We met our friends, Darlene and Chris Gawley and their sons, Steven, Daniel, and Andrew at Sunnybrae Family Camp, Salmon Arm, BC in 1997. Over the years our friendship developed. From August 2006 to November 2007 their youngest son, Andrew, 19 years of age, came to live with us. Andrew was entertaining, easy to get along with, a lady’s man, struggling between the world and God. He loved dance, dramatic arts, singing (his voice sounded like Billy Idol’s), songwriting and creative writing. He went to Vancouver Film School to take acting courses while staying with us, attended our church and was a part of my worship team. He moved out of our house into an apartment with a friend in November 2007. Almost a year later his roommate moved out and he accepted a tenant, Lana, for one month, October, until another friend could move in.
Andrew didn’t see Lana much throughout the month, but when he did he found her to be friendly and very talkative. On Saturday October 25 just before 8 am in the morning, Lana’s ex-boyfriend, whom she had brought home in the middle of the night, attacked and stabbed her to death in her room in the apartment. He then went to Andrew’s room, who was still in bed. He stabbed Andrew 4 times around his chin area. The crazed man said “Lie down right now – soon you will die!” He ran out of the room and Andrew grabbed the phone and punched 911 “My throat has been slit” he told the operator several times and gave her his address and the other information she asked. He hung up the phone when the man came back in the room with a can of gas and doused Andrew and the bed. Leaning down, he lit the gas and it exploded into an instant conflagration burning Andrew badly. As the smoke alarm wailed and the sprinklers poured out water, the man raced out of the room and the apartment to escape, his own thighs and left hand scorched. Somehow Andrew managed to get up and get into a cold shower until the firemen came to rescue him. Andrew was taken to hospital for immediate surgery and was in the ICU for about a month.
When the family arrived at the hospital, Andrew was wrapped up like a mummy from head to toe with heat lamps and a hot air blanket and a breathing tube in his trachea, in a drug induced coma.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” We clung to God’s promises as we heard that Andrew had 83% of his body burned with 2nd degree and 3rd degree burns.
The capture of the attacker was a miraculous answer to prayer. We had a code word “Banana” for being able to get in to visit Andrew in case the attacker came to finish him off. God answered our prayers and due to a “coincidence” which I call a “God-incidence” he was apprehended on October 29, 2008.
A TIME OF HEALING
His parents took turns sitting with Andrew in ICU, holding his hand and telling him over and over again how much they loved him. His condition slowly improved and he was transferred to the Burn Unit. The doctors told them to pace themselves or they would get burnt out. When they decided to return to Salmon Arm to their jobs and travel back and forth, I offered to help care for Andrew. They gave me the title of “Sub-mom” at the hospital. I visited him almost daily when his mom was away, encouraging, comforting, praying, singing, reading stories and scripture and doing what I could to help the nurses. The doctors said that he was recovering more quickly than many others with such a devastating burn, and we would reassure them that it was the prayers that were making the difference. Word had gone out in our churches and on facebook and there were hundreds of people praying.
After four surgeries in the first week, two of which were grafting surgeries, the pattern slowed down to be one grafting surgery every two weeks. This meant he had two weeks to recover and grow stronger before he was set back a bit with another surgery. The results were very painful. Finally, at Christmas time he had a month break from surgery which allowed him to improve tremendously. He was able to have the throat tube (tracheal tube) removed and begin eating pureed foods and drinking liquids. We spoiled him with soups and ice cream and any pop he desired. He was able to talk a little in a raspy voice, slowly improving to saying short sentences. Best of all, he was able to sit up in a special wheelchair.
On Jan 13th, he had his sixth grafting surgery. Two days later he caught an infection and had fluid on his lungs and had a terrible time breathing. This lasted for 24 hours as the antibiotics took effect and things started to improve. After his seventh grafting surgery he had another infection and on Tuesday January 27, 2009 he swallowed the wrong way and in his coughing spasm went into septic shock (due to the infection in his blood) and suddenly left us to go see His Savior face to face.
Andrew went through a rollercoaster of pain and agony with the burn and the grafting surgeries but God was faithful! He made it possible for Andrew to make it through each day and to conquer each setback he had to face. After a day of surgery, when the pain was great and Andrew would get discouraged, I would pray on my way home, crying for God to lift His spirits and relieve the pain. The next day when I came he would be doing his physiotherapy exercises and have a welcoming smile.
God, in his wisdom, chose to take Andrew home. The last night before Andrew died, I was visiting with him, holding his hand, reading, praying, singing and telling him how much I loved him. He couldn’t open his eyes, but he was able to move his lips a bit to respond to me. His usual response was “I love you more”. After my visit, I asked the nurse what Andrew’s life would be like for the rest of his life with his injuries. He explained to me that each day would be a struggle. He would never have the elasticity of his skin that we all take for granted. Every morning he would have to exercise to get his body and skin more pliable and there would be a lot of pain.
We have grieved deeply in our loss and celebrated joyously for Andrew’s gain. He is now pain-free and in the arms of God, and we look forward to a grand reunion. God has proven Himself faithful and true and given us peace in spite of the circumstances.