A Life Redefined
Christmas Day 2009. Ron Moyer and his wife Lin were heading home to East Stroudsburg after visiting a friend in a hospital when Ron started getting chills. He chalked it up to the onset of the flu, something that hit him every year around the same time.
The next morning, Ron still didn’t feel well. Lin, a recovery room nurse, made him a cup of tea. Then she noticed something alarming. Ron’s legs were mottled with purple blotches. Clearly this was more than the flu; it meant his blood wasn’t circulating properly. Lin quickly called an ambulance to take Ron to their local hospital.
Within the hour, Ron was on life support, dangerously close to death.
“His blood pressure plummeted. His temperature soared. His kidneys, lungs and heart were all shutting down,” Lin recalls. “He was intubated and on a ventilator.
As a nurse, I was trained to watch for when things go wrong. I never expected him to be in septic shock.”
What neither Lin nor Ron could see was the virulent pneumonia that had been brewing in Ron’s lungs and now had led to a massive infection that was attacking every major organ. Ron was rushed to the intensive care unit, put in a medically-induced coma and given a regimen of drugs to try and save his life. His body filled with fluid increasing his weight from 198 to 255 pounds. His heart was functioning at only 20 percent of its capacity and he was on and off dialysis for five weeks.
The speed at which everything happened was stunning, especially since Ron had recently made several positive life-changing decisions.
“At 51, I started overhauling my life,” says Ron, who changed his diet and began exercising. He built up to daily walk-runs of five miles. Within two years, he says, “I felt like I was at a new level when I accomplished 14-mile walks. Shortly before getting sick, in the fall of 2009, I did a 5K. The last walk I took was on a sunny Christmas Eve day. I felt so strong and healthy.”
Ron would need every ounce of strength in the battle to come. Toxins in his body from the infection began eating away tissue, causing gangrene, particularly in his legs and feet which were turning black. Ron was transferred to the burn unit at Lehigh Valley Health Network for highly specialized treatment in an effort to save his legs. Unfortunately, the infection had caused too much damage and both Ron’s legs had to be amputated below the knee.
Having rid his body of the worst of the infection, within two days after surgery, Ron’s vital signs and organ function improved. Six weeks after being admitted to the burn unit, Ron was discharged to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown, but not before Lin checked things out for herself.
“I found nothing but positive, understanding, caring people,” she says.
Ron recalls very little of the medical crisis that nearly took his life. He saw nothing of the anguish Lin and his then 25-year-old daughter Rachel and 19-year-old son Ethan were struggling with.
As he was being weaned out of his medically-induced coma, the realization that he’d lost his legs was almost unfathomable.
“When I woke up and saw my legs were amputated, I had a very good cry,” he says. “It was a private moment.”
But a renewed faith in God carried Ron and Lin through that crisis and another that came their way. Less than a year later in November 2010, Ethan was killed by a drunk driver a minute from home. A gentle soul with a mop of long, flaxen hair and big brown eyes, Ethan was known as a peace-maker with a passion for playing the drums and rock-and-roll bands like The Rolling Stones. He also was an organ donor who gave the gift of life to seven other people.
“I feel like my son’s still living in those people,” says Lin. “It really is a gift. He’s still here with us.”
Adds Ron, “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have a good cry for him. If I didn’t have God in my life, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Ron remembers being in Good Shepherd when something extraordinary happened to uplift his spirits. “I saw the sun coming up, piercing through the window, and I felt like I was touched by God,” he says.
Another kind of healing touch came through Ron’s caregivers – the doctors, nurses, therapists and aides who helped get Ron to where he is today.
“I couldn’t hold a toothbrush. I couldn’t feed myself. I couldn’t comb my hair,” says Ron, a former hairdresser who had to give up a successful business because nerve damage in both hands caused loss of feeling in several fingers making it difficult for him to hold a pair of scissors. “They said it’s a blessing I didn’t lose my fingers.”
Occupational Therapist Jennifer Yenser remembered how fragile he was. “I think what really struck me about Ron was how bad the condition of his skin appeared,” she says. “It looked like it had been burned. He had a lot of pain which in the beginning made it difficult for him to participate in therapy.”
Lin says the care Ron got was “phenomenal.” She praises Ron’s caregivers for providing expert and gentle wound and skin care during his stay. They also taught Lin how to care for Ron’s skin when the time came for him to go home, a month after entering Good Shepherd.
Determined to make the most of life as he now knows it, Ron has resumed his daily walks and is working diligently on achieving one of his goals – to start running again. Together, Ron and Lin greet every day with hope and love and most of all, faith.
“Our faith is everything,” says Lin, her voice breaking with emotion. “We truly are grateful for every single thing that comes our way. And we know that some day, we’ll see Ethan.”
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Photo: Ron with some of his caregivers, from left, Occupational Therapist Jennifer Yense, Nurse Lucy Nagy-Grube, and Certified Nursing Assistant Diana Pena.