Providential Arrangement

Twenty years ago this month, Barbara Hughes, wife of our former Senior Pastor Kent Hughes, nearly died after a common surgical procedure went awry. Here is their story of God’s providence. Kent first told this story in a Sunday morning sermon in the Book of Luke, “Providential Arrangement.”

One Tuesday morning I checked my wife, Barbara, into a hospital for a common surgical procedure, then sat in the lobby to wait. As I was reading a Chicago Tribune, I was cheerfully greeted by Susie Luchs, who became a friend of my wife’s niece when they had worked together several years earlier in the hospital’s lab. We chatted for a few minutes, and Susie said she would drop by Barbara’s room the next day for a visit.

I did not know then that Susie had gotten up that morning feeling angry and abandoned by God because of constant pain associated with an infertility problem. I also did not know that she normally did not come to the area where I was sitting in the hospital that morning, but had done so to use a nearby ATM.

At 10:00 a.m., the surgeon met with my oldest daughter, Holly, and me and cheerfully told us that everything was fine. Barbara would be in recovery for an hour and a half, and then we could see her. I decided to go home and do a few chores, and we agreed to see Barbara together later. But when I returned, I was met by my worried daughter who informed me they had taken my wife back to surgery, which would take about “fifteen minutes.” Those “fifteen minutes” became another five anxious hours. (All told, I did not see my wife for ten and a half hours.) When the surgeons finally met with us, they told us an artery had been nicked during the original surgery and my wife had lost a liter and a half of blood. In fact she had almost died during surgery.

Thus began a very long, dark night. As the nurses repeatedly changed the dressings it became increasingly apparent that her bleeding was not stopping, and consequently she kept getting weaker. At 1:30 a.m. the next morning I called Susan Fullerton, my associate pastor’s wife, for prayer. I got more than I asked for when the entire church staff arrived within the hour along with several of our friends. They stayed and prayed with us for several hours.

Nevertheless, Barbara continued to decline. Her hemoglobin, which was 14 when she began surgery, hit 4.9. She was without almost two-thirds of her body’s blood. Her heart was racing at about 140 beats per minute in an attempt to keep what little blood she had circulating. And she kept bleeding.

A hematologist was called in and also a kidney specialist. As Barbara, surrounded by busy attendants, was being moved to ICU, Susie Luchs came in with some magazines for Barbara. Realizing she had walked in on a family crisis, she felt like she should not be there. But before leaving she heard Pastor Larry Fullerton tell Barbara’s brother and his wife, “You need to encourage her. She thinks she’s going to die—something about her blood not clotting.”

Susie suddenly remembered doing a blood test years ago on Barbara’s niece and showing the results to a hematologist who then warned the niece that if she ever suffered trauma such as a car accident, she could bleed to death due to a rare blood disorder she had. So Susie now ran to the lab, switched on her computer, called up Barbara’s niece’s records, compared them with Barbara’s workup, and found the same pathology that her niece had had. Susie contacted the doctor, who called the hematologist with the remedy—cryoprecipitate. As soon as the cure began to be administered, the hemorrhage began to slow down.

Later that afternoon Susie visited ICU, and when Barbara saw her, Barbara mumbled to the nurse, “Do you know who this is? This is the girl who saved my life! Do you know what happened?”

“Didn’t somebody accidentally stumble across something?”

“Accidentally?” my wife protested and fell back asleep.

Not only had God done something marvelous for my wife and our family but for Susie, reminding her that he is in charge of life’s complexities. If God could help Barbara, he could also take care of her fertility problems. She could trust him to do the right thing.

But this story is not about Barbara Hughes or Susie Luchs—it is a story about God. What happened to my wife and to Susie Luchs is an empirically verifiable miracle of divine providence. Thank about it:

  • Years ago two bored young lab technicians ran tests on each other, and one learned that the other had a rare clotting disorder. The one with the disorder is my wife’s niece, who now lives on the East Coast.
  • On the day of Barbara’s surgery, the other technician, Susie Luchs, decided to go to a part of the hospital she does not normally go to, saw me, and we discussed Barbara.
  • Susie wanted to see Barbara the next day, but was too to go to her room until her lunch break. Thus Susie arrived at just the right time to hear a revealing conversation about Barbara’s blood not clotting properly.
  • Susie remembered those tests from years before, thus coming up with the missing key for my wife’s recovery.

Susie saved my wife’s life, and she may have saved some of my family’s life in the future, because later tests revealed that Barbara’s brother and our daughter Heather have the same genetic disorder.

But was it Susie who saved Barbara? No. God did! (And if he had chosen not to do so, he would have been just as loving and just as good.)

How awesome God is. He is to be praised above all else. He is adequate in life and death. We can trust God and his glorious providence.

Reprinted with permission from the author, R. Kent Hughes, Luke Volume One: That You May Know the Truth, ©1998 by R. Kent Hughes. Published by Crossway Books.