‘When sorrows like sea billows roll. . . .’

Posted in: Society
By Kaye Collier
Jan 10, 2013 - 9:07:16 AM

Levi and Sissy PattersonLike everyone else, Levi and Sissy Patterson embarked on a new year last week. With 2013 stretched out before them, they are praying that this year will be less eventful—and much less tragic—than 2012.
Though the young Marlow couple are only in their early-20s, in many ways, they exhibit a level of maturity and profound faith well beyond their years. In 2012, these qualities sustained them through a chain of traumatic experiences that would have rocked many others to the core.
A bright beginning
2012 started out with extra helpings of hope and joy for the two. They were expecting their first child early in the year; and surely enough, little Daylee Jo Lacey Patterson arrived on February 15. Sissy’s pregnancy had progressed without incident, and the 6-pound, 9-ounce baby girl was, in her mother’s words, “born completely healthy.”
However, on their first day home, after Sissy had fed her daughter, “I was fixing to lay her down, and her color was fading,” she recalled. She alerted her husband.
“I said, ‘Daylee, Daylee, and I noticed something wasn’t right,” Levi said. He summoned his mom, who was there to help out during baby’s first few days at home, and carried the unresponsive baby to the couch. The three took turns administering neo-natal CPR until the ambulance arrived.
Sissy indicated that she saw the baby’s eyes open fleetingly one last time and heard her daughter gasp for breath.
“I was hysterical. All I could do was pray,” she remembered. At the hospital, they received confirmation that their precious child had died.
The diagnosis was sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), probably from rare causes since Daylee was otherwise healthy.
Levi and Sissy had not been allowed to ride in the ambulance or initially, to enter Daylee’s room at the ER. When they were allowed to go into her room, they were told not to touch her. An autopsy followed, after which they laid their daughter to rest in the Marlow Cemetery.
In recalling the experience, Levi broke down and sobbed.
Then by early September, Sissy learned that she was approximately four weeks along in a second pregnancy. The grief over losing their first child was still quite fresh, but they were young and resilient, and considered the news a cause for celebration.
Sissy carried the baby for about seven more weeks before experiencing problems. Then at 11 weeks, she suffered a miscarriage.
The doctor conjectured that the child had likely had a chromosomal defect that had prevented Sissy from carrying it to term, but that there was no indication that she should give up on having children. He did recommend, however, that she give her body several months to recover.
It’s been said that there is no heartache to compare with losing one’s child.
The Pattersons had lost two in a matter of months.
Shaken and in pain
Then two weeks later, a third tragedy cast its dreadful shadow over their lives.
On a Monday afternoon—November 12, to be exact—the two were enjoying a supper that included French fries. Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to turn the burner off under the pot in which the potatoes had been deep-fried.
Flames began to shoot from the hot grease, and Levi rushed into the kitchen to remove the flaming pot, planning to take it outside to prevent major loss to the house and its contents. Reaching the dining area, he turned toward the front door, a move that caused the flames to change direction. They were now threatening to devour him.
His first thought was to get out of this horrible situation as quickly as possible.
Feeling the searing pain, he panicked momentarily; and seeing Sissy on the other side of the flames (but unknown to him, out of their reach), he threw the pot behind him to protect her.
His bare feet started to slip on the hot grease that had splashed out of the pot, and he dropped to one knee, then fell prone into the hot grease.
He began to cry out in pain.
“It was the most awful scream I’ve ever heard,” Sissy noted. She dragged him out of the inferno; and as he stumbled to the door, she frantically called 911.
“You can still see the grease prints of my feet,” Levi said.
Inexplicably, the fire died instantly, both on the floor and on Levi, at the same time.
“They had a miracle in that one,” noted Sherry Easley, a cousin of Levi’s who was present at the interview.
Levi was rushed to Duncan Regional, stabilized and taken by ambulance to the Integris Baptist Burn Center in Oklahoma City.
He had sustained burns over 14 percent of his body—third-degree on his feet, ankles and right knee; second- and third-degree on his legs; and first-degree on his arms and hands.
At the burn unit, he was told upfront, “you have to eat your way out of here,” he said. After sustaining severe burns, the human body expends a great deal energy during the healing process; therefore, the burn victim must supply massive quantities of calories and have a high-protein diet.
Levi was expected to consume at least 4,000 calories a day. “Snacks,” he reported, were Ensure and chocolate ice cream.
At first, the medical professionals applied pigskin grafts to the less-damaged areas “to encourage the skin to grow,” Sissy explained. They initially took a wait-and-wait approach to see how well the skin would heal on its own, resorting to grafts only when and where necessary—using skin removed from an inner thigh.
Altogether, Levi spent three weeks and three days at Integris. His recovery went remarkably well; after only two weeks, the doctors were amazed at his progress.
Sherry indicated she believed his speedy recovery was an answer to the prayers of many individuals—friends and family members—during his ordeal.
“There are things I don’t remember,” Levi said. Extreme trauma and the shock that frequently accompanies it, along with the pain-killers and other medications he received, probably account for these lapses.
Devoted. . .but broke
Sissy and Levi have been sweethearts since middle school and were married in May 2011. In talking with them, one senses a deep devotion to each other.
They met at church seven years ago, and they still attend that same church, Gospel Tabernacle, where Levi plays drums for worship services and Sissy sings in the choir and teaches a children’s Sunday School class.
“They’ve been amazingly strong through all of this,” Sherry affirmed.
Sissy noted that she and Levi derive their strength from their faith.
“That’s the only reason we’ve kept going, because we believe in God,” she explained.
Amazingly, their home suffered little damage in the fire. The floor is charred, and they lost a few items of clothing that had been laundered but not put away.
A small material loss, considering the potential for all-out disaster.
“It’s livable,” Sissy said. “We just need to get our floor buffed out.”
The worst is now hopefully behind them. The worst emotionally, that is.
But financial considerations are now looming menacingly. Levi has not been medically discharged to return to work yet.
His employer has graciously kept his job open thus far but has announced the possibility of future layoffs. At the time of the fire, Levi had two weeks of vacation pay coming. But with no further means of support at this time, the Pattersons have been forced to move into the home of his parents temporarily in an effort to keep their monthly bills at a minimum.
Levi has health insurance through his job, but the deductible is quite large.
The only bill the couple had received as of last week was for $156,000—and that figure doesn’t include anesthesia, labwork, DRH’s charges, ambulance fees, or the wound care Levi receives for his burns.
In an effort to help with what promises to be mounting expenses, friends and family members are sponsoring a benefit performance on Saturday, January 19, at 6 p.m. in the Marlow High School auditorium.
Already scheduled to appear are the Matt Bernard Family Ministry of Marlow (Matt pastors the Pecan Street Church of God in Duncan); Trinity, a trio of vocalists from Lone Grove and Fox; and Victory Road of Newark, Texas, a gospel group formed by Rick and Julie Neathery, former pastors at Gospel Tabernacle here.
Other performers may yet be added to this lineup.
There is no admission fee, but a freewill offering will be accepted; and all proceeds will go to Levi and Sissy to assist with medical expenses.
Further details regarding the program will be published in next week’s issue of The Review.