Our Former Pastor Rev. Bruce Sack Has Died

March 28, 2015

Janet Sack writes:

20 days ago I posted on Facebook how this journey was exhausting, frustrating, confusing, perplexing, aggravating and rewarding. Since then and up until earlier this week, many asked why I hadn’t posted updates on Facebook. Today, if I were to answer that question, it would be because, in the midst of the journey, it became even more exhausting, frustrating, confusing, perplexing, aggravating and yes, even rewarding.

During March, most of Bruce’s days were “status quo,” meaning, excellent vital signs, seizures were far and few between even with decreases in his seizure med levels. He loved it when the nurses sang to him, he awoke and looked into their eyes, and then he yawned when I tried to sing, read or care for him. He didn’t move backward in healing according to CT scans but he wasn’t moving forward. So the past few weeks were all about caring for him in an incredibly convoluted process of private and public health care, insurance and disability.

The past few weeks became a tremendous spiritual struggle, how do I pray for miraculous healing, yet, follow the world’s advice of funeral preplanning? How do I read the Medicare evaluations of skilled nursing facilities and find the best place of future care? How do I find the strength to sit by his bedside, daily, and not see any improvements? How do I tell family and friends on March 25th we would not see the miracle healing we “hoped” for?

I don’t believe that we missed out on seeing a miracle. God has been a part of this journey the entire time. He has been the journey the entire time. I believe this journey for Bruce and for all of us has been the ability to see God in each and every step and in each and every breath in each and every moment. Sometimes those moments were quite obvious and others not so.

Even on Tuesday, God orchestrated the entire day. Bruce was surrounded by our favorite doctor, nurse and care team. None of which were scheduled to work that day. David, Emily, Elizabeth and I were together in Hazlehurst, packing and trading out our winter clothes for spring clothes to carry us along in this journey in the warming Tallahassee weather (sorry snowed in northern family).

We meditated constantly on Tuesday on the Jesus Calling devotion which started, “This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete.” In moments of fear we called to check on Bruce, and again received the “status quo” update.

Many are asking; “are you ok?” “What can we do for you, what do you need?” I realize in this time of mourning, we are not “ok” we are sad, tearful and I would honestly say totally exhausted. The hardest part of this journey was perhaps on early Wednesday morning after the doctor called. As our Wed. morning devotion reminded us, “Let thankfulness temper all your thoughts.” So, we as the Georgia Sack Family Four fell on our knees and tearfully cried out thanking the Lord for Bruce’s total and complete healing. That was probably the hardest thing to do in this journey, bowing down with David, Emily and Elizabeth and thanking the Lord in the midst of our wailing. And that is the hardest thing I ask of you this morning, to remember, that as you face challenges and blessings in your “todays” to remember to “let thankfulness temper all your thoughts.”

After prayerful consideration, Bruce’s memorial service will be on Saturday April 11th at 11am at Tifton First United Methodist Church in Tifton, GA. Bowen Donaldson funeral home (www.Bowen-Donaldson.com) is in charge of the arrangements and one of Bruce’s most faithful friends, Rev. Gary Minton will be officiating. Further details will be posted at a later time. As a family, we believe this date honors this upcoming Holy Week, a week that Bruce loved so much in the life of the church and gives us time to prepare a service that will honor God in a typical “Sack Family Production” type way. We are prayerfully considering a memorial service in Pennsylvania at a later time for family and friends that will not be able to attend in Georgia.

We Are In A Marathon

March 7, 2015

I had to be reminded of this scripture this week: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6 : 9 NIV

I admit, this journey with Bruce is exhausting at times. And yet, I have nothing to complain about as God has provided for all of our family needs – shelter, clothing and food, and spiritual blessings.

This week I met a healthcare worker who suggested I strongly consider cutting this journey short and assured me no one would blame me or criticize me if I did. Really?! Well sure I’m ready to give it up – 67 days in ICU sitting by my husband is not something I remember signing up for at our wedding ceremony. It’s not something I would wish for anyone, but there are a surprising number of individuals sitting next to their loved one’s hospital bed as I write this. If I’ve learned anything during this time, being a healthcare advocate is exhausting, frustrating, confusing, perplexing, aggravating and rewarding.

We are nearing the time to start making a calculated next step in Bruce’s healthcare plan. The concern one doctor expressed is that he has not made significant progress since he has been at Select Specialty Hospital. If that label sticks, it will limit his options in the next steps in healthcare for him. The goal for his coming to this place of care was for vent weaning. He is off the vent, and has been, he has also flushed out 24 lbs of excess fluids, healed his many open bed wounds and has increased his nutrition levels all while maintaining excellent vital signs. Yes, he has had some setbacks, missed seizure meds meant more seizures, a bout of pneumonia and fever meant more antibiotics and more seizures. So yes, I can understand that we have not made significant progress forward HOWEVER, as weary as we may become in this journey, none of the Sack’s, including Bruce are giving up, because, if anything, this week has affirmed that God is in control of this situation and as he promises we will reap the harvest in His proper time.

This week Bruce was moved out of the step-down ICU into a regular room – Praise God!

This week Bruce has been seizure free – Praise God!

This week Bruce has maintained excellent vital signs – Praise God! (Please don’t ask about my blood pressure!)

This week Bruce has handled a reduction in one of the seizure meds- Praise God!

This week Bruce has had a restful week – Praise God!

So our mighty prayer warriors – thank you again for this week of encouragement and support as we had to remind ourselves we are in a marathon.

Hebrews 12: 1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

As always we continue to covet your prayers, our mighty and faithful prayer warriors, as we finish this week and prepare for the next leg in this marathon. And as we continue to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we pray that your eyes will be fixed on Him as well. Blessings to y’all this weekend!

Info About the Past 2 Weeks

February 28, 2015

I know I was remiss in posting on Facebook last week. It was one of those days where the status was changing faster than I could type and post, so I will takethe liberty of posting a longer one today for those who care to follow the life and times of the Georgia Sack Family!

First off, many thanks for the overwhelming number of birthday greetings last week via Facebook, text, calls and cards. I didn’t hear any trumpets ushering in my year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:9) but I am for some reason going to embrace this year and wait with expectation and hope on God’s promises that it will be a great year. On the 25th anniversary of my 25th birthday, obviously Bruce wasn’t able to write me a letter or buy a gift or take me to dinner, so this year he gave me the unique gift of watching him battle a weekend of pneumonia, fever and seizures. Fortunately, I was able to take a break with David, Emily & Elizabeth and enjoy a wonderful birthday dinner, in part, thanks to the gift cards and coupons donated by friends of friends.

Bruce has had his ups and downs since my last post. He remains off the vent, only oxygen on the trach collar, and a low % at that. His vital signs have all been in the “normal” range. As he developed the pneumonia last weekend the elevation in temperature set off another round of seizures. Adding more meds for pneumonia consequently lowered his therapeutic ranges for other meds and so we have had a week of adjusting to get him back to “normal,” or rather therapeutic normal. (We all know there really is no normal for Bruce!) Fortunately for the past 2 days he has been seizure free, fever free and resting quite comfortably. Prior to his pneumonia he was becoming more and more responsive to the hospital staff and family and actually staying awake during his physical therapy. We know as he gets his rest he will return to those progress steps. For now, he remains at Select Specialty Hospital in Tallahassee in the step-down ICU.

For the rest of the Sack’s…..
We were blessed to have his mother, brother, and 2 sisters from PA stay with us for 3 weeks (from Jan. 20th). His one sister, Barb, remained an extra week as we cleared the hurdles before last weekend. I really appreciate all the family in PA who kept up with things (mainly shoveling snow) while Stewart, Ellen, Barb and Mom were in Tallahassee with us.
David & Emily are working diligently in their VSU classes. David is set to graduate this May and is beginning to look at the next steps. Emily is working VERY VERY HARD in her 2 statistic classes, challenged with the idea that both classes involve numbers and math!

In late January Elizabeth and I, and the PA clan, were welcomed into a 2 bedroom home in Tallahassee to stay in for the next couple of months. With the PA Sack’s back at home, it has been an adjustment for Elizabeth and I to realize that right now it is just the two of us. One night, while shopping in Walmart, we began giggling in the canned biscuit dairy case. As a family of 5, two large cans of biscuits or rolls wouldn’t last through one meal. A small 4 pack can of crescent rolls now covers us for two meals.
Elizabeth is continuing her homeschool work, in the ICU hospital room setting. She has her own alcove in Bruce’s room, complete with window, chair and table. She has a great area to walk outside and take fresh air breaks. Although we haven’t purchased any food in the cafeteria, the wafting aromas smell delightful and at minimal prices we are looking forward to the baked chicken next week. The hospital staff are all excited to teach her and train her as she desires. Last week she helped to operate the IV pumps and suction secretions. No, it is not her desire right now to become a nurse. The other day she came back in from a walk and shared that she had stopped in the waiting room as she saw a lady in there crying. Elizabeth initiated the prayer for healing over her husband. I am so proud of her spiritual growth over the past few months.

Outside of the ICU setting, we have joined the local library and are delving into excessive reading materials. The house we are in does not have cable or internet, so we spend our time in the evening either reading or playing games. Yes, we can survive without a TV in the house! We have tried out several churches in the Tallahassee area and Elizabeth has already connected to youth groups with homeschool friends her own age. I must admit it is a very different experience worshipping on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings without carrying the pastor-family type responsibility.

We try every few weeks to get back to Hazlehurst to continue the packing, never staying away from Bruce for more than a day. Fortunately, we have until the first part of June to pack up and move our items into storage until God unveils the next part of this journey.

Many of you have asked to send us mail. While we have our Hazlehurst mail on hold, we have had cards and notes and packages routed to the kids apartment in Valdosta, and yes we really do enjoy receiving words of encouragement. I have highlighted all the scripture references from the cards received in Bruce’s Bible and read those scriptures to him constantly. Their address is: David & Emily Sack 2201 Baytree Rd, Apt. 332A Valdosta, GA 31602

Thank you all for every little blessing you have graced us with, from short text messages, to longer words of encouragement, from coupons to local establishments to gift cards for gas and groceries, and for the love offerings that have flowed abundantly in our direction. Even the Facebook post “likes” help us to stay encouraged.

As we continue in our journey, we continue to ask for your prayers for Bruce’s healing. My heart cry today is for focused prayers as we move forward in healing and restoration. Healing in the brain from the seizures this week, restoration from the weakness from the meds and protection from other adversities that could come just by being in the hospital such as bedsores, trach bronchitis and malnutrition. We continuously lift up the healthcare workers that God has placed to care for Bruce, that they may have the wisdom to manage his health and the endurance to read through his ever growing medical history chart!

Today, the Sack family is believing in faith in these words….
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Valentine’s Day Report

February 14, 2015

It’s Saturday and it’s the day that the Lord has made! The Sack’s are rejoicing and are glad in it – because it’s not only a Saturday it is Valentine’s Day and as we were reminded this morning – Jesus loves us! So how do you know that Jesus loves you?

When I was asked this question at a Jesus Loves Me brunch this morning, I was reminded of the song – Jesus Loves Me – this I know, for the Bible tells me so. It’s so easy to repeat those words in the song, but WOW, reading God’s Love Letter to us and living those words mean so much more than just singing them.

Jesus loves me, today, as I shared in a morning brunch at Christian Heritage Church with Elizabeth and Barb Malinich (my precious sister-in-law who has stood by Bruce’s bedside for over a month now). Yes, Ellen & Elaine, you are very precious to me too! While I know my husband won’t be treating me to chocolate, flowers and jewelry today, I started this morning being reminded, God’s love for me is so much more than what gifts Bruce could provide for me in the material world.

Jesus loves me, yesterday, today and ALWAYS as I am reminded that Bruce and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day – 38 years ago, and today Emily & Brandon share their first Valentine’s Day anniversary!

Jesus loves Bruce today (and me) when the Doctor shared the report on Bruce. While we had some challenges this week, seizures while adjusting meds and while he was put back on the vent – we have overcome those challenges as the Lord has blessed us in this healing journey! Today, the doctor shared that Bruce continues to amaze the hospital staff – he is breathing on his own – again, and has been seizure free for several days! His vital signs and stats are all within the normal range. The doctor suggested we take up bets on when Bruce will be totally off the vent (yes full vent weaning, that was expected to take 4-6 weeks). His guess is for next Friday Feb. 20th! With God’s amazing healing power, I expect it too!

While I know next Friday is a long way off in an ICU – I am praising God today and thanking Him for the incredible blessings and miracles he has favored the Sack Family with this past week.

And I know that Jesus loves me today because he has surrounded the Sack Family with incredible friends who have remained strong in their encouragement and prayers and have blessed us in this journey. And I know that all of you will continue to pray for Bruce’s healing and pray for and encourage not only myself but David, Emily & Elizabeth as we continue to walk in the ways God asks us to.

So how do you know that Jesus loves YOU? I pray that you will dig deeper into the Scriptures and find new meaning in His Love for you on this special Valentine’s Day.

Bruce Has Moved to Select Specialty Hospital

February 7, 2015

Let Hope Thrive
…that’s the motto of Bruce’s new ICU home at Select Specialty Hospital in Tallahassee and that’s the sign displayed prominently outside the door to his private ICU room.

Some Biblical scholars define hope as: To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.

Over the past few weeks there have been many who have tried to redefine my “hope” for Bruce’s recovery into something more “realistic.” I’ve been counseled to take Bruce off the vent because he would never breathe on his own, I should not expect him to ever open his eyes, I should be ready to take him home to die because no healthcare facility would ever want him.

Today Bruce is resting in his new ICU home, breathing on his own since 7:30am THURSDAY morning and with fewer sedation meds and seizure meds in his body, or the stubborn seizure that was present earlier in January. While this new facility first declined to accept him, when Bruce began the task of breathing off the vent, they realized they needed to “Let Hope Thrive” and admit him for the vent weaning task that is next for him.

Sure, I am realistic to understand until he is fully awake we do not know what, if any neurological setbacks he may have. But this week I have been blessed to speak with several healthcare “angels” who have all agreed the brain is an amazing creation by God and that He does amazing healing wonders and we need to let Hope Thrive and give Bruce time.

So, today, as I watch Bruce resting comfortably, my hope remains in our Lord, who continues to be the same Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. My hope isn’t on what doctors alone can do for Bruce, or what Bruce will achieve on his own, my hope has been and will continue to be built on nothing less than Jesus’ Love and Righteousness.

I continue to ask for your prayers for Bruce’s healing, for prayers for the healthcare professionals who have taken care of Bruce in the past and for the ones that the Lord has placed in our path today, that they may have the wisdom and discernment from the Great Physician to care for Bruce in the way the Lord wants His healing to be and that truly believe that we should “Let Hope Thrive.”

So today, I ask, where is your hope? Are you hopeful for a warm day? For rain? Are you hoping for your favorite sports team to win? Are you hoping to win the lottery? Are you hoping for your loved one to cook your favorite dinner tonight? Or are you, like the Sack Family, hopeful in the Lord as we begin this new phase in our journey?

Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Bruce is Breathing on His Own!

February 4, 2015

Praising God and thanking Him this evening for all of the special blessings He has bestowed upon the Sack family, and for all of our family and friends who continue to remain faithful in prayer for Bruce’s healing.

On Monday several medical providers were positive Bruce would never be able to take a breath on his own. Monday afternoon he spent 4 hours off the ventilator breathing on his own, yesterday over 10 hours and today he got an earlier start and has been breathing on his own since 7:30 am!

We then had a chance to meet with a rehab hospital that specializes in brain injuries and they said they would be willing to consider working with him once he is off the vent. They also said he is on a ridiculous amount of meds and couldn’t believe he could be breathing on his own with such a mixture.

Praising God for these blessings of hope he has shown us this week. We continue to covet your prayers as God leads us in this journey.

Jesus Is Our Constant in All the Instability

February 4, 2015

Janet Sack wrote on February 2, 2015:

In a time of turmoil and transition and unknown how do you find stability? Elizabeth and I debated this question quite a lot this weekend. You see, we are blessed, we have our home parsonage in Hazlehurst, GA, we have the kids apartment in Valdosta, GA and we have a house we are “borrowing” in Tallahassee, FL – yet none of them are permanent dwellings for us or our belongings (sometimes a Walmart bag of items, sometimes a larger duffle bag, and most recently clear storage tubs).

So in the midst of this instability how do we find stability? As we returned to Hazlehurst for a few hours a couple of days ago we were reminded of Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
In the midst of all the craziness in our lives these past weeks even months, Jesus is the One who has been our Constant, and who will continue to be.

So we constantly remind ourselves of this verse when:
1. we return to Hazlehurst and covet our warm comfy bed and closets filled with our own things, yet know we need to be in Tallahassee.
2. we pack away our Christmas decorations a month after leaving for Tallahassee on Dec. 28th and begin to focus on Lent
3. we rest our heads in a home in Tallahassee that a friend of a friend of a friend has allowed us to stay in for the next few weeks
4. we sit with numerous families in the ICU waiting room as they experience their own crises with loved ones
5. we persevere through the hospital days and discussions on Bruce’s long term care.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

It’s interesting to hear reactions to my lack of providing an update on Bruce on Saturday. Many of you assume positive, good things and others have assumed the worst. So here is where we are at:

Bruce continues to remain in ICU, where he has been since Dec. 28th. Last Wednesday he underwent surgery to remove the “brain drain” and replace it with an internal shunt. He continues to be on 5 different seizure medicines although the names and dosages continue to change. Prior to the surgery last Wed. he spent several hours breathing on his own, off the vent. It wasn’t until 11am this morning that he was able to do that again. For us, that is encouraging news, especially as he opens his eyes when we talk with him. For some of the hospital team, that means nothing. And so, we struggle with understanding what the next steps will be. In order to leave the ICU we need to find a place that will be willing to wean him off the vent. There is a hospital nearby, but after reviewing his inability to breath for the past few days post-op they are not willing to accept him. Before they continue to look at his neurological mix of seizure meds they want him weaned from the vent, might I add that we discovered within the neurological mix of meds, are sedatives that slow his breathing down.

So as you can imagine it has been a challenge to find stability in this mix of medical professionals offering their advice and opinions. BUT, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever – and so our HOPE is placed in Him. He knows the plans, He knew them yesterday, He knows them for today and He knows them for all of our tomorrows and we are confident that they will be good. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

So as we continue to be surrounded by family, we ask for your prayers tonight, specifically for:
1. Bruce’s continued ability to initiate breaths without the support of the vent.
2. The physicians guidance as they begin to reduce the sedatives and seizure meds tonight
3. For guidance and wisdom for the team trying to find the next place for Bruce to receive the care and attention he needs to further his recovery
4. For the family, those in Tallahassee and those in foreign lands such as PA, MD and TX -who are praying without ceasing, believing that God truly does have the plans in place for Bruce’s future and they are a future of hope.