Back from the brink of death

June Lynch, a former Dillard Street Elementary CRT and Windermere Elementary principal, was rushed to the hospital 15 months ago and ultimately given a 1% chance of surviving.

June Lynch has spent the past year recovering from the effects of an autoimmune disease that almost killed her.
June Lynch has spent the past year recovering from the effects of an autoimmune disease that almost killed her.
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June Lynch has spent the last year proving her doctors wrong — again and again. Her medical nightmare began in February 2015 when she was experiencing weakness while at a routine physical. By the next day, the Winter Garden resident was so weak she couldn't get out of bed and was having trouble breathing.

An ambulance was called. Once at Orlando Regional Medical Center, her family was told her oxygen level was at 75% and she had pneumonia.

By the next day, her respiratory rate was 40 breaths per minute, much higher than the average of 12 to 28 for a 72-year-old woman. She was unconscious.

Basil Savoie, the pastor of New Life Worship Center, visited and shared a verse with the family: Psalm 118:17, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

And then doctor took the family to a private room to tell them to prepare for her death.

She had bleeding in her lungs, and she was hemorrhaging in her kidneys, too.

In 2010, Lynch had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring), but it didn't affect her daily life, and she was still able to teach and travel. In January 2015, she retired.

A month later, she was in the hospital, testing positive for microscopic polyangiitis (MPA), an autoimmune disease that is the result of blood-vessel inflammation.



She ended up on a ventilator for several weeks and was given a high dose of steroids. Her condition was serious, and it wasn't until October that Lynch's family would learn that she actually had been given a 1% chance of survival.

A medically induced coma gave her body an opportunity for rest and healing. She endured dialysis three times, as well as plasmapheresis, because her kidneys were failing. Doctors prescribed a chemotherapy drug to treat the MPA.

This disease is rare, and Lynch's daughter, Alison Kelly, said the nephrologist told the family: “This is the worst luck your family will ever have. You will never have anything worse happen to you.”

When Lynch came out of the coma, she was unable to move any part of her body except the muscle to open and close her left hand.

The road to recovery would be long, but the family’s faith carried them in times of heavy doubt. A daily Bible app provided the peace they needed, such as the one on Feb. 18, Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

They waited. They prayed. They experienced good days and bad, improvements and setbacks. They had an entire church congregation behind them in prayer at the very moment Lynch’s ventilator was removed Sunday, Feb. 22.

By the end of the week, she was upgraded and moved out of ICU, but then her body rebelled against medication and doctors were planning to perform a tracheotomy.

March 5 was a pivotal day, Kelly said. Doctors met with the family to discuss her prognosis, stating they did not believe she would ever leave the hospital because she required too much oxygen support and had too much scar tissue.

“Daily we could see her progression,” Kelly said. “It’s hard to hear their assessments.”

Kelly’s response to the physicians: “Our hope is not of this world, but in the Lord.”

On her drive home, Lynch’s daughter prayed for the scar tissue to be removed and her lung capacity to be increased.

The March 6 daily Bible verse was from Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

A day later, the medical staff couldn’t believe what it was seeing.

Lynch said during a recent interview: “Dr. Mark Vollenweider, the pulmonologist that performed the bronchial scope, knelt down beside me and said, ‘I am amazed by you. Did anyone tell you how close you were to meeting Jesus? Everyone at this hospital had given up on you, but your family didn’t.’”



Lynch was discharged from the hospital March 18 without needing any oxygen. She was admitted to Lake Bennett Health & Rehabilitation, in Ocoee, where she spent the next three months relearning how to do everything — sitting up, eating, walking.

“Because my muscles had atrophy from the long intubation period, I could not move by myself, not even to press the call button for assistance,” Lynch said.

So at all times, her daughter, husband Ed or sister Debbi Williford stayed to make sure her needs were met. Her son, Alan, was involved in her care, too.

She was ventilated for so long that it affected her vocal chords, and all she could manage was a whisper. Her voice continues to improve still today.

“I worked hard, and I prayed a lot,” she said. “When your legs don't have any muscle, they feel like they weigh 1,000 pounds each. … I couldn’t sit up, so they would hold me while I did the activities. Finally, it paid off.”

On June 10, Lynch met her goal of walking out of Lake Bennett. Later that month, the pulmonologist called to say all of the trauma to her lungs had been resolved.

“I’m just about to my pre-sickness energy level,” she said. “There’s nothing I can’t do.”

She goes weekly to the rehabilitation center at Health Central Hospital, doing strength exercises and riding the bicycle.

“We’ve been truly blessed,” Kelly said.

Lynch gives God all the credit for her survival. Her nephrologist told her he was amazed that she recovered because so many others haven’t — even with the same medical treatment.

“It was not only that the Lord spared me, but he gave me the strength I needed to work hard,” she said.

“It was neat how much God worked at this hospital,” Kelly said. “The nurses prayed for mom; it's a tender thing. It's something we'll always have. God has placed people along our path at the right time.”


Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].


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