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amazing story

Marianne Cook: Mom's Prayers Matter

By Rod Thomas
The 700 Club“I felt dizzy all of a sudden and the next thing I know something woke me up a few hours later,” Marianne Cook said. “Something was telling me to get out of the bathtub and go call somebody. I made it to the bedroom floor and I don’t remember anything after that.”

Marianne had suffered a massive stroke, and lay on the floor of her apartment, unconscious. She wasn’t found until 20 hours later when neighbors below her called the landlord to complain about water running into their apartment. The landlord called Marianne’s mother.

“This lady told me she was the manager at Marianne’s apartment and that they had found her unresponsive,” said her mother, Wilma. “She said the ambulance was there to take her to the hospital.”

Wilma waited anxiously while doctors tried to find out what had happened. She was shocked when she got the diagnosis.

“He said, ‘She’s throwing clots. We don’t know why.’ He said, ‘She’s basically brain dead. If she lives, her brain’s already cottage cheese. She’s going to be a vegetable. She’s going to be blind in both eyes. She’s going to lose both legs and she’s going to be paralyzed. It’s in your best interest and hers, to sign as do not resuscitate.’ I told him, ‘No,” Wilma said.

Doctors diagnosed Marianne with an atrial myxoma, a rare tumor that attaches to the heart. Eventually, pieces of it break off and travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. One piece had reached Marianne’s brain, causing a massive stroke. Another was lodged in her heart. 

Wilma knew her daughter was near death. She also knew her daughter wasn’t a Christian, so she began praying for a miracle.

“That was our greatest prayer, ‘God don’t take her lost. Don’t let her die lost,’” Wilma said.

Marianne was airlifted to Cleveland Clinic. Doctors wanted to operate immediately.

“Doctors told us that with surgery she stood a chance. He could not promise any quality of life, but she would at least stand a chance to live,” Wilma said. “Without surgery, it was only a matter of hours before [things could get worse]. She was still throwing clots and one will hit a vital organ and in a matter of hours she’ll be dead.”            

Dr. Marc Gillinov was in charge of the initial procedure.

“She had a tumor in her heart and pieces of the tumor had broken off and gone all throughout the blood stream to her brain, arms, legs, kidneys - all organs in her body; causing damage wherever the pieces went. But the big picture is, if pieces are breaking off, we’ve got to take care of the tumor; remove it from inside of the heart so no more pieces can break off,” Dr. Gillinov said.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘Doctor, you’re in her hands. He turned around and he says, ‘Mom, we’re all in God’s hands,’” Wilma said.

The initial surgery was a success; but, there were still more questions than answers.

“We took her to ICU and she’s still on life support. She’s not having any more bits of tumor break off, but she’s still comatose and we don’t know if she’s going to wake up,” Wilma said.

Marianne needed a second perilous procedure to remove the pieces of tumor that were lodged in her legs. Dr Sean Lyden was the lead surgeon. 

“When we first saw her, I’ve got to admit - I really didn’t think she had any chance of survival,” Dr. Lyden said. “One, from a neurologic standpoint, would she ever wake up? The other issue is that the blood flow to her legs was so bad that there was a good chance that we would have to amputate her legs above the knee on both sides.”

Her surgeons faced additional complications.

“She had a clot that started at the groin but extended all the way down to her toes. So the concern was, ‘Were we able to get the clot out of her legs, [would we] get enough of the clot out to restore blood flow? And would she have any functional muscle or nerves when we got done doing that?” Dr. Lyden said.

Marianne survived nearly 12 hours of surgery. Doctors had little hope for her recovery. Through it all, Wilma continued praying.

“All I could do was hold and hope that God was in control. I knew that I couldn’t lose her. I just absolutely could not,” she said.

The next morning, Dr. Lyden received amazing news.

“Miraculously, the next day my fellow called me at 6 a.m. and said, ‘You have to come and see Marianne. You have to come see Marianne.’  And I was like, ‘You know, I know her legs are going to look bad. We’ve worked on her for over 12 hours and I’m sort of out of my bag of tricks.’ He said, ‘No, no - her legs are better. They’re all pinked up. They have blood flow. They have pulses.’ It was unbelievable how much she turned around overnight,” Dr. Lyden said.

After 10 days in a coma, Marianne woke up. She lost two of her toes due to poor circulation and lost vision in her left eye; but she was alive, and her mom knew that God had answered her prayers.

“When she was first able to talk, she said a really bad word – a really, really bad word. I looked at her and I said, ‘I can’t believe you said that.’ She said, “Oops, that must have been a result of my brain injury.’ And I knew it was God’s way of telling me she was OK. I said, ‘I’ll accept it this time, but you better never say it again.’ And she never did.”

Over the next three months, Marianne went through rehab to regain her strength to walk and function normally. Her rehab really took off when she made a big decision.

“God told me that I didn’t have to be alone anymore, that he was always there with me. I said, ‘God, I want you in my life. I need you in my life,’” Marianne said. “And I accepted him as my Lord and savior.”

Marianne astonished doctors at her quick recovery. She began walking after only two weeks and went home after only three and a half months. Today, she lives a normal life.

“The fact that she turned around in such a short period of time, and then went on to be totally normal, - I think probably some divine intervention helped that,” Dr. Lyden said. “I mean, it was totally miraculous. In every case, but particularly in a case like this, there’s got to be an extra special ingredient that goes into it that we can’t define. Some people call it fate. Some people would call it God. Some people would call it man’s natural toughness and resilience. I personally would call it God.”

“I told God, ‘I cherish every minute with my mom. Please let me spend as much time with her as possible.’ And we have,” Marianne said.

“Boy, have we,” Wilma said. “It’s been a learning experience for both of us. It’s been a bonding experience like you couldn’t ever believe. There’s no way to describe the thankfulness I have in my heart that she’s sitting here beside of me now.” 

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