|Motorcycle Chaplains Rick and Carol Rigenhagen|
"There's nothing more that we can do."
Those were the words AG Motorcycle Chaplain Rick Rigenhagen had been expecting, but dreading, from their physician. His wife of 48 years, Carol, now a mere 82 pounds, would be in the presence of the Lord within weeks or even days.
For all of Carol's life, she's had severe reactions to medications, with aspirin being about the only medication she didn't have a strong allergic reaction to. This past February, she developed a tooth infection. Her dentist prescribed antibiotics to kill the infection, but instead of attacking the infection, the antibiotics attacked the digestive bacteria in her intestines, resulting in an even more dangerous infection.
"The doctors then tried an even stronger antibiotic," says Chaplain Rigenhagen, "but Carol had a severe allergic reaction to that - the medicines they were giving her were killing her."
As Carol began to lose weight and weaken, the doctors tried to pump her body full of probiotics, giving her massive doses and requiring her to consume yogurt in what proved to be a vane attempt to reestablish her health.
"Carol lost nearly 50 pounds, dropping from 129 to 82 pounds," Rigenhagen says. "The doctors couldn't get it under control. She wasn't eating, she wasn't sleeping, she didn't recognize many people and she was in constant and incredible pain."
Rigenhagen says that another fear also arose. As Carol's father and an aunt both died of Alzheimer's Disease, he now feared that even if the infection was controlled, something had now triggered Alzheimer's to start its deadly invasion as her memory was failing.
"Finally, our pharmacist recommended to our doctor a new experimental means of administering the medication so it would kill the infection, but not enter the blood stream - which would hopefully eliminate the allergic reaction," Rigenhagen says. "It worked, but the damage had been done. Carol continued to decline."
On August 21, the Rigenhagens and their doctor were sure Carol was on her death bed. "I'll never forget the doctor's eyes when he said, 'Sorry, there's nothing more medically that we can do,'" Rigenhagen recalls. "He then signed the paperwork to have Carol admitted for hospice care."
Yet, perhaps nothing hit Rigenhagen deeper than Carol's plea. "She looked at me and said, 'Please Honey, just Pray that the Lord will take me home.' I cannot even express in words my feelings at that moment," Rigenhagen says.
"I took her frail body in my arms and I was weeping and sobbing uncontrollably and began to pray," Rigenhagen says. "Dear Jesus my Lord! You know how I love my dear wife. . . . But, if it is Your will to heal her by taking her to Heaven . . . I at this time consent and give her to You. I will continue to fulfill the calling upon my life alone, if that is Your desire."
Yet, even in the midst of what appeared to be certain death, Rigenhagen says their was still a glimmer of hope - a hope he was hesitant to claim.
"John Maempa [the director of the AG Office of Prayer and Spiritual Care] is Carol's brother," Rigenhagen says. "He was here with his wife, Jan, about a week before Carol was admitted to hospice. He told me that he felt strongly that Carol would be restored - that her life and our ministry together were not over. But she continued to decline."
Rigenhagen was met with even more hope when the trio of hospice workers assigned to assist Carol, came out and held a mini-revival prayer service with Carol, seeking God for her healing.
"Wow! What a prayer meeting! I could tell Carol responded to that prayer time," Rigenhagen says, "but she was so pale, so weak."
On their way to Karcher Estates, where Carol would be under hospice care, Rigenhagen again quietly released Carol to God, facing the reality that she would likely never return home again.
That night, Rigenhagen returned to Karcher Estates to visit. To his shock, his wife was standing and asked him to help her walk to the lunchroom.
"She ate her entire meal," Rigenhagen says, with surprise still evident in his voice. "It had been months since she had done that!"
From that point on, Carol's recovery was remarkable. Every day there was improvement and by the end of five days, hospice contacted Rigenhagen and told him that he might as well take her home - she didn't need to be there any longer!
"I was overjoyed, the Lord had given me my wife back!" Rigenhagen exclaims. "She's gaining weight - now up to 95 pounds - and her color, her energy, her smile, her life is back! She's out in the garden, mopping the floor, singing, loving life and her memory is fully returned!"
Rigenhagen says that Carol is once again attending church with him and recently even ministered with him at a retirement center.
"I really believe that God required me to give her to Him unreserved that He could heal her," Rigenhagen says. "Praise the Lord!"
For more information about Assemblies of God Chaplaincy, see its website.