Author’s note: The following passage is from Chapter 7, “Sticking with God,” of my book, Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life. This is the 57th excerpt in the blog series.
Mrs. Peralta, too, had a strong faith that guided her through life’s difficulties and triumphs. From her youthful days as the youngest child of a widowed farm worker to the challenges she confronted while raising four daughters, she turned to prayer to ask for guidance and to thank God for His inspiration.
She has deep faith in St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hope and impossible causes. According to the National Shrine of Saint Jude, the saint was one of Jesus’ original twelve Apostles, preaching the Gospel with great passion in the most difficult circumstances.
During the 4th of July weekend, my critical condition made for the most difficult of circumstances for my family to that point. If there was ever a time for St. Jude’s intervention, it was the dark days and weeks that followed that long weekend. My survival seemed like an impossible cause and hope seemed like the only remedy.
With that in mind, Mrs. Peralta also began a nightly ritual that would endure throughout the summer. Just before leaving the hospital for the night, she would rub healing oil on my arms, legs, and forehead while reciting a prayer to St. Jude asking for his intercession. When I regained consciousness later that summer, the ritual brought me closer to understanding my own faith.
Two family friends took prayer from the waiting room to cyberspace. Beginning on June 18th, the long day that began with cardiac arrest, Teresa Gonzales and Vanessa Rios posted Facebook updates throughout the summer asking friends to pray for me and my family. Their pleas carried the messages of hope and faith to anyone who read the posts. God must have been overwhelmed by the prayers for a man many didn’t even know.
I first met Teresa when she was a student at Most Holy Trinity Parochial school and I coached the middle school basketball and baseball teams during the mid 1980s. Over the years, we kept crossing paths as her friendship with Kimberley, which started during the church’s youth group activities, continued to grow. Along with her husband, Tommy, and their four daughters, the Gonzalez family has been part of the larger Peralta circle of friends for over 25 years.
On June 18th, she posted on Facebook asking friends to “Please say a prayer for Eddie Garcia.” She went on to comment that, “This morning his heart stopped beating and they had to shock it to start again. He was in surgery again and he’s very sick! Right now he has a 50/50 chance. Please say a pray (sic) that he pulls through this.”
With these posts, Teresa started a conversation that described the ups and downs of the ICU while the string of prayers grew and strengthened. Two days later, she posted promising news: “The Power of Prayer…Eddie is doing very good. He continues to fight and I’m pretty sure he’s winning. Until that bell rings, please continue the prayers.” Within the week, when my prognosis took a turn for the worst, Teresa’s post described the downturn. She wrote, “Please keep prayers going for Eddie. It’s an emotional roller coaster.”
The prayers kept coming.
Vanessa began sending pleas for prayer to her network on June 18th as well. She came to the family via Kimberley when the two of them were great college friends. They grew closer as they married and had families of their own. Vanessa and her two sons have become an integral part of the Peralta clan through the years.
In her first post, she advised her friends that the “next 48 hours are critical and concluded by urging them to, “Please ask your family and friends to pray.” She followed up with posts on June 21st and June 28th updating readers on the “amazing power of prayer” and encouraging her network of friends to “keep the prayers going” as my condition continued to be “delicate.”
While Sandra made the decision to re-insert the breathing tube and considered introducing the oscillator, Vanessa posted a heartfelt message on June 30th that read:
“Today was a tough day. Someone reminded me that when we pray, we need to be specific. So please, help us pray that Eddie wins the fight of his life right now. We want Eddie to get better, his heart to be strong enough, the infection to go away and Eddie’s oxygen to be normal. We want Eddie to go home with his family…in God’s name we pray!”
Comments on Vanessa’s post showed that reaching out to God had affected others. Friends of friends and people from parts unknown followed the posts and prayed for me, Sandra, and the girls. The power of the internet and social media was making its presence felt all the way to the gates of God’s heavenly paradise.
The Facebook messages that Teresa and Vanessa shared virtually with their friends captured the spectrum of emotions that enveloped the waiting room through the last days of June and the first days of July. The posts accurately described the medical situation while exposing the raw feelings of hope, faith, and despair that impacted everyone who visited Sandra and the girls at the ICU department on the 2nd floor at Kaiser Santa Clara Medical Center.
As the growing circle of family, friends, and social media banded together in prayer, Sandra sat alone by my side in the ICU hour after hour comforting me, listening to the machines whirl, and watching the multitude of numbers flash across computer screens. Every time nurses and doctors entered the room, Sandra presented a long laundry list of questions to help her help doctors make the right decisions.
Next Wednesday: Doctors continue to look for answers to my lung failure