Eva Jo kept defying odds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wednesday afternoon, a doctor pronounced Eva Jo Walker Morrow dead.

When the same doctor made rounds on Thursday, she tried – albeit playfully – to hit him.

No one who knew Eva Jo should be surprised. It wasn’t the first time the 92-year-old had defied medical science.

Four years ago, Eva Jo, then 88, was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and was told she’d live “one and a half to two years at the most,” IF she took all of her treatments.

Halfway through, she decided chemotherapy made her feel too bad and said, “Enough.” Family members said she never had another sign of lymphoma.

Five months ago, she simultaneously had a heart attack and a stroke. She left ARH in a helicopter with another dire prognosis. It took her a few days, but she got back on her feet and came home.

Death claimed her husband of more than 60 years, Preston, in February. Eva Jo soldiered on. Last week, she was tickled to death when her late sister’s namesake and great-grandchild, Mary Emma Hogue, visited and sat in her lap.

She went to ARH this week after another cardiovascular episode and with pneumonia. She had no resuscitation, no respirator, no medication and no IV fluids. She had only oxygen, a heart monitor, and “an incredible life force,” her family said.

Her breathing was labored Wednesday afternoon, her family said, and they weren’t surprised when it stopped. Surrounded by a supportive ARH staff, the family listened as her doctor talked to them about death.

“He told us that her body was still here, but that her spirit was already in heaven,” her niece Janet Beste recalled Thursday afternoon. Then he reached down to touch his long-time patient and realized her pulse had returned. She also was breathing again.

“She was out for three minutes that time,” Janet said. “The doctor said he’d never seen anything like this.”

Three more times before morning, Eva Jo was clinically dead. The telemetry system in the hospital confirmed that both her heart and lungs stopped four times, for periods of four and five minutes.

Thursday, the Eva Jo her family loved woke up.

Great-niece Cara Beste Russell stopped to visit on her way to work and told her great aunt “I love you.”

Eva Jo responded, “I love you, too.”

When a neighbor called to check on her, a caregiver held the phone to Eva Jo’s ear. She said one thing: “Bad night.”

She made jokes, watched TV, and ate mashed potatoes and a biscuit.

Where did she go those four times?

“We don’t even know if she remembers what happened yesterday,” Janet said Thursday. And there are some things one just didn’t ask her, ever. Eva Jo didn’t cotton to nonsense.

She was abandoned by her first husband, lost her second in World War II, buried two sons and all 14 members of her immediate family. She started two businesses when it wasn’t the norm for women to do so.

“In her glorious and inspiring life, despite all of the heartbreak, she was never depressed,” great niece Shanda Beste recalled. “She never dwelled on the negative, and never saw herself as a victim in any way, shape or form.”

Thursday night, she finally let go and crossed to the other side, leaving life as she lived it – by her own rules and on her own terms. In her life and in her death, she taught us that the impossible is possible if we don’t give up.