A first-hand account from a friend

Posted by on Mar 23, 2013 in Updates | 33 Comments

My name is Warren Pettit and I am a good friend of both Will and Angie. I arrived in L.A. yesterday afternoon and have been witness to this most recent update. With Angie’s permission, I offer this first-hand account of the last 24 hours.

The Grays arrived mid-afternoon at the ER and, after being parked in the hallway at H03, they began the waiting game. It is my understanding that the UCLA Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the country, but it is almost one of the busiest. There are, by my count, 31 hallway stations where overflow patients are parked waiting for beds in the hospital. Will was assigned H03, just steps away from the ambulance entrance and right across from the two trauma rooms. It was an especially busy evening  and a number of serious injuries came through the door passing our hallway gurney and into one of the trauma suites. Among the admitted injuries was a fellow who had been run over by a bus. The EMT who presented the patient to the trauma team announced, and I loosely paraphrase, “Male patient run over by bus…..I have no idea how he got run over by a bus.” I guess the dark humor keeps everybody going.

Various people came by and poked/prodded Will throughout the afternoon and evening. At around 7:30 p.m. a young doctor came by to announce that the medical team had decided not to perform surgery. That was good news and bad news. We were happy to have some decision being made, but pressing the fellow for further details was futile. In some ways, he was nothing more than the messenger; providing information that had been decided “behind the curtain”. We had no idea who was behind that “curtain” and how this decision was being made.

At around 9:30 p.m. another young doctor came to give Will her full attention. After a review of Will’s previous seven months of treatment, we began discussing Will’s current condition.  She confirmed that the lesion had damaged Will’s vertebrae and that they could see bone fragments in his spinal column. Then, she announced that they also detected multiple growths in his lungs. This information hit us like a sledge hammer. Up until Thursday afternoon, the consensus was that Will had made it to a clearing, if not out of the woods. Now, there is not only a growth on the spinal column, but also multiple nodules in the lungs. It became clear very quickly to the doctor that we had not been informed of that news and that this was devastating information. I do not envy doctors and she handled the situation with grace and empathy.

During this consultation, Peter Chung and Jae Lee, both physicians and friends of the Gray’s arrived in the ER. They came bearing water, bananas and various kinds of healthy snacks. The young female doctor brought them up to speed and they had opportunity to look at the MRI scan. I don’t know either of these men, but it became clear to me very quickly that their demeanor betrayed a concern and seriousness about Will’s condition. We remained in the hallway, saturated with fluorescent light, conversation, beeping monitors and crying children. Then, a small miracle. At around 11:15 p.m. they announced that a bed had opened up on the 5th floor. Within the hour we were in a private room and the immediate chaos seemed to diminish. After some more conversation, Peter, Jay and I took our leave, promising to return today.

I arrived back at the hospital around noon. The most pressing issues as I write are:

  1. Will needs a chest brace to support his spine. Apparently the department that provides these braces is closed on the weekend. Without it, he will be bed-ridden until Monday morning; just one more roadblock in a road strewn with debris. It’s the “small” things like this which create frustration. I can empathize with patients who have a love/hate relationship with a medical system that can perform miracles and then overlook some of their most basic needs.
  2. A definitive course of action regarding the lesion in the spine needs to be made. The surgical option is very invasive and fraught with unintended consequences. They would ostensibly remove the lesion, run a biopsy to confirm the cancer and attempt to repair the spine. It would take several weeks to recover and and the concern is that Will is very weak and the surgery would really put him down. Radiation/steroid treatment will presumably shrink and remove the lesion, but it does not address the damaged vertebrae. Moreover, radiation weakens the bones and makes it difficult if not impossible to have surgery on that site in the future.
  3. Finally, everyone is preparing for a discussion of the overall treatment strategy for Will. It’s clear that the cancer has returned, it’s aggressive and possibly moving throughout the body. I’m reluctant to write this, but a quality of life discussion may be next.

Those are the details. Here are the emotions.

Will looks really beat up. He’s lost a lot of weight, and as I hold his hand, his grip is weak. Angie has not fared better. She is rail-thin, her skin is blotchy and she has trouble eating. I’ve seen a half box of tissue disappear soaking up tears. It’s heart-breaking and depressing.


The grace. The hope. The desperation. In amounts that I have never before encountered. Will and Angie have no way to understand how they’ve touched my family, my mother who lives in Canada and prays for him everyday with her seniors Bible group. If I hadn’t lost my magic wand I would wave it over this entire situation and make it all go away.

Pray. Hope. Then, pray again.

On their behalf,



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  2. Nan Robbins
    March 31, 2013

    Tonight at Sulphur Well Church in Paris, Tn Randy spoke of you at length. He talked about Kyle and you graduating together and playing ball together. He spoke of the fine christian young man you was then and continue to be. Also, yesterday I saw Gail Tharpe and she encouraged us to remember you in prayer. I also know your Mom,Barbara, a true southern lady.. Many people in Paris are praying for you and your family daily. God bless you and your family as you go thru these trying times.

  3. Rachel Kozemczak
    March 28, 2013

    Will & Angie,

    Jason & I are thinking about you and you are in our prayers always. You are both so strong. We love you.

    Warren, thanks so much for posting all of the updates. We are so grateful to know what’s going on.

    Much love,
    Rachel & Jason

  4. Dina
    March 27, 2013

    Will, You are in my thoughts daily. We’ll stay strong for you — sending love from Team Big Honcho Media! #goteamgray

  5. Beth
    March 25, 2013

    My thoughts and prayers are with Will and family, I will pray for a miracle and the grace to endure

  6. Cindy Judge
    March 25, 2013

    This is Jenny Leininger’s mom in Wayne, IL. We are glad Warren could be with you in this vulnerable and scarey time. Our extended family will be together this week and we will lift Will’s story up to the Lord together, as we have been doing in our home for some weeks.

    We know that God’s grace is present in your story, though He seems too silent right now. We trust that you are able to sense His calm in the storm and His ever present hand on your shoulders. Without the hope of a caring and empathetic Saviour, we would have little to rely on. The eternal picture is the only thing in focus right now as the present one is full of confusion…rest in His kingdom as much as possible. With our love and prayers, Cindy and Jim Judge

  7. Lindsey Czechowicz
    March 25, 2013

    Praying with all of my might…

  8. kristi shepard
    March 25, 2013

    Theresa and Ben Thompson from San Antonio shared this story with our bible study and I just want to thank you so much for sharing this story although writing it must have been so hard! I will continue to pray for Will and his family, I ask for healing, for guidance and steady hands of the doctors and that the Lord will unveil His steadfast love on any hearts that are weary. The Lord is victorious and meets us wherever we are if that is in the dark.


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