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Annette Webster

June 13, 2012

In December of 2009, I learned that I had severe sleep apnea. Soon afterward I received a second piece of alarming news: If I left the problem untreated, there was no question about whether I’d have a stroke or a heart attack, just when. Unfortunately, the shock of this news was not eased by the solution my oral surgeon presented. I would need extensive jaw surgery to open my airway and allow room for my tongue. Frightening as this extreme and upsetting procedure seemed at the time, the Spirit whispered that this was the course to take.

I felt the Spirit testifying to me that my upcoming surgery was an opportunity for me to become better acquainted with my Savior and to become more like Him. I felt deeply that this experience would be another chance to learn and to take another big step toward becoming the daughter Heavenly Father wanted me to be.
After almost twelve hours of surgery, I was released into the ICU with a tracheostomy tube in my throat to help me breathe. My memories of the ICU are hazy, but what stands out the most is the pain. The nights were the worst, since I could sleep only an hour or two before the pain woke me up again. When it became excruciating, I prayed for comfort, pleading with the Lord to ease my burden. I felt the Savior with me during those long, agonizing nights, soothing me with balm of Gilead.

Twice during my stay in ICU, the trache tube clogged. The first time was a bit scary, but the staff cleared it fairly quickly. The next night was worse. The airway clogged and closed off completely. There was no air coming in or going out, and I woke up choking for air.  Miraculously, the respiratory therapist “had a feeling” something was wrong and stopped by my room unexpectedly. As I struggled for air, I offered a simple prayer: Please help me breathe. The clog didn’t miraculously vanish, but what did happen was a miracle to me. As the doctors manipulated the trache tube, little bits of the clog shifted and I could get what I can only describe as little “sips” of air. They weren’t much, but they were enough to keep me alive, and I knew that the Lord was giving me the strength to get through the agony, sip by sip.

I had been home from the hospital for a few weeks when I started having difficulty breathing. Every test they ran showed nothing wrong, but the problem didn’t go away.  One night during my personal prayers, after struggling for enough air just to get from the family room to my bedroom; I felt myself surrender to the Lord’s will. “Heavenly Father,” I said, “I don’t feel like it’s my time to die. I don’t feel as though You’ve been telling me it’s my time to go. I feel like I have so much more to accomplish on this earth. However, if it is my time, and You want me home; I’ll go. Not my will, but Thine, be done.” In that moment, I felt my will truly surrender to His, and I realized that was what He wanted from me all along.

The next morning, Kevin had to call the paramedics and I was rushed to the ER, where the doctors finally discovered the problem. While clearing the trache tube during my first stay in the hospital, they had damaged my trachea, allowing scar tissue to block my airway. That day, they performed surgery to stretch the scar-tissue out of the way and open my airway. But since this was only a temporary fix, I’ve returned to the hospital for four more surgeries.

Needless to say, it was a challenging year for our family, and even though we’re hoping that this last surgery I had will really be the last, we understand that the trial may not be over. If it’s not, we’ll trust in the Lord and deal with whatever hardships come. I’ve learned to rely on Heavenly Father and have developed a willingness to accept whatever lessons He trusts me to learn from my challenges. After all, I know He is uniquely and perfectly qualified to succor us in our times of need—and I trust him with my life.