Medical Mess to Miracle
Three medical crisis in four months. What hope sustained Jen Yen Lai's family through the tumultuous times?
When I was a student, my aunt invited me to watch Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames at Trinity@Adam in the 1990s. Though I reluctantly accepted the invitation, God touched me during the presentation and I gave my life to Him that day. As a first-generation Christian, I faced a lot of resistance for living out my faith. My parents were not open to the Gospel and rejected every invitation I extended to them to go to church events. As a young believer, these were especially tough times but I thank God that He gave me the strength to persevere. My Connect Group came alongside me with encouragement and prayer. They kept reminding me to honor my parents and set aside time for them.
Acts 16:31 tells us to “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” For 20 years, I prayed for the salvation of my parents and often doubted God’s promise for my family.
The first crisis strikes
In May 2017, my father was suddenly diagnosed with prostate cancer. Still recovering from the sudden loss of our maternal grandmother just six months prior, it felt as though our world had come crashing down. He was especially shocked to hear that the cancer was highly aggressive and may have spread to his bones. A man of good health and stoic demeanor, the news reduced him to tears.
A divine interaction
Later that month, I invited him to hear Teddy Hung’s testimony at Trinity@Paya Lebar. My father didn’t respond to the altar call but when my mother-in-law ministered to him at his seat, he broke down in tears. At that moment, he decided to trust God with his life. He told me later that fear and dread left him as God filled his heart with peace, and that he was no longer fearful of going for his medical appointments.
A few weeks later, he went for a detailed bone scan to determine whether the cancer had spread. Praise God that it remained localized and had not reached his bones! With that, he began a six-monthly regimen of medication and radiotherapy. Though it was a worrying time, we kept praying as he was undergoing treatment. While it seemed that things were going well, our family’s peace was short-lived.
The second crisis strikes
In August, my mother suddenly collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. There, she was diagnosed with a silent heart attack that had occurred several days prior. Doctors tried to balloon the blood vessels of the heart but the procedure was unsuccessful. Some of the muscles in her heart could not be saved. A woman with no pre-existing health conditions, the heart attack was a shock to the entire family. As an active woman, her whole life turned upside down as she became bedridden and spent the next two months of her life going in and out of the intensive care unit (ICU).
A light in the dark
Though the situation seemed bleak, it was in this darkness that God’s light shone so brightly in her life. In September, my mother had a dream where she was surrounded by black apparitions. Terrified, she shouted, “Jesus, Jesus!” and they immediately disappeared. A fire in her dream that was in the background was also instantly put out.
With that dream came a revelation. Just as Jesus was the one who put out the flames, she finally recognized that it was God's awesome power that saved her husband from cancer. She awoke and decided to give her life to Jesus, sealing her commitment by getting baptized in her ward the following week. Two weeks later, my parents decided to have their house cleansed and removed all the idols.
Fighting for survival
We thought that things would finally pick up. However, the joy of my mother’s salvation was short-lived when her health took a turn for the worse in October. One night, her heart failed and doctors rushed to perform an emergency resuscitation. Though she was revived, this incident proved too much for her body. With dangerously low blood pressure, the doctors inserted a temporary balloon into her vein and started her on medication in hopes that her blood pressure would rise. She suffered from internal bleeding and other organs in her body began to fail. Her kidneys were the first to shut down.
Those dark days saw my sisters and me sitting outside the ICU, feeling helpless, powerless, and worried about the future. Every phone call from the hospital was received with dread as we feared receiving the worst possible news. Every doctor’s meeting was met with inconclusive assessments. As the days went by, a creeping doubt began to set in, and we started to mentally prepare ourselves that my mother would not pull through. I comforted myself that she had given her life to God. In the moments of fear and anguish, I admit that there were times when my faith wavered.
On top of that, I was also pregnant with twins. During that time, I was in my second trimester, and the twins were beginning to weigh me down as they grew in my belly. Having to juggle work, travels up and down the hospital, and being constantly on edge was taking a toll on me and my body. My body, mind, and spirit were stretched as I juggled work, family, and frequent hospital visits.
I had to care for my kids – my husband Aaron and I were already parents to Ruth (7), Ariel (5), and Annette (2). I had to manage the household. I had to deal with work. I had to make so many big decisions at the hospital. As the eldest child, I had to meet the needs of my parents and siblings. Carrying twins was already considered a high-risk pregnancy. I was worried that the stress I was feeling might affect my unborn children.
After days of observation and treatment, the doctors called us in to suggest moving my mother into palliative care. They were essentially telling us that they had exhausted all avenues and were giving up. I distinctly remember sitting at the hospital lobby after that session, lost in my thoughts amidst the hustle and bustle of the hospital. After trying all avenues, we were now at a loss and unsure of what else to do. Yet we were unwilling to accept the doctor’s verdict. Somehow, I felt that inner prompting and peace that it was not my mother's time yet.
Miracle after miracle
Our family decided to seek a second opinion. Finances would be an issue if we pursued private care and I wasn’t sure if her insurance would be able to cover the costs. I approached my uncle-in-law and he connected us with a doctor-friend of his who tapped on his own network of doctors. Moreover, we got in touch with our insurance companies and the feedback we got was that the policies I bought for my parents would come through. This was an encouraging development.
We went to another hospital to discuss with the recommended cardiologists. His confidence in the situation and suggested course of action revived our hopes for her condition. Two days later, she was transferred to this new hospital and underwent an operation to install a left ventricular assist device into her weak heart. As it was a major operation, we were naturally worried. Yet, I felt a sense of peace.
But the peace dissipated the next morning when what would have been a four-hour operation dragged to 10 hours. You could imagine our anxiety! However, we were also praying during those long hours. In the end, we were so thankful that the operation was a success. From then on, my mother made slow but steady improvements. After a few weeks, she was transferred from the ICU to a normal ward. Now that her heart is working again, it was time to focus on the other parts of her body.
Months of lying on hospital beds had caused her muscles to waste away. Many of her organs were still in a dormant and severely-weakened state. Her kidneys remained non-functional and she required regular dialysis. Though the nephrologist was not hopeful that her kidneys would recover, God gave us another miracle in January when He touched the kidneys and they sprung to life, so much so that she could come off the dialysis machine. Even the medical staff was stunned by her quick recovery!
Through it all, I knew that it was God, the Rock who sustained me throughout my pregnancy. Once while praying, God told me that He would keep my mother through her illness. I held on to that promise and to His Word. God also sent people to support me during those challenging times. My close friends and Connect Group members visited and supported me in prayer. My husband also encouraged me by sharing bible verses and supporting me in the running of the household.
Bundles of faith
When the twins were born prematurely in January 2018 (a common occurrence for multiple births), they had to spend some time in the neonatal ICU. I thank God that they were born healthy, grew quickly, and were able to come home after a few weeks.
Aaron and I decided to name our daughters Faith and Faye (a variant of Faith) to reflect this new season in our lives.
We would need lots of faith to raise five daughters! At the same time, I could not help drawing parallels between their birth and the season God had been bringing our entire family through.
Names were important to us, and we felt as though their names were meant to be.
Young, yet mighty
Only faith in God could have seen my family through such a difficult season. When my mother experienced the silent heart attack, I was so worried that my father (a one-month-old Christian then) would be angry at God and turn away from Him.
How wrong I was!
When her condition was deteriorating, when doubts and negativity threatened to overwhelm us, my father kept encouraging the family to believe that God would pull her through. Each time we got ready to leave her bedside, he would ask to pray for her even though we were all so tired. He was the youngest believer in the family, but his faith was most assuredly not the least!
His entire outlook on life changed when he accepted Christ. God had lifted his burdens and for the first time in his life, he felt true freedom in the Lord – an overwhelming sense of release as he allowed God to take control of the situation.
At that time, he was still battling his cancer, but he remained cheerful and had a spring in his step. “God is in control,” he would tell us regularly, “just pray and all will be well.” He believed with all of his heart that God would heal our mother. I believe God, in His great and tender mercy, chose to meet my father's desire.
Strength to strength
After 10 months of hospitalization, my mother was finally discharged in May 2018. From being on the verge of death, she can now recuperate from the comfort of her home. We praise God that she is on the road to recovery – an outcome that is nothing short of miraculous.
As for my father, the six-monthly regimen of medication and radiotherapy brought his cancer into total remission. A regular at worship services since he accepted Christ, he has grown steadily in the Lord and even invites his friends who do not know God to join him!
Though those months were challenging for our family, I thank God that He sustained us through it all. Our ever-present strength, God was our rock and fortress, our refuge and strength. Through these trials, my sisters witnessed the power and love of God for our family. Though they have not made decisions to accept Christ, I believe that the seed of faith has been planted deep in their hearts.
For those who are still waiting for your loved ones to receive the hope in Jesus, I encourage you to keep praying. Don’t give up and never stop believing in God’s promises for your family!
Believe that God will intervene and that things will never be the same.
If you need a healing touch from the Lord, my father has these words of encouragement for you.
“When we are in difficult or stressful situations, it is easy to lose hope and give up. Press in to believe that God can do miracles. Have faith that He is a God who heals.”
Reflect & Respond
How does this story inspire fresh hope in God to see Him turn messes into miracles?
Do you know about this hope in Jesus? Find out more here.
Is there someone you can bless your story of hope with?