the story we never told

Thank you so, so much for praying for Ava. If you hadn’t heard, she had a trampoline accident Sunday night. Had a baby tooth knocked out, and two of her front teeth were pushed back and up into the roof of her mouth. Her gums were purple and bloody and mangled and swollen, and oh goodness, it was a hard night. My heart just hurt so badly for her. We were so scared that there would be no fixing her once-beautiful smile.

Long story short, I asked for prayer for a healing miracle, and we’re well on our way. Our amazing dentist, Dr. Larry Devese, who loves God and our family, had us come in right away yesterday morning and spent 90 minutes giving Ava lots of novocaine and moving her teeth back in place as best he could. We have a long way to go, but we’re filled with hope. And gratitude. (Please keep praying for her. She’s in a lot of pain.)

I’ll be honest. When we first got the call about Ava (we weren’t with her, but thankfully the rest of Gabe’s family was there to comfort her), I’ll admit that I wasn’t very happy with God’s timing. First Gabe has a heart attack, and just when we’re finally getting used to our new routine, we up and leave for 5 weeks in Cambodia. And then we’ve got jet lag times five, and just when we’re finally getting over the hump, more trauma, this time for our little girl.

And then the money. We paid off both cars this year and were excited to tackle our last debt besides our house (Gabe’s school bill), and then the heart attack bills start flooding in (our homecoming mail on January 13 was a delightful mixture of 4-week-old Christmas cards and 2nd and 3rd notices from the hospital). And now, hello orthodontist.

And then God gently reminded me that, “Hey, you know I’m with you, right? Your husband shouldn’t have survived his Widow Maker artery being 100% blocked. I saved his life. And made him whole. And you remember when Cambodia was just a dream? Remember when you had $340 in the Cambodia Fund and wondered when on earth you’d ever get there? And your baby girl? She could’ve had a brain injury or paralysis, but instead she just has a couple teeth we need to fix, and I created little mouths to heal so quickly.”

And I just cried. Because I did remember. I do remember. And I remember something that happened on December 21, something we never shared because, after seeing how Gabe’s heart attack affected his poor mama in Africa, we didn’t want to scare any of our family while we were all the way on the other side of the world.

But I can tell you now. Because there’s some glory in it for our God.

It was the morning of December 21, 2011. We were so excited (especially me), because we were heading to the Phnom Penh International Airport to meet my friend, Keri, her husband, Scot, and their boys, Garrett and Nathan. We had only ever met online (+ 1 phone chat & 1 skype chat), and now they were flying in from Singapore to spend eight days with our family in Cambodia.

We got to the airport early, and their flight was late, so we were standing up for a long, long time. We were a little restless but having fun people-watching, until Gabe told me he wasn’t feeling well. “Are you sweaty?” he asked me. “No,” I said. The weather was a gorgeous 80 degrees, and we were in the shade with a breeze.

“I’m sweaty.” And he was. Very. His head was sweaty, his feet were sweaty, his whole body was sweaty. And it was a cold, clammy sweat. Exactly the same kind of sweat he’d been sweating on the night of October 29. While he was having a heart attack.

I tried not to panic. I could tell he was worried. He put his hand on his heart (my least favorite thing that he does these days).

“I think it’s my heart.”

And mine sank.

“This is how I felt when I was having a heart attack.”

And then a fog. Scot and Keri got off the plane. We hugged. Gabe hung back. We were going to split up into guys and girls tuk-tuks, so Keri and I could get to know each other on the 30-minute ride back to the guesthouse. But Gabe wouldn’t let me leave him. I don’t blame him. A 30-minute tuk-tuk ride with complete strangers while you’re about to pass out and afraid you’re having a heart attack?

I briefly explained to Keri. She understood. It was a long, long ride. I prayed hard.

We got back, dumped Keri and her family and their luggage and our children, and pulled away in our pastor friend Narin’s van (he owns the guesthouse and was, thankfully, home when we got there). He asked us if we wanted Western care or Khmer. He told us that Western doctors could cost us hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars but with Khmer care there was no guarantee that anything would be clean or safe or fill-in-the-blank-with-comforting-adjectives. Gabe said Western.

Then Narin said, “Or I have a Khmer friend I could call. He’s a believer, and he’s very good at what he does. Do you want me to go back and get his number?”

We said yes. While he was getting the number, Gabe said. “It’s definitely my heart. And we need to hurry. Like we need to get there NOW.”

All I could do was beg God for mercy. Visions of taking my husband’s corpse back to the States while I comforted our daughters filled my head. Cambodia has no real Western hospitals, no way at all of helping someone who is having a heart attack. We had been told he’d need to be care-flighted to Bangkok if anything happened with his heart. We did have the name of one Christian doctor who we could go to. His name was in an e-mail on Gabe’s laptop back at the guesthouse.

The storyteller in me would love to drag out the drama, but I’m going to cut to the chase. We got to the clinic, there was no wait, they took us back for Gabe to get an EKG on very antiquated equipment (that did the job). It was all so surreal. I just took deep breaths and tried to rest in knowing that God was in control, that he was with us even in Cambodia.

The EKG came back normal. His heart rate was low. The blood sugar test showed that he needed food. We had missed lunch, standing and waiting at the airport. He wasn’t having a heart attack. He just needed to eat.

I wanted to kiss the doctor’s feet. Dr. Modich. The same doctor, as we discovered a few days later, that friends had recommended to us in that e-mail.

I went up to the counter to pay the bill, still shaking from everything that had happened. When the receptionist handed me the bill, I gasped. She looked at me, concerned.

Thirty-six dollars.


Seeing the doctor = $30. EKG = $10. Blood sugar test = $1. Missionary discount = -$5.

Thirty-six freaking dollars.

Gabe ate lunch on time the rest of our trip, threw in some regular morning exercise for good measure, and that was that.

God has our backs, friends. On these dreary Ohio winter days when I’m tired of blending milkshakes and making chicken noodle soup for my hurting little girl, and piles of stuff are glaring at me, and I have writer’s block out the ying-yang, and God is whispering, “Wait,” when I ask him for hints about our future, I’m going to remember.

To God be the glory. Great things he has done.

37 thoughts on “the story we never told

  1. Pingback: prayers answered | Marla Taviano

  2. The Chey Family

    Yes, Cambodia is a third world country but I found that there are also good dentists here, that is much much much cheaper than you need to pay in America. Though, if you are just a tourist, and you do not have the right connections, it is truly difficult to find first class medical or dental care. One of the clinics that expats go is SOS. We had a friend that went there and she paid $2000 out right! I told her just pay the $100 consultation fee and I could bring her to a much cheaper clinic that my husband only costs $10! People in the West have so much to spend that is why your bills is sooooo high.
    But, whether, you are in America or Cambodia, we have the same God who loves and cares for us! He has been providing our needs for the past 9 years of being married!

  3. Tara Rhodes

    Well, after reading this, I won’t be complaining about petty issues (that I feel are huge) in my life. Great reminder that God is good, unpredictable and always takes care of His people. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kim

    Yes, friend, God does have your back. Totally. And though the care in Cambodia only set you back $36, they could never have done for Ava what that dentist did, so I’m super grateful that her accident didn’t happen here in Cambodia.
    Remember that the when the enemy starts attacking you hard and fast, it’s cause you are getting really close to where God wants you to be. Keep going, and keep your eyes focused on those “great things He has done,” even in the midst of the not so great ones. Waiting for answers is so hard (I’m with ya!), but it is in those times of waiting when we finally have time to pause and reflect on all He has already done for us.

    Praise God for Gabe’s Widow maker not making you a widow. Praise God that the next time he just needed a snack. Praise God for Ava having access to a great doctor and not jumping on any Cambodian trampolines. Praise God for your testimony to so many by just telling your story. Praise God for the future He is building for your family right now!!!

  5. Rich

    Dang! What in the world? You guys were under some serious attack. So thankful that we serve a God that intercedes for us on the regular…in times we don’t even ask…he’s there for sure. WHOAH!

    God is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Keri

    It’s so crazy that I keep forgetting about that whole incident that started off our time together! Where was the snack bag??? heehee

    I love that God is being super gentle in reminding you that He is in control. So glad Ava was spared from a fate worse than moving teeth around, but I am going to pray that if He won’t give you any hint of what’s next that maybe He’ll tell me because I just really want to know!

    Love you friend…..

  7. Deborah

    Amen! Amen!! Amen!!!

    Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation!
    Oh, my soul, praise Him for He is thy help and salvation!
    All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near!
    Join me in glad adoration!

    Hallelujah to our Great God!

    As a former hypoglycemic, you described his symptoms perfectly. And I can see where they’d be crossed with heart attack symptoms.

    Celebrating with you, Friends, and still praying! <3

  8. Beth in Baltimore

    I want to cry, Marla. This is so beautiful to me. I am in a time of waiting about our future, too. And I wanted God to help me be content in the waiting and in the answer. Gathering stories around me of his grace and care to others I think helps me in my contentment. Imagine the places our respective families may find ourselves in, within a short span of time! Just imagine….

  9. Gail

    I see why you didn’t tell this story then, and I am PRAISING that you told it now. Thanks be to our Creator, Sustainer, Healer, Provider!

  10. Lois Edilson

    Ron and I felt privileged, blessed and honored to be your guest house mates during that time. You and your family are an inspiration to us!

  11. Gaylene

    What an incredible story… one I needed to hear for the lesson. God does have our backs, our todays, and our tomorrows. We (I) just need to trust and obey for when I do there is victory in Him.

  12. Lori

    NO WAY!!! Oh my goodness that is so scary and wonderful both.
    I love the $36 part. I must share this part with you….. Last time I was in Switzerland, I was having heart issues. Well, 100+ heart rate, high blood pressure inducing headache and dizziness, enough to worry….but I could tell it was probably my thryoid going hyper due to past experiences. Still, I needed to go to a doctor. one street over from the hotel was a brand new urgent care. Opened only a week prior. I was like the first person they used the blood pressure cuff on! Right in that office they did an EKG, drew blood AND tested it. Confirmed that indeed my thyroid was a bit out of wack, most likely due to some meds I was on for a cold (steroids and cold meds). I stopped the meds. Stopped drinking crazily caffeinated european coffee (despite the jet lag!) guzzled water, rested and made it through the week.
    But I had to pay cash on the spot for their services. Grand total was only $300! (a lot more than $36 but still… in the US I would have had a $1500+ bill for that!) And my US doctor would have wanted to prescribe some other expensive counteracting med instead of just cleaning up my current meds and diet.
    What a great perspective on health care around the world.
    And PRAISE GOD the almighty physician. I think you deserve at least 1 more week of recovery time just factoring in that ordeal 🙂

  13. jberrymd

    So glad to hear she is OK. As a physician, I have taken care of several children whpo will never breathe on their own again because of accidents on a trampoline. And those nets really do not help much as it is not always falling off that does the damage.
    I know they are fun and realtively inexpensive to own, but my four children will never be on one if I can help it. The fun does not outweigh the risk.
    So thankful Ava is OK. Beautiful little girl…

  14. Jennifer

    Oh my goodness, tears are being shed right now for the awesome God that loves us so much. He has your little family in the palm of His big hands, and He is loving on you big time. I am so glad you decided to share this story today! I am having a hard time with His timing right now, lol, and I need to reflect on what He has already done. Praying for sweet little Ava to be free of pain and totally healed quickly.

  15. Melissa

    God is so good!! Thank you for sharing your story. I am sitting here in tears. God protects us, loves us and has faith in us. Thankful to you for that reminder this morning.

  16. Sharon

    Marla, God is so good! Thank you for sharing this story that you never told with us. Certainly gave me a kick in the pants to stop feeling sorry for myself on a hard morning. Praying that God will continue to provide for all your family’s needs and that he will continue to remind you of the ways he’s provided and protected in the past.

  17. Jess Carpenter

    Oh, girl! I needed to read this today. One to rejoice with y’all & then two to be reminded about God’s sovereign provision even when things feel like they are flying out of control around us.

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