Tom Nate is not a widower. Rather, Tom Nate is a walking miracle. A resident of San Antonio, Texas, Tom is a man who has endured much and is eager to give forward by supporting the members of WSN.
You say you have troubles. Read the account of Tom Nate’s story as written by Kihm Winship. Then tell me how your day is going. Don’t miss out. You’ll be glad you took the time to read the story of this truly remarkable man.
The Remarkable Story Of Tom Nate… A Walking Miracle
A native Texan raised in Houston; Tom Nate started life with a lung disorder, but he didn’t let it slow him down. In spite of childhood bouts of pneumonia, he was active in sports, graduated from college, and went on to a successful career in business. True, he might have gotten a little out of breath from time to time, but he grew accustomed to it.
However, in 2002, when he was 48 years old, two things happened that would change Tom’s life. First, he became the father of a son. And second, his shortness of breath became a constant challenge. By the time his son was an active three-year-old, Tom was tied to an oxygen tank, and on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.
Tom talks a lot about miracles, and an early miracle in this story was that his employer’s health insurance provided full coverage for transplants. The closest participating hospital was in St. Louis, and in 2007, Tom received a new set of lungs. He was in surgery for 14 hours, and in a coma for six days, but he got well, and three months later he was back home in Texas.
Through all of this, Tom wanted everything to be as normal as possible for his wife and son. His boy was now four years old and more active than ever. Tom wanted to be active with him. However, eight months after he returned to Texas, his lungs rejected.
The doctors told him that finding another matching donor would be difficult; in fact, there was just a 2% chance due to antibody issues resulting from the first transplant surgery. Not sure whether he should try for another transplant, Tom and his wife prayed for 40 days. Their answers started revealing themselves as what Tom calls “a whole bunch of miracles “began happening. An offer of an airplane to take them to St. Louis. Housing opportunities in St. Louis. A school for their son, with tuition, paid anonymously by another family hearing of Tom’s struggle to live. Those were answers to Tom and Irma’s prayers,and they decided to move forward.
When Tom and his family relocated to St. Louis in October of 2008 to await another transplant, Tom’s doctor told him he had six months to live. Tom and his wife focused on prayer and on keeping his son’s life as normal as possible. Tom went to rehab every day, accompanied by his oxygen tank, to stay strong for the possible surgery.
On New Year’s Day, 2009, Tom was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance barely able to breathe; his lung function was down to 12%. His doctor told him that he had two weeks to live, at most. Tom’s lungs had quit making oxygen and, worse, were unable to clear the CO2 from his blood. The same evening his doctor gave the terrible news, Tom went into cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and kidney failure.
His wife Irma was called to the hospital and told Tom would not make it through the night, and she should just “let him go and not resuscitate him.” His wife refused and told the doctors that “it was not their decision whether Tom lived or died but God’s decision.” But the doctors said they could not put him on a ventilator unless they had his written permission. His wife, doing her best to stay in control, screamed at Tom to wake up. His eyes opened, and she asked him if he wanted to live or “let go.” Gasping for air and unable to speak, Tom reached up and squeezed his wife’s arm; a tear fell from his left eye. The doctors accepted that as a “Yes.” They put a tracheotomy in his throat and attached a ventilator to him. He would be unable to speak until new donor lungs were located, and another transplant surgery was performed.
For the next three weeks, Tom was unconscious in the Intensive Care Unit. Four more times, the doctors tried to convince Tom’s wife to let him go. However, she said, “If God wants him, God will take him.” Unconscious, Tom fought through cardiac arrest, kidney failure, a staph infection, and reactions to drugs. Tom remembers asking God to “take him home” and having out-of-body experiences, leaving his body and the hospital room behind, rising into brilliant colors, beautiful music, but hearing a voice that said, “It’s not your time yet; you have a son to raise.”
When Tom woke up, he had “tubes everywhere.” Unable to move, he told himself that he would start over at square one. The first thing he did was get a pen and paper and write down his recollections of the out of body experiences, sobbing as he wrote. Tom has total belief that God intervened and spared his life, answering all the thousands of prayers offered by so many on Tom’s behalf. He had to relearn to walk. Still tied to the ventilator, he needed an electric larynx to speak. Doctors predicted his kidneys would never work again and counseled his wife on the reality of Tom living on dialysis. But 20 days after he woke from his three-week sleep, Tom’s kidneys started working again. His body, swollen to twice its normal size from all the fluid in him, began to return slowly to normal. He had to work with physical therapists each day not only to walk but to learn to eat and bathe and dress. One day, he walked five feet. The next day, ten feet. It was grueling at times, but after three months, he walked out of the ICU.
With a portable ventilator and a scooter, Tom was able to leave the hospital and return to his family’s apartment. His job was to stay alive until a transplant could be arranged. He learned to do for himself what the nurses had been doing for him. When he asked his doctors how long he could go on, they replied, “We don’t know. Nobody’s ever done this” (having lived on a ventilator outside the hospital while waiting for a double lung transplant).
Tom and his wife again focused on their son, prayed, kept up with distant friends on Facebook, and he drew strength from his wife, who was a “rock.” Tom’s Caring Bridge website amassed over 1000 followers who were also praying for him and his family each day. One very good friend, named Jon, was the ultimate prayer warrior, staying by Tom’s side praying the entire time Tom was in ICU. When Tom first opened his eyes after his three-week sleep, Jon was praying beside his bed.
There were many tough days, but all days were good as Tom was able to stay alive. Tom and his family waited 18 months for a telephone call that a donor had been found. At one a.m., on September 19, 2010, the hospital called to say they
had a perfect match, but it was from a “high risk” donor, a 21-year-old who had traded sex for drugs; Tom could reject those lungs if he wanted to wait for another donor. Tom and Irma got on their knees and prayed for God to send a sign that this was the right donor. After praying, his wife called a retired doctor friend of theirs back in Texas for some guidance, and she told him that Tom was hearing from God to “move forward, ” but
Irma felt very nervous about the high-risk lungs from the donor. Tom had told her that the entire journey had been “high risk” and their doctor friend in Texas also said,
“Irma, all of this is high risk.” That was Irma’s confirmation. Tom tells about the difference between the first and second transplant surgeries: Before his first surgery, Tom had sought to control all of the variables. This time, he said, it was “trust God. He is in control!” The surgery was a go!
Because it would take too long to shift ventilators and load Tom into the family car, he took his scooter down the elevator, out onto the street, and drove four blocks to the hospital with his son on his lap at three a.m., and to the side of a waiting bed. The nurses had never seen that before. Moreover, then he was taken into surgery a three p.m. on September 20th.
Tom awoke as they were wheeling him back into his room 6 hours later. Four hours after the surgery, he sat up. When his wife came in, he smiled and waved as she walked down the hall. He sat up when asked to by the nurse, and several hours later stood up and walked also. Within three days, he was walking laps around the ICU. After one week, he was up to six laps and noticed that the nurse accompanying him was beginning to perspire. After two weeks, he left the hospital. It had been a journey of more than two years, during which Tom never gave up hope and faith that God had a plan for him.
Today, Tom is 58 years old and coaches his son’s football, basketball, and baseball teams. On the day I spoke to him, he had pitched an hour of batting practice. “I have no bad days,” he said. “It’s all part of the journey.”
In thinking about the support he and his family received, Tom recalled a practice that his wife started while in St. Louis. Every time he or the family witnessed a miracle from either God or from people God placed in their lives to help at special times Tom’s wife, Irma, would put a pink post-it note on the mirror in the dining room, as a reminder of all the blessings they were receiving while on this journey. One day Irma counted them and found there were 140 notes on the dining room wall mirror!
Tom has spoken to hundreds of people about the power of hope, the power of prayer, the miracle of the body that God created. When he visits the hospital in St. Louis for an annual checkup, he spends two days on tests, and the rest of his visit talking to patients and rehabilitation specialists, offering encouragement. “I promised God I would do all that I could for others that are suffering from terrible lung disease,” he said.
Tom gives all credit to God, family, friends, and faith for his survival. “With God all things are possible.” Tom is always looking forward, never looking back, never losing hope, he counts himself as “supremely blessed.” And every day, he strives to be a blessing to others.
Copyright: Michelle’s Angels Foundation, Inc. 2013
Founded by Herb Knoll