July 1, 2020

22 Days on a Ventilator

A Seventh-day Adventist couple and a church elder from different backgrounds who live in Indiana, United States, share the testimony of how they coped with COVID-19 even after doctors thought two of them had no chance to survive.—Editors

Cynthia Prime

It was my night to remember. I had just called the hospital for the fourth time in one evening to get an update on my husband Philip's condition. On this last call, they connected me with a nurse or physician’s assistant in charge of his care. She began reading numbers to me from his chart that didn’t make sense to me, but I remember her distinctly telling me that she had worked at the hospital for many years and had cared for many similar patients. 

She said, “Someone in his condition is not likely to survive. I know that is not what you want to hear, but that is the way it is.”

I simply said, “I’m going to pray!” and put the phone down. 

I was at home where no one could visit because I was under self-quarantine. I called Pastor Ramon Ulangca very distraught and told him that I didn't care who he contacted, just to ask for prayer on Phillip’s behalf. He spent the entire night in prayer with me, calling every two hours or so. I contacted my friends in Canada, my ministry partner, Linda Schultz, who wept with me and prayed all night, along with her husband. People in South Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States, were praying, and it is at that time I experienced the amazing, uplifting power of prayer.

Phillip was wasting away, his temperature up to 104°F (40°C). I prayed that God would save me from illness as well. I did not even have a thermometer; I couldn’t find one anywhere in the city. There were no gloves, no masks; there was nothing. I had to lean on God alone and the kindness of friends, family, and church members who mailed or left care packages outside our door. 

We come to times in our lives when there is only God, and it is in these difficult crucible moments that we truly discover that God is enough!

Phillip Prime

In so many ways, the truth of this story is more about Cynthia’s love and devotion, the prayer, and the effort of our families, church family, and friends. I was the one totally dependent on her, for I was often oblivious to my own needs or unable to address them even if I knew them. 

I was admitted to the hospital and spent one week there. The one thing I felt was extreme tiredness, weakness, and no interest in food. I just wanted to be left alone. I heard the warnings often, Mr. Prime, you will die if you do not eat. I thought that if I eat, I will die, and if I do not eat, I will die. It's a matter of dying with a full or empty stomach. If I died with an empty stomach, I would have at least saved myself the effort of eating. At home, I prayed between sips to have the strength and desire for the next one. 

Thank God for a caring and supportive staff at the hospital and praying family, friends, and a praying church family and their support for Cynthia. I am especially thankful for my wife, Cynthia, who has been so attentive to all my needs and in such a loving way. 

The first visit of the occupational and physical therapist was also the last. I did not need them, they said. Surprisingly, my blood sugar and blood pressure are now normal, and medication is not needed anymore. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).


Elder Van

My friend, you cannot die yet, were the words that Vanlalthalahlova Chawnghlut, Indiana Mizo Adventist Church elder, believed he heard as he struggled for his life in the intensive care unit of St. Francis Hospital in Indiana.

It was late in March 2020 when Vanlalthalahlova, known as Elder Van, began to feel ill. With a temperature of 104-105°F (40-40.5°C), Elder Van went to his family doctor, only to be told that it was a normal cold and fever and to stay home.

After continuing to feel sick for another week with no improvement, Elder Van decided to go to the clinic as he had developed breathing issues. Doctors at the clinic immediately transferred him in an ambulance to another hospital, where more doctors performed a test for COVID-19. It was, as he and his wife had feared, positive.

“When Elder Van first got sick, I planned to visit to pray and anoint him,” said local church pastor Lalmuansanga Chawngthu. “He told me not to come, but I came anyway! I thought, ‘Satan must be behind all of this, so I’m coming!’” And so the pastor visited to pray and anoint him.

After Elder Van’s admission to St. Francis, he was put on a ventilator two days later at 90-percent oxygen. As he lay in the hospital bed, with the ventilator placed over his mouth and nose, people from around the world, including India, Myanmar, England, Canada, and Australia, along with 240 church members in Indiana, began to pray for him. Twice a day, his fellow church members prayed for his health and recovery.

“Many times, the doctors and nurses were sure I wouldn’t pull through,” Elder Van said. “My liver and heart had nearly failed during my time in the ICU. Twenty-six times, in fact. They told me I had nearly come close to death. Knowing that others were praying for me gave me strength to fight for my life.”

After 22 days on the ventilator and various medications, Elder Van was taken off the ventilator for the first time and moved to the general ward. He was officially in the recovery process, and on May 4, 2020, he was discharged from the hospital and allowed to go home to his wife and two children.

Elder Van said he cannot recall very much about his stay in the hospital. But there was one thing he was sure he was not worried about. He was not concerned about his salvation. God still had work for him to do. 

“God gave me a second, even a third chance to do His ministry,” Elder Van said. “We have a ministry team, Final Messengers Ministry, building a camping site to host evangelistic meetings in India that is still not finished. We have more ministry work to do. God called me to do His ministry, and I can go anywhere He sends me. I continue praying for His guidance to where He wants me.”

Today, Elder Van is back to his usual healthy self. His brush with COVID-19 had caused him to lose 40 pounds, feel joint pains, and continue with minor residual coughing. Doctors told him his recovery would be at least three months long. But only a month and a half into his official recovery, his blood pressure, oxygen levels, lungs, and heart are back to normal.  

“God is healing me, and the recovery has felt much faster,” Elder Van said. “I will be OK.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Lake Union Conference Herald.