The concept of an Intensive Care Unit – ICU – is not actually that old in the history of hospitals. In 1950, an anesthesiologist named Peter Safer came up with the idea of keeping patients who were on ventilators and under sedation in a specialized part of the hospital where they could be given specialized care. A few years later, in 1953, an ICU unit was set up in Copenhagen, Denmark during the polio epidemic. Two years later, the United States got its first ICU unit. These special units were expanded to include care for patients with any severe condition such as heart attacks or other life-threatening illnesses that required intensive monitoring.
Dr. Dave Walker was an anesthesiologist in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa at the beginning of the use of ICU units. Back then, an anesthesiologist didn’t just stay with the patient during surgery, then turn them over to another doctor in the hospital. No, the anesthesiologist continued to care for the patient during their time in ICU, checking on them every day and writing orders for their care. Only when the patient was improved enough to transfer to a regular hospital room did the anesthesiologist hand off the daily monitoring of the person to another doctor in the hospital.
When Don Piper’s car was struck head-on in 1989 with an impact of 110 miles an hour, that should have been the end of his earthly life. And for ninety minutes, his spirit was absent from earth, and present at the gates of heaven. The paramedics declared him dead and covered his lifeless body with a tarp. But one man passing by felt God telling him to pray over Don. For more than an hour, the man prayed and sang hymns. Then the unimaginable happened: Don came back to earth.
Although a sliver of the book is devoted to the attempt to describe heaven, the majority of the book focuses on the unbearable pain and long recovery of Don Piper. It was difficult to read this book, as so many parts reminded me of my son’s accident, recovery, and ongoing pain. The detailed description of the fixator Don wore for many months was especially familiar.
Some people who read this biography will say it’s proof of the power of the human spirit. But I say: it is a testimony to the power of God to bring life out of death. This book is one that everyone who battles pain – or has someone in their life battling chronic pain – should read.
Excerpt from page 73:
I was in Hermann ICU for twelve days. Then I stayed four to five days in Hermann Hospital before they transferred me down the street to St. Luke’s Hospital. Both hospitals are part of the world’s largest medical center. I remained in St. Luke’s for 105 days. Once I was home, I lay in bed for thirteen months and endure thirty-four surgeries. Without question, I am still alive because people prayed for me, beginning with Dick Onetecker and other people around the country, many of whom I’ve never met.
Excerpt from page 83:
At night they gave me additional medication to try to make me sleep. I write “try” because the additional medicine didn’t work. Nothing they did put me to sleep – not sleeping pills, pain shots, or additional morphine. I had no way to get comfortable or even to feel relieved enough from pain to relax.
I’ve tried to explain it by saying it this way: “Imagine yourself lying in bed, and you’ve got rods through your arms, wires through your legs, and you’re on your back. You can’t turn over. In fact, just to move your shoulder a quarter of an inch is impossible unless you reach up and grab what looks like a trapeze bar that hangs above your bed. Even the exertion to move a fraction of an inch sends daggers of pain all through your body. You are completely immobile.”