“The doctor came in and told me that she had actually had two strokes during the week that no one had known about (and that) they would have to take her into brain surgery to stop that bleeding,” President McKee said. “He told me that she probably wouldn’t make it through the surgery; that’s when we started calling our children — we had four with us there and we called the other six and they all flew in.”
One of the McKees' sons, Scott, flew to Tennessee a few days earlier to take care of his younger sisters who were living without their parents in the mission home since that Thursday.
“I flew out from Boise and that just seemed to be the longest flight ever because I didn’t know what to expect,” Scott McKee said. “I don’t think the kids or anyone knew how serious the situation was. When I first saw her she could speak in a whisper, but you really couldn’t understand her. I just remember going in and giving her a hug and talking to her and it was a scary experience for me. Honestly, I didn’t think she would make it.”
As doctors performed Sister McKee’s brain surgery, the family faced difficult questions as to how and if she would recover. Doctors told President McKee that they stopped most of the bleeding in her brain and also that they had to remove a portion of her brain during the procedure. Sister McKee had also put herself into a self-induced comatose state. The doctor said, “She just may stay this way I can’t promise you anything.”
The family sang hymns for her in the hospital and kept a hopeful outlook.
“We had a spiritual time together as we gathered around Sister McKee’s bed and sang and shared spiritual insights. I am sure that Sister McKee could hear the music,” President McKee wrote on the family blog in November 2012. “For now Sister McKee is resting peaceful. We have seen very minimal movement of arms or legs but are also told that this may take a few days. I am very clear that the Lord is in charge and that He will guide us through this situation.”
But “a few days” in a comatose state turned into three weeks.
“Her brain surgeon said it would usually take 24-48 hours before she would wake from her coma but within 48 hours we didn’t see anything happen. There was just nothing, and that scared us because they just said that if we didn’t see any improvement by then she may never come out of that coma,” Scott McKee said. “Then we had another doctor come in and tell us that her body just went through a heart attack, two strokes, and when your body does that, your body’s just going to shut down and it just needs time to heal. That gave us a new hope, and we just waited.”
During the wait, President McKee set up his computer and other office tools inside his wife’s hospital room. He held mission-related meetings inside her room as well as led them over the phone. When he had to attend zone conferences and other meetings, his children would stay in the hospital to watch Sister McKee.
“I would go and stay up at the hospital and we kept someone with her 24 hours a day,” President McKee said. “We never left her side.”
While Sister McKee was in her comatose state, her family began to notice and celebrate her tiny movements. Scott McKee recalled one night when his father called all of his children from the hospital.
“(He) said, 'You’re not going to believe this but her right toe moved,’ and we just got so excited for that, I think that was probably the first movement,” Scott McKee said. “Then about a week later you’d be able to kind of communicate with her — 'Mom, if you can hear me, wiggle your toe,’ so she’d start to wiggle her toe or move her finger, but she was still in a comatose state and couldn’t obviously talk or anything, but we would just wait for the next little movement that she would make.”
Sister McKee’s movements became more frequent and she gradually came out of her comatose state. Her family worked to help her regain abilities and skills she had before her strokes.
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