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When I walked into Beth’s room at UPenn Hospital around 10:30pm on October 6, 2015, they were preparing to give her a bag of regular platelets to boost her levels. One of the nurses told us they wouldn’t work but that they had to give her regular platelets before they could move toward securing the HLA Matched Platelets through the Red Cross. I remember distinctly going up to the bag of platelets after the nurses left the room and praying God would use them to boost Beth’s levels and prove the nurses wrong. I prayed about that for about an hour and then finally fell asleep on a chair in the corner of the room for an hour or two. It is really hard to sleep in a hospital whether as a visitor or as a patient, because nurses are in and out of the rooms all night long.
The next morning I asked one of the nurses what Beth’s platelet count was and she said, “Forty one.” I thought ok they went from 2400 to 4100 - at least we are going in the right direction. Later the hematology doctors came to talk to us and one of them said, “we got a nice bump in her platelet count.” I said, “4,100 is going in the right direction.” He exclaimed, “Mr. Wheeler the count is 41,000 not 4,100!” I thanked the Lord for an answered prayer. (Miracle #13)
The next few days were filled with anxiety as we waited for the Red Cross to find Beth’s HLA Matched platelets. They finally came and I’ll never forget being so nervous when they gave her the bag. I prayed harder than ever that they would give her the proper boost. I waited until about 10pm when the nurse came in with the good news -the matched platelets gave Beth a nice boost to 49,000! (Miracle #14)
The next ten days were an emotional roller coaster. Beth’s platelets would go up after she received a bag of the special platelets, but by the next day they would be back down. Our primary physician kept saying that she felt like Beth’s bone marrow would kick in and start producing platelets any day. However, day after day, it didn’t happen. I was staying at a hotel about a mile away from the hospital and I always stayed with Beth as late as I could. I would catch the last shuttle in the evening and return the next morning with the first shuttle of the morning. I was able to be with my bride and my love for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She would always order two meals so that I could eat with her. This amazing woman always thought of me and others even as she was dying. I began to realize that every second with my beautiful bride was special.
I brought in many pictures of Beth and our family and I shared them with her as motivation to get better. She tried and tried and fought until there was no fight.
When it became apparent that Beth’s bone marrow wasn’t going to kick in my goal became to just get her home. I did not want her to die in a hospital in downtown Philadelphia. I called a good friend of mine who is a builder and asked him if he could build a wheelchair ramp outside of our front door that week. I knew she would need to be brought in that. He didn’t even hesitate and said, “I’ll postpone the job I am working on and I will build it today!” How great to have friends like that who dropped everything to help us. (Miracle #15) The date was set for October 20, 2015 for us to bring Beth home.
When Beth left the hospital all of her nurses and doctors lined up to hug her and wish her well just like they had at our local hospital. Nurses told me that Beth helped them realize once again the reason they went into nursing. She inspired the entire hospital with her fearless attitude and her gracious demeanor. Our primary physician told me that the entire hospital was talking about Beth Wheeler and her loving family. That was my Beth. She was beyond special and that’s why I am so happy you had a chance to get to know her a little.
The next day we had welcome home signs and balloons all over the house. The ambulance brought her home and rolled her in on a stretcher. It was a very happy day for me to bring my Beth home after three and a half weeks in hospitals.
I had bought a new gas grill in August, but never had a chance to use it. I grilled chicken and steak that night and Beth really enjoyed it. She walked from our bedroom to the living room with the help of a walker and we all ate together. Beth’s brother, Roy, and sister, Carol, were with us to help us care for Beth and to help keep an eye on the house while I was pretty much lived downtown. It was nice for Kelsey to have someone else staying in the house. I am so thankful for family and friends who helped me so much. My fellow QVC hosts and team members were absolutely incredible with their outpouring of love and support.
Our primary doctor made arrangements for Beth to receive the HLA Matched Platelets at the hospital’s Valley Forge facility which was half the distance from our house as the hospital. The next day the ambulance came and picked her up to take her for platelets. Beth’s sister, Carol, and I drove separately to be with her during the treatment. Beth went to this facility off and on during the previous year, so many of the nurses and doctors already knew her well and loved her. Many of the nurses ran out to hug her after her treatment. I watched one nurse who I knew Beth had really touched in a meaningful way. She was working on a patient and watching and suddenly she just ran out to Beth and gave her the biggest hug and kiss. It was as if everyone knew this would be their last chance to see her. (This is so difficult to write as my tears keep flowing.)
Shortly after the ambulance brought Beth home and the paramedics got her back in her bed (yes, they fell in love with her too) she told me she didn’t want to do any more treatments. I’ll never forget how hard it was for me to say to her, “Cakies, you’re in charge and if that is what you really want then you don’t have to do it anymore.” She said, “That is what I really want Cakies. I’m sorry but I just can’t do this anymore.” I called hospice and I called her doctor. Her doctor didn’t want to stop but I told her that it was Beth’s wish to stop. She wanted to talk to Beth and I gave Beth the phone. Our doctor was fighting back tears as she told Beth she was absolutely her favorite patient ever and that she was so honored to care for her. Beth thanked her and told her how amazing she was at what she did. Oh how I love that woman. She thought of everyone right up to the end.
The hospice team came and made Beth very comfortable. I started calling family in from around the country. So many people came to love Beth and to say their goodbyes. One of her nieces is a hospice nurse in California and she and Kirstyn took amazing care of her in those final days. They bathed her and put lotion all over her. We all felt it was such an honor to do anything we could for her. Her nieces told me that Beth was always the cool aunt they wanted to be like and they could hardly bare to say goodbye. I know exactly how they felt.
So many amazing things happened during the last ten days of Beth’s life but I can’t possibly tell you all of them here. I plan on writing a book about Beth’s life and what she taught us about unconditional love. I will let you know when it is ready to be published. I already have about one third of the book written.
Our bedroom was filled with family members and close friends. We played hymns and Christian songs of praise. We all sang and worshipped the Lord and loved Beth. We used the hospital bed for people to sit on and kept Beth in our King-sized bed so we could all hug her and love on her. Our bedroom truly became a place of worship.
So many people told me they wanted to help in any way possible so I called friends and asked if they could pick up family members and friends who flew in. Everyone said yes without hesitation. I thought I was randomly pairing people up but it was as if it was by divine appointment. We had teachers picking up other teachers and musicians picking up musicians and so new friendships were born. Beth brought people together in such wonderful ways.
Here is an amazing miracle. On Saturday, October 24th one of my best friends, Brian, flew in from California. I had John, the lead singer from Blue Sky Band, pick up Brian who is also a musician. John, his wife Joey and Brian arrived late at night and I went out to meet them in the driveway. As we talked, I noticed that John wasn’t saying much. He had a rather odd expression on his face. After they left I mentioned something about it to Brian and he said John had been very talkative on the way from the airport. I didn’t give it another thought until the next morning.
When I came out to get coffee on Sunday, October 25th, my sister, Mary Jane told me that I needed to talk to John. I called John and he came over the next night and told me that he didn’t want me to think that he was weird but while I was talking with him in the driveway the night before he saw a large being standing about 8-9 feet tall right behind me. He said there was bright, shimmering light coming off of the being and it appeared to be wearing a cloak and robe. The light was so bright that he had to look away. He said when he looked back at me it was gone but as I kept talking it appeared again and he had to look away once more because it was so bright. I said, “John, what do you think you saw?” He said, “I think I saw an angel!” I said, “I did too!” (Miracle #16) I was so comforted to know angels were surrounding us all during such an extremely difficult time.
There were other miracles. One morning I felt impressed to get out of bed and walk to my kitchen. As I arrived by the front door I heard a faint knock. It was my neighbor Darryl who asked if he could speak to Beth. He told her that Jesus was with her and that if she was ever afraid to just reach up and touch the hem of His garment. Beth’s hands were swollen from fluid and she couldn’t lift her hands. But on a few occasions I saw her lift her hands straight up in the air. (Miracle #17.)
During the last week of her life Beth kept looking up to the right corner of our bedroom ceiling. One day I asked her what she saw. She looked at me and said, “Heaven!” I asked, “Is it beautiful?” She said, “YES!” (Miracle #18) She also told us that she saw her dad who passed away when she was just fourteen years old.
On Friday, October 30th, 2015 Kelsey was hugging Beth and lying on her right side, Kirstyn was hugging her on her left and I was by Kirstyn hugging all three. We were like this for most of the day as we knew Beth’s time was approaching. Her mom was seated on a tall chair next to the bed. We were telling her constantly how much we loved her, how much she meant to us and how we would see her again one day in heaven. At 2:40 p.m. Beth took her last breath and went to be with her heavenly father. It was very peaceful and very loving.
I won’t go into all the details here but the Lord helped us put together an amazing celebration of her life. Our church worked hard to pull together the first “live” internet stream of a service. Tens of thousands of people watched that day and in the days and weeks to follow. (Miracle #19) I hear from people all over the world who tell me their lives were tremendously impacted by Beth’s incredible life. The outpouring of love to our family was overwhelming and beautiful. Thank you all so much for your notes of comfort and support over the past eight months. I wish I could thank every person individually. Maybe I will be able to in heaven.
I am beyond grateful for the thirty-seven years I had with Beth Wheeler. I affectionately call her my Cakies and I feel her presence in many ways and on many occasions. The best way I can sum up her life was that she truly lived her life out of love. She loved all and was loved by all. While we miss her every second of every day we are moving forward in her love. We know that true love never dies. Our goal as a family is to live every day in that love and to continue to love the way Elizabeth Ann Wheeler did. She loved unselfishly and she loved fully.
Thank you friends for reading these blogs and thank you Cakies for loving me and giving me a wonderful life and a beautiful family. Your family and friends feel your love every day and we will keep loving each other the way you taught us.
Thank you for reading my story and God bless.
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