Pastor credits miracle for recovery

By Christi Crawford
Special Contributor

JONESBORO—As the Rev. Patty Soward danced through the halls of her church singing the Motown classic, “Can I Get a Witness,” she was a woman on a mission: to share the news of her medical miracle with everyone, giving God all the glory.

The Rev. Patty Soward sings during worship on Easter 2015.  PHOTO BY CHRISTI CRAWFORD

The Rev. Patty Soward sings during worship on Easter 2015.

“They thought I was going to die,” she said.

“I got symptomatic two years ago—I thought I was just not feeling good,” she said. “It started with little things. I wasn’t thinking clearly and I’d forget things.”

Soward chalked it up to the aging process and didn’t think too much about it, but the associate pastor of First United Methodist Church Jonesboro said one Sunday she knew something was wrong.

“I got up to read the scripture at the 8:30 service, and I missed some lines,” she said. “My husband asked if I was OK, and I told him I didn’t know, but I wasn’t going to miss church. At 11:00 in the sanctuary service, I did the same thing.”

The following Monday Soward went to work, but after missing an appointment she had forgotten, her late husband John Soward began to worry.

Later that night, things got serious. Soward was suffering from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, commonly known as NASH—a serious condition of the liver.

“They didn’t think I was going to make it,” she said. “They told my family they didn’t know what to expect if I woke up.”

But Soward said the church kicked in and did what they do.

“People began to pray,” she said.

On the recommendation of a surgeon who was a member of Soward’s church, she saw Dr. Satheesh Nair at Methodist University Hospital’s Transplant Institute in Memphis.

“They told me what to expect, and it was the worst case scenario,” she said.

Soward said her husband spent the whole last year of his life researching and studying the liver, learning everything he could to cook and take care of her.

“My doctor said I had a 2 percent chance of survival—and nothing he said I could do had above a 5 percent chance of survival,” she said.

But Soward had faith in something outside Nair’s prognosis.

“I told him, ‘Let’s see what my God can do—I’ve got the God factor,’” she said. “Then I prayed, ‘I know you don’t bless sarcasm, but God, give me a chance to sit across from him again and let him see your power through me.’”

She did everything by the book, and she started improving.

With NASH, numbers are based on creatine, bilirubin and INR, Soward said, and she started at a 15.

“I was on the transplant list for 13 months,” she said. “When you’re at a 15, you’re looking at a transplant. It would go down to 10, then back up to 13.”

She asked doctors how to get to an 8, and they told her to “give it up.”

“The last time I went to the doctor, I was at an 8, and I was dancing and telling everyone with a set of ears,” Soward said. “Now I’m not in the transplant side of the office, and it means a lot just to be able to sign in on a different sheet.”

Soward goes back to the doctor every six months. She is still fighting, and she will continue to take medicines and vitamins for the rest of her life. There are still days when she needs to stay home.

“But my liver is doing something, and I know it’s because of the power of God,” she said. “If I wake up, I’m happy—and if I don’t wake up, I’m happier, because I’m with my savior.”

Crawford is a member of First UMC Jonesboro and a reporter for the Jonesboro Sun, where a longer version of this story first appeared.