I have had the privilege of witnessing some pretty amazing things so far in my young career as a minister. One of the more memorable experiences came during the summer of 2004. I was providing the pastoral care for a Nazarene church in Durham, NC. Through a random set of circumstances I met Jana Sheets and her husband Eric. They had moved to this area from Florida with the hopes of Jana receiving a lung transplant at Duke.
Receiving a lung transplant is wild enough, but Jana's case was further complicated by the fact that she had a rare disease (lymphangiomatosis) and no one with her disease had ever received an organ transplant. I will never forget the day I walked into the ICU shortly after she received her new lungs. Tons of machines were hooked up to her body and she was covered by a blanket of wires. The first thought that went through my mind is "there is no way this girl is going to make it." I said a prayer over her and then proceeded to have a long conversation with Eric.
I visited Jana several times a week over the next few months. There were so many instances where things look dark, but she gradually improved and slowly regained her strength. Finally, after several grueling months, Jana left that hospital on her own strength. But, it was not really her own strength. Jana was merely embodying the strength that could only come from God. Throughout the whole ordeal, I was blown away by her faith (a faith so contagious her husband Eric caught it), and there is no doubt that I witnessed a miracle.
Eric and Jana still live in the the Raleigh/Durham area (Bahama to be exact), and they have become dear friends to Laura and I. Jana will probably never be free of her disease in this lifetime, but she is living her life as best as she is able. Every time I am around Jana, I am reminded of the sanctity of life and how precious each day is.
I am reflecting on this because recently a newspaper in Jana's hometown in New York did a write up on her. You can find that story with more details about her journey here.
Below is a recent picture of Eric and Jana.