On Good Friday, grace, prayers and hope for Philly patient-safety advocate

Dr. Amy Reed's life represents strength and redemption to many, her husband writes

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Amy Reed, M.D., in a professional portrait taken before she began cancer treatment.

After a horrific cardiac arrest related to the rupture of an abdominal tumor, my wife Amy Reed had a miraculous recovery from a coma last week at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

By all accounts, her cardiac arrest should have led to her death — but it didn't.

She emerged from her coma, after a week of grief, prayers and well-wishes from thousands of friends and supporters worldwide — the religious, agnostics, and atheists alike.

Amy is beloved by our family. She is loved and respected by her friends and by the many who have come to know her as a brilliant doctor, and as a powerful advocate for women's health, medical ethics and patient safety.

When she emerged from her coma last week, it was sheer joy that overtook all those who love and respect her — it was grace itself that was poured upon those who bore witness.

Many of us recognize what is meant when the faithful pray: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

I will attest, with certainty, to the fact that Amy's miraculous survival was healing to those who love and respect her.

To see her talking, smiling, and being her "rough around the edges" self — it was a balm on the many painful wounds family, friends and supporters have felt in Amy's plight, a trial that in fact has gone on for the past 41 months. Her near-death experience was the most dramatic episode in years of suffering that began with a surgical procedure using a device, the power morcellator, that upstaged a hidden cancer. 

Grace did, in fact, emerge under our "roof" last week.

But Amy remains in critical condition. Her abdominal tumor is continuing to wreak havoc on her body and mind. I remain uncertain as to how (or how much longer) she will survive.

A stage 4 cancer diagnosis like Amy's is an ugly one. It is one that leaves very little room for hope.

But, what about this grace we received  last week? What of this miracle to which we bore witness? Are we to simply to look at it as random luck? Is the miracle we saw irrelevant simply because Amy is still suffering, and may die?

I am reminded of the story of Jesus in Jerusalem, judged and condemned even after  demonstrating his divinity, repeatedly. Doubted by  followers and friends, denied by the establishment and dismissed as hopeless by most in the crowd  as he suffered the cross and death, only to be resurrected and create hope in ways no one could have predicted.

Everything about science and medicine tells us that Amy has no chance of recovery, no chance of a resurrection, from this cancer that eats away at her.

Many physicians have given up on her, the medical establishment condemned her to an upstaged diagnosis carelessly, and many onlookers are simply doubtful that she could survive her cross.

But then we have the miracle of her life of strength, supreme accomplishments and prowess as a women, a physician, a scientist and a mother. We know that it was through her efforts that the United States government at last recognized and acted on the dangers of power morcellation.

We have the grace of her unfathomable survival last week.

And these, alone, simply tell us that her suffering now can only lead to hope and renewed life.

Perhaps the renewal will be her own recovery and and regained health. I pray with all of my heart that this is the case — and I ask all who read this lift her up in your prayers and thoughts.

Or, perhaps the hope and renewal Amy created will be manifested in her six children's growth into powerful and just men and women.

Very certainly, Amy's suffering — and how she chose to fight despite her own pain —have saved many women's lives and shifted the contour of practice and ethics in women's health.

In the end, the miracles and grace we receive, in health or in illness, are not necessarily a prelude to the fulfillment of our personal hopes and wishes.

One thing is for sure: when grace, love and dignity suffer,  we may just be bearing witness to the birth of immeasurable hope, strength and redemption in ways no one could predict.

Last week our family understood with clarity what is meant by "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

I now live in certainty that the story of Amy's fight, no matter how it turns out, will come to represent renewal and hope for many — and, I hope, for herself.