Latter-day Saint Life

A mother’s ‘unforgettable experience’ after lung transplant shows God knows the small pleadings of our hearts

I was diagnosed with a rare, serious lung disease called Pulmonary Hypertension in 2017. I had just given birth to our daughter, Navey, when I started to have complications and was taken to the ICU for testing where the disease was discovered.

Stacey Blake with her husband, Casey Blake, in the hospital after the birth of their daughter.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Blake.

I soon received a priesthood blessing from my husband, Casey. He said that because of my faith, I would be healed. I believed that at the time, but as the years went by, I started to doubt. I was living with this miserable lung disease and on medications that were keeping me alive yet causing so much pain.

Because of my reduced quality of life, I thought my miracle and the promises were going to come in the next life. But Casey was so faithful and kept telling me, “I didn’t just say that in your blessing because it’s what I wanted, I really felt it.”

A couple of years after my diagnosis, President Russell M. Nelson came to our stake conference. At the end of his remarks to us, he gave a blessing to the people of the stake. One of the things he said was that those who were sick would be healed. My husband and I looked at each other and both got emotional. The way it was phrased sounded so similar to the blessing Casey had given me years before in the hospital.

A New Mountain to Climb

I later learned that I needed to get put on the lung transplant list—and I was devastated. My disease had been kept under control by medicine up to this point. And even though that medicine caused me a lot of pain, I wanted to keep doing it. Why? Because a lung transplant significantly shortens your life expectancy. But quickly and without warning, the medicine that I’d been on virtually stopped working. I had to have a transplant.

Once I’d accepted that reality, I thought that maybe this was how Heavenly Father was keeping His promise to me that I would be healed. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered a quote by Sheri Dew:

“He rarely moves the mountains that stand in front of us, but He always helps us climb them.”

That quote became a resounding theme for me and my circle of support; if we kept climbing, we would get to the top of the mountain with the help of a loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

There were times when the climbing was so hard! At one point, I had a breakdown and said to my husband, “Can I be honest? I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do any of it, but I’m going to.” He said back to me as we were both hugging each other and crying, “On the days when you can’t climb, I will be there to carry you.” He was and is.

There were days when neither of us had the energy, the strength, or the know-how of what to do next and we had no other option but to place it all in our Savior’s hands and let Him carry us both up the mountain.

Stacey and Casey Blake right before Stacey was taken back for her lung transplant.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Blake.

Comfort in the Darkest Hour

On Christmas Day in 2022—a little over five years after my initial diagnosis—we got the call that the medical team had found a donor set of lungs that was a perfect match for me.

About a week after my transplant surgery, I had an unforgettable experience that showed me that Christ is aware of us, knows our struggles, and will keep His promises and ease our burdens.

At first, I was recovering quite well. I had passed all the tests that allowed me to be extubated. But the next two days I struggled to get adequate oxygen with my new lungs, and it was a lot of work to breathe. After a serious setback, I had to be reintubated.

After being reintubated for almost another week, the medical team was trying to decide if I needed a tracheotomy, which I really didn’t want to have to do. While it would have been temporary and the lasting effects would have been minimal, a tracheotomy would’ve delayed my progress and left me with a significant scar on my neck. I didn’t want to go backward again after having to already be reintubated.

Every night, but especially this night, I had a hard time falling asleep. Sleep was hard in the hospital because there were so many machines, beeping noises, and people coming in and out of the room. Casey wasn’t allowed to stay in the ICU overnight, so we had a routine down to help me get comfortable before he left. He would help adjust me in my bed, give me earplugs and an eye mask, arrange my pillows, and so on. Then he would hold my hand until he either had to go or I was asleep.

That night we were both really depressed with all the news and wondering what would happen the next day. I overwhelmingly wanted Casey to say a prayer out loud for us—not that we hadn’t both been praying individually, because we had; I had a prayer in my heart the entire time I was in that hospital. I knew that Christ knew what was going on, but for some reason, I just wanted Him to hear it from us. But I couldn’t talk.

Stacey and Casey in the hospital following Stacey's lung transplant.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Blake.

I was intubated, had a feeding tube, and every limb of my body was tied down by some kind of cord or medical tube. My legs had compression stockings on them, I had IVs and other things coming out of both of my arms, chest tubes hooked to pumps, etc. During the day, the only way I could communicate was by writing on a whiteboard. But at night my arms were strapped down so that I didn’t pull any of my tubes out while I was sleeping. Casey had just gotten me comfortable, and I didn’t have the energy, the strength, or the mental capacity, to motion that I wanted to write him something.

So even though I really wanted Casey to say a prayer holding my hand, like a couple’s prayer that we’d normally have in our home, I thought, “Well, I’ll just say a prayer in my mind until I fall asleep.”

Then suddenly, without me communicating anything, I hear my sweet husband’s voice as he’s holding my hand say, “Heavenly Father, we’ve had some hard news today, we need your help.” He said everything that I needed him to say and everything that I was thinking. It was a comfort and a reminder to me that Christ and Heavenly Father were aware of us, and with us, in one of our darkest hours.

Stacey's daughter, Navey, coming to visit her after the lung transplant. Mother and daughter hadn't been able to see each other in three weeks.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Blake.

The Savior Will Carry You

I made it through recovery, and my quality of life is so much better now that I am healed from my lung disease. I am not free from pain or challenges now; I never will be. I traded one set of medical problems for another set of problems with my transplant. There will always be roadblocks and maybe even new mountains to climb, but because of Christ and His infinite Atonement, we will be able to navigate the ups and downs of our trials and climb to the summit.

How grateful I am for a loving and kind Father in Heaven and older brother Jesus Christ, who know my suffering and the suffering of all of us. I am not the only one that is struggling with a difficult trial. I know that there are many of you who may be hurting and bearing unimaginable burdens. Please don’t give up and please know you’re not alone. Rely on the Savior and His Atonement and expect the miracles to come your way, both big and small. “Be not afraid, only believe.”

If you do this, I promise you, that when your legs get weak and you are too tired to continue the climb, our Savior will take you in His loving arms and carry you to the top.

Stacey Blake with her family 15 months after her lung transplant.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Blake.

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