Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Where's His Head At? #2


I just wanted to say thank you all for the beautiful cards, prayers and well wishes. Lauren and I are so thankful for the incredible support the community has been. On Monday of this week we found out that the 6x6x8mm (pea sized) nodule is actually a benign cyst in my third ventricle according to a specialist in Sequim. This coming Tuesday, my sutures will be removed in Seattle and I will meet with Dr. Joseph Zunt, a leading expert in the world on parasites in the brain. There’s nothing conclusive for now as to how that cyst got up there in the first place, but considering my travels I could have picked something up in the food along the way. At the end of the day, health and wealth was never promised to me. To paraphrase Jesus, he said that in this world we would have troubles, but that the believer has hope in His overcoming the world and death itself. My confidence is ultimately placed in a good God that allowed this, seeing a good outcome for what has happened.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Where’s His Head At?

For the last few weeks I’ve had that 90’s commercial “this is your brain on drugs…”, on my mind. When the doc shows you a CT scan of your compressed brains expanded ventricles with 3x as much fluid in your skull as should be there, I couldn’t help thinking, “that’s my brain on a cyst.” 6 days in the neuro ICU, 3 CT scans, 2 MRI’s, 1 ECHO, EKG, and ultrasound later, I was released from Harborview into the hands of loving family. The days leading up to this week were curious.

The Spiritual/Physical Road to Friday, October 30th

This summer was a packed one. It flew by and a lot of great and hard things occurred. I didn’t even realize that the spiritual/emotional toll on my body had been tremendous. Even after an incredible stay in Kona with my cousins, I was still tired. Daily reading the bible and even praying proved difficult. When the student’s school year started in September, I hardly felt ready- still focusing on what I saw as personal shortcomings in ministry. Somehow, at some point, my eyes shifted from God’s Kingdom to David Piper’s. It would take some weeks (if not longer) to realize what had happened and why my passion had all but disappeared. Let’s just say I’m so thankful for a courageous wife and long time mentor that both love the Lord and myself. God had already done surgery on my heart by the time I preached on Psalm 2 at DCC on October 11th, and I was excited for the future. As my joy in the Lord was renewed, so did the passion for building His Kingdom.  

In the two+ months leading up to Harborview, I began getting dizzy spells nearly every time I stood up… that or temporarily losing vision. I mean, I would get up from my office chair and say hello to you because I knew you were there in the doorway, but I was seeing double or even nothing at all. It took a while to really notice it and even longer to stop dismissing it as something life or sleep related. When I went in to get a few warts frozen (gross, sorry) I began to share that with my doctor who gave me some advice to follow regarding what he thought it was. The following Monday (10/26) when I came back in after following his instructions and still having the same symptoms, I asked for a CT scan after sharing the Christian gospel. He agreed and my slot was booked in for Friday morning.

During the time leading up to the initial scan, I truly feel like I was being prepared for its results. On Tuesday I got to share about the then confidential CT scan with an elder at DCC who prayed for me. Wednesday saw me share with a medically trained colleague about my lighthearted “plans” to quit my job and go into full time evangelism if I had something truly insidious on my brain.  On my Thursday off that week, I ran into a beloved family friend and cancer patient who I had been meaning to spend time with for months at SARC. We ended up spending the day together where I had a glimpse of what life could look like. Before Friday had even arrived, I knew that whatever its outcome, I was going to thank the sovereign creator of the earth for His plans in my life. When I got out of the multi-million dollar CT machine on Friday for the first time in Sequim, the radiologist didn’t let anything on. I went home unsure of what to check next, half-kicking myself for being such an alarmist.

When the phone rang around 4pm that day with an energized nurse telling me I needed to head either straight to the ER at Olympic Memorial Hospital or Harborview as there was a 6x6x8mm mass in my brain, it was almost a relief. The same nurse that broke the news to Lauren, told her that she didn’t understand how I was still functioning with all that pressure on my brain.

That first night was a long one. It came complete with an undesired (but required) ambulance ride from Olympic Memorial to Harborview, a ride that let me share Jesus to support crew. *Just a side note, but when you have a mass in your brain, you do no waiting in line of any kind. That was a nice bonus*. For the next few days I had visitors, watched Allblacks rugby and Seahawks football as nurses/doctors poked and prodded me. Later on Sunday the surgery was scheduled and it was then for the first time that night that I got a little emotional as I held Lauren in my hospital bed. On Monday afternoon I underwent the shunt surgery that would see a permanent pump installed into one of my ventricles with the tube leading into the ‘open space’ in my abdomen. The surgeons noted my tremendous brain pressure, but the relatively short surgery was a success. I was talking again that night and walking by morning.

Above: Fresh out of surgery, still under anesthesia.

Above: A little out of it.


Tuesday morning came around and I felt fantastic. I was mentally alert and almost ‘all there’. With a plate of bacon and sausage in front of me, I felt ready to tackle anything. I knew a nurse had just given me strong painkillers so I made a welcome video for my wonderful parents/brother in law who would be in shortly, just in case I got weird. And weird I got…

I was initially doing so well my discharge orders were all but completed. I started not feeling so hot around lunchtime and by the early afternoon I collapsed walking in the hallway at the ICU next to my wife who helped assist my limp body to the ground. Waking up on the ground completely disillusioned and surrounded by doctors (a second for me in this lifetime), they proceeded to do emergency checks on my body with an additional MRI and CT scan. I thought this might have been my last day on earth as the color left my body and it felt as if my heart/body was actually shutting down. Medicated yet awake, I remember being confused. How could some of the things spoken over my life come true if this was it? Maybe I had heard wrong? I told my family I loved them and then asked God to make it quick if this was the plan. It was a dark night.


Waking Wednesday morning, my nurse told me I looked like “death warmed over,” the previous night and I saw the emotional toll the evening had taken on those who were with me. Wednesday saw more tests that proved inconclusive, but my vitals were stable and I felt stable. Sleeping in the ICU with all of its bells and whistles going off is quite the task. When I did   finally get to sleep I had a drug induced nightmare that saw me jump out of my bed like a crazy person and made a start towards the door to “get help.” Lauren was able to calm me as I realized it was just a dream. I got back into bed but didn’t sleep. On Thursday night I was discharged after I was able to walk with my walker around the halls without passing out (like a big boy). My dad drove me home in his big comfy Lincoln that night with my mom and wife. That first shower in a week before climbing into my own bed was absolutely incredible.


 Today I’m able to walk around the house unaided and communicate nearly all that’s on my mind. Reading has been difficult, but listening to and discovering new music that honors Christ has been soothing. The ‘fog’ that I have been in has receded some (much like my hairline) but I’m still not out of the woods, so to speak. On Tuesday, we were close to heading back to the ER as I was having great pains near the surgical site in my abdomen after being pain free for the previous two days. Now (Friday) the pain is minor and I look forward to the day when I can get back to work. I still operate in slow motion and my balance isn’t the best, but overall I feel much better. I’ve also been the recipient of your tremendous love. The outpouring you gave was overwhelming. Thank you.

 Above: Thursday was a good day.


On November 24th, the surgeon in Seattle will remove the sutures and I will also meet with the world’s expert on parasites in the brain. Doctors looking at my CT/MRI scans said what’s in me could either be a cyst or a benign tumor... it’s inconclusive as of now. A possible theory is that at one point I had a parasite that left a slow growing cyst in my brain. These creatures aren’t normally found in the United States, but because of my travels, it's plausible I could have had one at some point (I've been very sick from food poisoning in Cambodia, Guatemala and Fiji). Whatever the outcome, there is still Kingdom work for me to do on earth and I look forward to returning to wider society to proclaim that God, revealed in Jesus, is LOVE- despite there being natural and moral evil(s) that occur on Earth. I firmly believe that God uses everything in the believer’s life for good, regardless if it is seen in their own lifetime. 


The night before surgery, Lauren and I repeatedly watched the video below. Music has really helped the healing process.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brain Stuff: Lauren Piper's Status Updates

October 30th at 9:15pm
Prayers please

October 31st at 7:51am
Calling for prayers- David hasn't been feeling very well for some time now and he went in for a CT scan yesterday morning. They found what seems to be a benign cyst in his third brain ventricle which is blocking cerebral spinal fluid flow and causing excessive pressure in his head. They sent us to the Emergency Department in PA, who then sent us to Seattle for emergent neuro-surgery. So we are currently at Harborview hospital waiting to hear when surgery will be. He is handling this with total peace and confidence in whatever happens and feels as if God has been preparing him for this. I am just now getting past my shock- it was a pretty big bomb for me, but the Lord has been holding my heart. Please be praying. To God be the glory.
Here is a note from David:
God is sovereign. God is love. King Jesus is seated on his throne. Feeling complete peace and thankfulness in these moments. May He be glorified through every aspect of my life. Thank you Father for allowing me to experience this.

October 31st at 1:55pm
Update #1: David is a happy boy, he got to watch his All Blacks win the World Cup and has just been cleared to eat (no surgery today, probably tomorrow-the docs will be reviewing his MRI and other scans to come up with the best plan of action) Thank you all for your continued love and prayer- it is deeply felt.

November 1st at 12:30pm
2nd and latest update on my amazing husband David Andrew Piper:
Surgery will take place tomorrow, November 2nd. We just got word from his official neurosurgery team and they will be inserting a ventricular peritoneal shunt. It was determined that removal, or even a biopsy of the cyst itself would be too risky at this time, so they will be monitoring it regularly. The shunt will act as a permanent detour of sorts for his Cerebral Spinal Fluid to drain and relieve cranial pressure. We don't know what time the procedure is tomorrow, but I'm figuring it will be sometime in the late morning. Thank you thank you thank you for all the continual kindness, support, warm thoughts and prayers. I will keep you posted as best I can. No matter what circumstances we may face, God is good. Thanking Him for the many opportunities He's given for healing- be sure to be praying for the surgical team. Love and hugs from Seattle!

November 2nd at 1:40pm
David just went in for surgery. Thank you Lord for all the good You've already done through this and for all the good You have yet to do.

November 2nd at 4:44pm
Surgery was a success! It was too dangerous to remove the mass or take a biopsy, so we will be monitoring it closely. David is in recovery. THANK YOU for keeping us in your hearts and for your faithful prayers

November 2nd at 9:49pm
He's doing so well J
 The shunt procedure was a success, more images of his brain were taken, and now we stay here for the next couple of days for monitoring... and to see if we can figure out what's going on with the mass- the neurosurgeon says that it's more characteristic of a tumor than a cyst, but unfortunately was too dangerous to biopsy or remove. We will be keeping a close eye on it. The shunt (a permanent tube going from his brain to his abdominal cavity) will be the solution for the pressure build up in his ventricles.

November 4th at 5:16pm
UPDATE on David Andrew Piper: I wasn't up to posting this yesterday but he stopped doing so well... They were going to send him home around noon yesterday because he WAS doing well... but he was up and walking with his walker (something he had done just fine an hour prior) and he lost consciousness in the ICU hallway... He's had a few dizzy spells since then from simple movement activities and gets pretty out of it even when lying still. They've been doing all sorts of tests and scans to try and figure out why his body is responding this way. His symptoms don't fit with what they think is going on. He seems to be doing a bit better today, but still no real explanation.

November 5th at 7:03pm
UPDATE on David: He is actually being sent home tonight (Nov 5th)- the docs have literally done everything they could to try and figure out what happened, I think we have pictures of/exams done on every part of his body now, but they're basically just chalking up his syncope episodes to his body not being able to handle the inter-cranial pressure change even though his symptoms didn't quite match that explanation. He's done much better today, and is actually being discharged because he was able to get up and moving without getting too woozy 
J  He has his follow up appointments mostly scheduled and we'll just be taking it day by day. I've been trusting God with it all and am very humbled and thankful. What a roller coaster. We SO appreciate all of your love and prayers. Please keep that up