By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Jack Stoops is living proof of these words found in Luke 18:27.
Like most that need a transplant, Pastor Stoops knew he needed to be patient – and that was after a six-month wait to just get on the list for a new liver.
But rather than a lengthy ordeal and all the concerns and worries that go along with waiting for a donated organ, Pastor Stoops had an experience not shared by many.
You see, he was on the list four days.
You’re reading that correctly. Four days.
It was Memorial Day. He had gone to bed and just dozed off when the phone rang.
“It was the doctor,” Jack recalled. “‘How soon can you get to St. Louis?’ he asked me. I told him I could be there in about two hours. He told me I was the secondary patient; I was on standby. So I knew that maybe I’d get a liver, but probably not.”
When he arrived at Barnes Jewish Hospital, he was treated like a primary patient. Hospital personnel explained to him they always proceeded like that to make sure the secondary patient was ready – just in case.
It’s a good thing they did.
For some reason, the liver was not compatible with the primary patient. And at 4 a.m., Jack was told he would have the transplant surgery seven hours later.
“I was surprised,” he admitted. “I wasn’t expecting that at all.”
But it wasn’t the first time he was surprised.
Back in April of 2017, a bowel obstruction put him in the hospital for three days. An ultrasound revealed a spot on his liver.
“The doctor said it was probably nothing, but wanted to do a biopsy,” Pastor Stoops remembered. “The doctors here couldn’t get to the spot, so they sent me to a liver doctor in St. Louis.”
Even though a biopsy wasn’t performed in St. Louis, Jack was told he had four options. After listing a liver transplant as the first option, Jack said “Whoa. Stop. I thought I might have to have a fatty tumor removed. Now you tell me the spot is cancerous. How do you know that without doing a biopsy?”
The doctor responded by saying ‘This is my life. I’m 99 percent sure you have cancer. Plus, you also have (non-alcoholic) cirrhosis of the liver.”
The doctor went on to explain the other three options – a chemo blast, which would shoot chemo directly to the spot on the liver; cutting the spot out; or burning it out.
“I asked the doctor, ‘If it was your liver what would you do?’ He said the chemo blast,” Jack noted. “I said let’s get it done.”
One week later, it was done and the results were positive. The chemo did its job, reducing the spot to a size of three centimeters, which was significant. Anything larger than 5 centimeters would not qualify for a transplant.
“The only cure for cirrhosis of the liver is a transplant,” Jack explained. “The chemo blast kept it small enough so I would qualify.”
Transplant availability works on a point system. At that point, Jack only had 8 points, which wasn’t nearly enough to make the list. But after a six-month wait, he gained another 20 points, which automatically made him eligible for a transplant.
At midnight on May 24, he was officially on the list for a liver transplant.
“I knew there would be a wait,” Jack said. “I was told it could be two weeks or two months or even longer.”
But four days?
“I don’t understand why people pray for things and are then surprised,” said Barbara, his wife of 29 years. “It shouldn’t be that way. We prayed for healing and God answered that prayer.”
Jack was in surgery about four hours. He then spent one night in ICU, one night in an observation room and was then placed in a private room. He experienced very little pain and was in good spirits a short time after the operation.
“The hospital people were just amazed,” Barbara said. “The day after his surgery, he was asking questions and talking to people.”
“I had very little pain,” Jack added. “They gave me a pain pump, but I didn’t use it after the first day. All I was on was Tylenol.”
On Saturday afternoon, June 2, he was released and headed back to Effingham.
“Initially, they told me I would probably be in the hospital 5 to 10 days, then another week or two in lodging in St. Louis so they could keep an eye on me,” Pastor Stoops noted. “Everything worked out very well. They told me it was unusual to do so well so soon.”
He has now been home about four weeks. He can drive, but isn’t supposed to lift anything over 10 pounds.
“My wife makes sure I don’t,” he said.
Now the 68-year-old is looking forward to returning to the pulpit. This Flora native, along with Barbara, moved to Effingham and started the Crossroads of Faith Church in 2001. It initially met at the old K Square Mall and later rented a store front along Washington Street.
Eight years ago, the church moved to its current location in Village Square Mall and changed its name to The Journey. A typical Sunday congregation ranges between 70 and 90 people.
“I can go to church, but I haven’t been released to preach yet,” the pastor said. “I miss it. That’s my life. But we’ve got great people at the church. They’ve been very good to me through all this. They’ve got it all covered.”
Jack has lost about 20 pounds and is trying to eat a more heart-healthy diet. He does take about 30 pills a day.
When he looks back over the events of the past month, he says “There’s no doubt it was a miracle. That’s exactly what the people at the hospital called it, too. There were a lot of prayers around my bed. People at the hospital came in and talked to me about God. That was wonderful.”
“It makes all the difference in the world to have the Lord go through these times with you,” Barbara added. “We trust in Him.”
“I now have a testimony I wouldn’t have had,” Pastor Stoops said.