery."
“Surgery! Biopsy! Tumor! No, these words can't be real! They can't be applying to my son! This can't really be happening to us! I mean, afterall, Matthew is only eighteen! He's a senior in high school, with only a month to go before graduation. He's been accepted at college...he plans to study for the ministry...This really isn't happening!" On and on these thoughts raced through my mind, but outwardly I tried to remain calm and confident for Matt’s sake. My husband, a minister for many years, a man who was the comfort giver to others, suddenly appeared frightened and anxious. He asked the doctor many questions that sounded like he was trying to force the doctor to give us some other response..."Couldn't the hydrocephalus be caused by something else?" Like a drowning man grasping for straws he dredged up all the traumas in Matthew's life that could have caused these symptoms to appear... such as the doctor who delivered him had said there was a possibility at birth that he could be hydrocephalic...or when he was hit by at car at eighteen months of age...or when he fell down the stairs at age six. The doctor tried to explain that the biopsy was very necessary, and that there definitely was some type of blockage showing on the MRI. Matthew turned to his dad and said, "It's okay, Dad. I don't mind. I know the Lord will take care of me. I just want my headaches to go away."
The day of surgery came all too soon. Matthew was prepped and ready early in the morning. He looked like something from outer space with his "stereotactic halo" literally bolted into his head.
"Matthew has a small tumor, and not a cyst as we had hoped. We weren't able to remove the whole tumor, and we are sending the biopsy to the lab for evaluation. It will be a few days before we know for sure what type of tumor it is, and whether or not it is malignant. Then we will schedule further surgery to take care of it." My husband questioned the surgeon, "But we were under the impression that you would remove whatever it was in this one surgery, and not have to go back in again. What happened?" The doctor then said something strange to us. She said that those were her original plans, but a "friend" of ours had called the Head of Neurosurgery that morning and asked him to check into the situation, and at the last minute he changed the whole procedure. We were astounded! My husband exclaimed, "A friend of OURS? We don't know anyone who could have that authority!" She looked at us a little startled, as if she didn't believe us, but then proceeded to explain what the next steps would be.
The emotions clouding my mind were so confusing. I found myself crying out to the Lord in agony and fear, and yet I tried to believe in my heart that Matt would be healed. Prior to his surgery, Matt had been so courageous. He was sure of his relationship with the Lord, and he faced each situation with confidence and complete faith. He said that he knew he had a tumor before ever going to the hospital, and that he just knew this was something he was going to have to face. His trust in God was a real testimony to his father and me. Our eighteen year old was teaching us, veteran Christians, how to have complete faith and trust in God!
Prior to the next surgery, the Head of Neurosurgery called us in for a consultation. He wanted to explain the technique that they were going to use to destroy the remaining part of the tumor. A relatively new procedure (at that time) called an implant of "radioactive iodine seeds" was to be placed directly on the tumor, and it would, over the course of a year, completely disintegrate it. Then he proceeded to tell us what happened the day of Matt's biopsy. He said that he had not planned to have any part in that particular routine surgery. However, when he received a call from our "friend" asking him if he would please check into it on the morning of the surgery, he immediately went to the attending neurosurgeon and asked to see Matthew's CT Scans and MRI. One look at the films and he knew that to radically resect the whole tumor would be the wrong procedure in this particular case. He explained that if they had tried to remove the whole tumor, it would have been very dangerous for Matthew. The tumor was located right on the memory tracks of the brain, and in a difficult location to remove. Too much brain tissue could have been disturbed if any more were cut away. Therefore, he gave the order to change the surgical plans at the last minute. With one look at our faces, this renowned Head Neurosurgeon knew that we had no idea about whom he was talking when he mentioned the phone call from our "friend." My response to his statement was, "Well, Doctor, we don't know ANYONE who could have that kind of authority over you, unless it was God!" He looked a little taken back and then smiled and said that our friend apparently wished to remain anonymous, but that we needn't worry. He was a fine upstanding citizen in the community, and he had told the doctor that Matt was a very bright, intelligent, and talented young man. We left that doctor's office feeling very perplexed, but yet had an overwhelming sense that a miracle had taken place that morning prior to Matthew's surgery. After all, hadn't we prayed for God's intervention and guidance for the surgeon? That perfectly timed phone call had actually saved our son's mind and memory from possible destruction. As that realization sunk in, we truly began to praise our Heavenly Father!
Now for the rest of the story...
Before we moved away from that area a year later to assume another ministry, a dear friend invited me out for coffee one evening. She said she wanted me to know about something before we left town. She proceeded to tell me that her husband, although he appears to be very quiet and humble, actually knows quite a few people in very high places due to his work, which is a very responsible and confidential position with the government. The night before Matthew's surgery, her husband felt very uneasy and concerned about what Matt was going to endure. The next morning he called a friend of his, the Head of Neurosurgery, and told him about Matthew, and asked if he couldn't check into it. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the realization dawned on me that God had brought these dear people into our lives at the just the right time to save our son's life.
Some added perspectives on this part of Matthew's story... in the beginning of our second year of living in that metropolitan area, Matthew developed the symptoms of his brain tumor. The year following his surgery, we were called to minister in another state. Our friends who played such a dramatic part in this story had moved to that city just before we did, and they have since moved away also. The head neurosurgeon who intervened on Matthew's behalf was already packed up and ready to transfer to another major city and hospital the week following Matthew's surgery. When my husband asked this renowned surgeon how many other neurosurgeons in the country had the expertise that he had in this particular type of neurosurgery, his very humble but honest reply was, "Only six."
About a year later, just when life looked like it was going to get back to normal, Matthew developed headaches again. He had had a good year health-wise, and had completed his freshman year at college, but academically he had suffered. The tumor had been located very close to the memory tracks of the brain, and he did have some short-term memory loss. Therefore he was not able to compete academically at college and was placed on academic suspension. He continued to work in the cafeteria at the college the following fall semester in hopes that he would soon be able to get back into school. However, late in October the familiar headache symptoms returned. A CT Scan revealed that indeed there was evidence of a new tumor growth in a different area of his brain.
Surgery was scheduled back in Detroit, Michigan, with the same surgeon as before. We arrived bright and early at the hospital to prepare for the biopsy and resection, which was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Again the hated "halo" was placed around his head and fastened with large bolts into the front and rear of Matt's skull. Then an MRI and a CT Scan were taken to plot the exact location of the tumor. When Matt was finally completely ready for surgery and waiting in the pre-op holding area, there was again a long delay. We kept asking for the Doctor, but no one would tell us where she was, only that she would come and talk with us before he was taken to surgery. Finally she came in accompanied by her associate neurosurgeon and said, "I have good news for you...there is no tumor!!!" A cheer went up in that very busy pre-op area from all the nurses and technicians who had heard the news previously but couldn't tell us until the Doctor made the announcement. Her associate immediately began removing the halo from Matthew's head and the IV's attached to his arms. We were stunned of course as she showed us the different films taken and explained the differences in the ones taken three weeks previously and the ones taken just that morning. Oh, how we rejoiced as the truth began to sink in. God had indeed performed a miracle in our son's body! And there were many, many witnesses to that fact.
Some skeptics have tried to say that perhaps the original CT Scan just had a blur on it or some flaw...but how could a professional radiologist, an expert neurosurgeon and several other well-qualified doctors who had examined the films be mistaken? The doctor who initially examined Matt reported that there appeared to be a "large inoperable tumor on the back side of his brain." The radiologist where Matt had the original CT Scan performed saw enough to immediately fax his report to our neurosurgeon in Detroit. The neurosurgeon in Detroit saw enough to tell us to travel over 750 miles for a biopsy and “resection” of the tumor. (You don't schedule a “resection” unless there is something to “resect”!) This was the second time this eminent neurosurgeon was mystified by unusual circumstances surrounding her young patient. She was just as surprised as we were...and yet, we really shouldn't have been that surprised! After all, we knew that there were actually thousands of people praying for Matthew from the time word had spread of this new growth. The student body of the Christian college he had attended had special prayer for him in their chapel services, many churches in several different states and countless friends and loved ones were praying unceasingly. Yet we know that God does not always elect to miraculously heal. Therefore we rejoice all the more that He had mercy on our son (again!) and truly gave us the desires of our hearts.
Looking back, we can't help but see how God's timing was so perfect in Matthew's life...only God could so perfectly put together all of the right people in the right places at the right time to save a young man's life.
(Written by Pamela M. Steiner)
However, I need to add an addendum to this story. This miracle story took place back in 1990-91. As I write this today, March 16, 2014, Matthew has been fighting a more serious battle with a rare and deadly cancer, DSRCT, for four years. Recently his Doctors have basically said that they have done all they can, and he only has, in their opinions, 3 or 4 more months to live. Do we still believe in miracles today? Can God still heal, even when the doctors have given up hope? Well, obviously, this is all up to God. We commit our son to Him again, and know that He will do what is best for Matthew. If He chooses to heal him, praise God! If He chooses to call him home to heaven, we will be sad, but we will know that Matthew is completely healed and will never have to suffer again...AND we will see him again one day. So we will not lose hope, no matter what!