Matt Johnson has been moved to ICU at University of Washington Medical Center, where he is undergoing kidney dialysis to remove extra fluid he is retaining because of kidney failure.
His liver isn’t working well either, according to his wife, Jackie. And on Monday, he underwent a bone marrow biopsy without pain medication.
“Matt has endured great physical pain,” Jackie wrote on CaringBridge.org, “and all of us have endured great emotional pain.”
But in the cold, sterile environment of the intensive care unit, they are not alone.
As Matt and his doctors attack his leukemia with willpower and medical science, hundreds of people — in churches, in homes, during quiet moments at work — are lifting him and his family up in prayer.
People are praying at Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, where deacons spread the word Sunday that Matt needs everyone’s prayers.
They are praying on Shaw Island. “Father God, we continue to have hope, and we pray that you will heal Matt,” the Shaw Island Fellowship Prayer Warriors wrote on the guestbook on the Johnsons’ Web page hosted by CaringBridge.org.
“We know it is not your will that Matt is sick, and that you want Matt to live a life that is free from suffering. So we lift Matt up before you, Lord, pleading for your healing touch upon Matt’s body and soul.”
They are praying in Rogers, Ark., in Pacific Palisades, Calif., in Kittery, Maine, in Santa Fe, N.M., in Brussels, Wis.
They are praying in Atlanta, Ga. “Our hearts go out to you as well … you are not alone!,” Bill and Joanne Wider of that city wrote in the online guestbook.
They are praying at sea. They are praying in Fuellinsdorf, Switzerland.
They are praying — having conversations with God — asking for comfort, for healing, for a miracle. And family members say those prayers are buoying them in the storm.
All told, some 1,035 people have signed the Johnsons’ online guestbook; the guestbook was signed 19 times today as of 1:47 p.m.
Matt Johnson, a self-employed electrician, is the son of Kerwin and Margaret Johnson of Friday Harbor. His wife, Jackie, is the daughter of Rick and Karen King, Friday Harbor natives now living in Lynden. Matt and Jackie have four young children: Dustin, twins Jordyn and Taylor, and Tesa.
Matt Johnson’s medical battle was the subject of a May 24 fund-raiser on San Juan Island to help defray the $296,000 needed for a stem cell transplant. At the time, Matt, now 35, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of myelodysplastic syndrome; it has since progressed into a rare form of leukemia.
On Tuesday afternoon, Matt was resting in stable but serious condition in the ICU, where doctors were working to keep his body from shutting down.
“Without being able to lean on the Lord to sustain us, we would be emotional basket cases right now,” father-in-law Rick King said. He said his daughter told him, “I lean on the Lord daily for my strength. If I didn’t have that, I would be falling apart and I can’t fall apart while I’m cheering my husband.”
King spoke of the power of all those prayers:
“Jackie feels the love and the support of the prayer support … It’s basically what gets us through,” he said. “Right now we’re in the middle of a storm. Jackie just needs to be strong and we need to be strong for each other. That doesn’t mean we don’t have emotions. It doesn’t mean we don’t cry. It means we have faith and we have faith in eternity.”
One of the guestbook contributors knows what it’s like to have a child undergo treatment for cancer — and knows how prayer can be a support in the storm.
“There were times for me that it was nearly impossible to pray,” said Tim Daniels, pastor of Islands Community Church. “The thing that gave us strength was all those people out there praying all those times.
“When those hard times are personal, prayer is the most difficult thing you can do. It’s the prayers of others on your behalf that carry you through.”
He added, “Prayer is not about resigning to God’s will, it’s about engaging with God so that His will in our lives might come to its fullest potential … Prayer is fervent communion with God.”
Jackie Johnson has kept the public apprised of her husband’s progress and setbacks on CaringBridge.org. To visit the site and sign the guestbook, click here
She posted this update Monday:
September 1, 2008
Day +59 … again.
Today has been the longest and most painful day of our lives. Matt has endured great physical pain, and all here with us have endured great emotional pain. I will NOT give up hope for Matt’s miracle.
Matt has been moved to ICU. They are getting ready to start kidney dialysis. This should remove a lot of extra fluid that Matt is retaining so he will be more comfortable. The drs. say so far it isn’t too late to reverse his kidney failure. He had to have a bone marrow biopsy today without pain meds. We are now waiting for the preliminary results. Usually it takes longer but they are rushing things due to the urgency of the situation. His liver isn’t functioning well either and there are a whole lot of other things going on.
Thank you for praying for Matt and our family now. We are praying for relief for Matt. The emotional pain is so great right now too for us. Please pray for the kids too. Dustin and Tesa were here today and Dustin was especially struggling. He is able to understand somewhat the magnitude of the situation, nothing any child should ever have to deal with. It all breaks my heart beyond words.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for faithfully praying.