“God, I’m going to break”: Wife watches from afar as husband with COVID-19 fights death in ICU
by Gracia Lee // May 30, 2020, 6:53 pm
As May Lim helplessly watched her husband battle with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit, she could only cry out to God for help. Photo courtesy of May Lim.
“Going to be transferred to ICU. I’ll need a miracle from God to be healed,” read the message on May Lim’s phone.
As the words of her husband, Constant Chiew, registered in her mind, Lim felt all the strength leave her body.
“God, this is too much for me to handle. I feel like I’m going to break.”
Just less than a week prior, Chiew, 63, had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the virus responsible for the global pandemic that has infected more than 33,000 people in Singapore.
While most patients recover after developing mild symptoms, a small percentage – typically older adults with pre-existing health conditions – suffer more severe symptoms that can lead to death.
The thought of her husband suffering alone weighed heavily on Lim’s heart.
Lim, 52, longed to be by his side at the hospital, pray for him, encourage him to hang on. But, under a two-week home quarantine order, there was no way she could do that.
“God, this is too much for me to handle,” she said at the thought of losing him. “Please take it away. I feel like I’m going to break.”
It had been a tumultuous week since the call from the Ministry of Health came.
Chiew, a taxi driver, was informed that he had ferried an infected passenger the previous day on March 13. He was to quarantine himself for two weeks.
“I submit to You. Whatever the outcome. I will honour You.”
Three days later, he developed a fever.
“My whole world turned upside down,” said Lim, adding that she was overwhelmed by anxiety.
Needing to be tested for the virus, Chiew was whisked away in an ambulance by paramedics clad in personal protective equipment, an experience Lim describes as “very scary”.
“I almost had a meltdown,” she said. At a loss for what to do, she knelt down for the first time since her ordeal began.
“Please protect our family,” cried Lim, who has two teenaged daughters. “But I submit to You. Whatever the outcome. I will honour You. You know what’s best.”
A bruised reed
After being tested, Chiew returned home to wait for the results.
It was an agonising wait, said Lim. The only thing the couple could do was pray together as they stood on opposite sides of a closed door.
Chiew’s test came back positive the next day. Even as he was whisked away in an ambulance to be warded, he kept assuring her: “Just submit to the Lord, just submit. It’s out of our control. He’s the One in control.”
For the first few days, Chiew told Lim that he was feeling alright, save for a fever and some body aches.
But then a dreaded text message came, reporting that his health had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. His lungs were infected, his heart under stress, his oxygen levels low. Her husband was in critical condition.
“Just submit to the Lord. It’s out of our control. He’s the One in control.”
“Hopefully he can pull through the night,” she penned in a tearful journal entry.
Stuck at home under quarantine with no company but her spiralling thoughts, she found herself slipping into despair. She could not eat. She barely slept. All she could do was cry out to God for help.
Her pastor constantly encouraged her to focus on God’s Word, which became a lifeline she clung to for comfort and hope.
In particular, Romans 8:18 offered her the most encouragement.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
She said: “It reminded me that this trial is just a process. My suffering now, compared to what Christ has suffered, is really nothing. And it is incomparable to the glory I will have in God in the future.”
Matthew 12:20 also reminded her of the gentle and compassionate heart of God.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
“When this verse came to me I was reminded that God will not break me. He knows how much stress I can bear. He will not abandon me during my most desperate time of need,” she said.
A bold plea
Through the reading of Scripture and the support of almost 100 friends and family who formed a chat group and prayed with her, she got through the two weeks of quarantine, though she lost about 4kg in that time.
“Their support made me feel that God was with me, so how can I give up?” she said.
When she visited her husband in hospital, where he was still under intensive care, she was only allowed to look at him through a window from across the corridor.
“He will not abandon me during my most desperate time of need.”
What she saw broke her heart.
Chiew was heavily sedated, had a tube stuck in his throat and was lying face down on his stomach, a position meant to help him to breathe better. He looked so different from when he had left home for the hospital barely a month ago.
She visited him every day for as long as she was allowed, watching him through the window and reading verses like Psalm 23 to him over the speakerphone.
On Good Friday (April 10), Chiew’s condition worsened. He was on the brink of death. In faith, Lim pleaded with God to “raise” her husband on Easter Sunday, just as He had raised Jesus.
It was a bold prayer. But true enough, Chiew’s condition took a sudden turn for the better on Sunday. “That was really a miracle, I tell you,” said Lim, still in awe.
The worst was over. Chiew’s health continued to improve and he was moved out of intensive care on May 8 after an almost seven-week stay.
His love never fails us
Looking back on these past two agonising months, Lim is grateful for God’s faithfulness and goodness. “I thank God so much. I praise Him,” she said. “He gave me the strength.”
She added that she is infinitely grateful to her pastor, church friends and relatives – whom she calls “angels”– who came alongside her in prayer and encouragement.
“Jesus never left me, but accompanied me through my darkest moments.”
“I was really so lost. I didn’t know how to pray. I didn’t know how to study God’s Word. I didn’t know what to do. But thank God there were all these angels and God’s Word to put me back on track,” she said.
Now virus-free, Chiew is conscious and undergoing various forms of therapy at a rehabilitation facility.
In a recent message to those who have supported him in prayer, he wrote: “Praise the Lord, for his mercies and love never fail us … Jesus never left me, but accompanied me through my darkest moments.
“I cannot thank God, Jesus and His Holy Spirit enough for seeing me through each step of this journey and for looking after my family during these difficult times.”