So, after almost 3 weeks of pain, I am feeling so much better and incredibly thankful and relieved that it turned out to be a bad infection rather than gallstones as my doctors suspected. However, I don’t think that my time of illness was completely futile. I could dwell on the medical expenses, lost experiences and wasted time, however my persistent journey in trusting in God continually proves that sometimes we need to suffer in order to learn something or, that we are even blessed in our suffering. Now, I am not saying that my few days of pain compare to the immense sadness and poignant tragedies many people face in their lives. What I term as my ‘suffering’ can barely be deemed suffering when encapsulated in the bigger picture of what others go through. That said, it was still a nasty experience but despite that, I felt I could not but be grateful in acknowledging some of the benefits I have gained. There’s always a silver lining right?
I became really ill the day I was due to go to Moldova with my husband, Nathan and a team of 6 others to lead a children’s camp. Our aim was to share some of our faith in God with the kids there and teach them some English. Too sick to even manage the journey to the airport, let alone board a 4 hour flight at 12:15am, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and fearful as I was left alone. Yet, even that night I was reminded of what great friends I have who called and texted me to check on me and encourage me with their prayerful support.
The next day, my friend Andrea rang and, despite my feeble attempts to dissuade her (only out of politeness), she caught a bus to Galway to come and take care of me. She ended up spending almost a week with me, cooking for me and keeping me company and sacrificing quality time with her husband and friends to put others (namely me) first. Andrea’s visit acted as a precursor to a number of visitors, namely my little sister Elaine, my mum and my aunt and uncle. I was (and always am) so thankful for their love, care and affection. Throughout all this time, I continued to be inundated with encouraging messages from many.
Finally, after a ten day wait, Nathan came home. Nathan’s phone had not worked in Moldova, so the only contact we’d had was through the generous contributing of others, when they offered him their phones to text or call. Before he returned I had been gradually improving, but I must have wanted some TLC from my husband because I started to deteriorate again, and my pain intensified once more.
Trip number two to A & E ensued and after being examined once more, the doctors put me on a course of antibiotics and more painkillers, suspecting a kidney infection or gallstones were wreaking havoc on my insides. (They quickly dismissed the green alien theory I mentioned in a previous post). At this point, I would like to mention that although the Irish medical system is currently unjust, ineffective and inefficient, the majority of doctors and nurses I encountered were superb. University College Hospital Galway has been confronted with a lot of negative press of late, yet I found its staff to be attentive and caring. Doctors and nurses expressed their genuine heartache and distress at being unable to properly diagnose the cause of my pain, due to lengthy waiting lists for scans and procedures. I can only imagine it must be agonizingly difficult to have the desire to help people, but not the facilities or power to put in place the measures to do so. From what I observed, they survive in a high pressure environment by guessing diagnoses without being able to perform necessary scans, procedures, etc. to assist them or confirm their suspicions. They are shooting in the dark.
After an exhausting 7 hours in A & E, I arrived home and spent the evening in excruciating pain. Yet, it wasn’t to last long as two days later the antibiotics seemed to be working their magic and I showed rapid improvements that weekend. A long awaited scan on Monday suggested that I had had kidney stones and a bad infection, a result which I greeted with relief and joy. With earlier proposals of surgery, first appendix and then gallstones, this news was really the best case scenario. Nathan and I celebrated with a delicious meal (my favourite way to celebrate of course)! I went to bed thinking, for the first Tuesday in 3 weeks, I would not have a date with A & E. My body clearly has a wicked sense of humour…
At 3:30am that night I woke up with unbearable pain in my knee, hip and wrist joints. Startled, confused and worried it took me minutes to get out of bed, propping myself up with my stronger left wrist. My right wrist was too sore to move and I could barely bend my knees. Walking in a, had it not been so painful, comically rigid way trying to determine the source of the pain or optimistically ‘walk it off’, I was only getting worse. I woke Nathan up to get me painkillers, pray for me and help me back into bed and spent most of the night insufferably aware of every movement I made. At 8:30am we decided I was in fact, going to have a third date with A & E and after Nathan dressed me (I wasn’t mobile enough to do it myself) we embarked on our third visit there. Yet, even getting into the car I found myself thinking ‘Thank God I have the use of my left wrist or I wouldn’t be able to do anything!’
After examinations, blood tests, more pain meds and X-Rays, the doctor informed me I was having an allergic reaction to the antibiotics I had been prescribed the week earlier. He sent me home and with anti-inflammatories, painkillers and with no antibiotics today I have swiftly improved, although I am still left with some joint pain which should fade in the next couple of days. And thus, (hopefully) my sob story ends, but before you get out the tiny violins, now that I’ve explained my circumstances I want to share what I have learned from this experience in the hope that it will encourage others.
- There is always a reason to be thankful – had I not been sick, I wouldn’t have grown even closer to Andrea (we had a lot of time for big deep meaningful conversations), I had a loving network of husband, family and friends to support me and a group of prayer warriors battling for me (also proving the power of prayer)!
- Being totally helpless in my situation, I was totally reliant on God and his grace.
- I have had time to start blogging again!
- While I was on a gall bladder diet I learned lots about to what extent foods aid and harm your body. I thought I had a reasonably healthy diet before, but now I’ve been encouraged to endeavour to be even healthier (though I will never give up my occasional treat!)
I’m sorry if this post has felt preachy; I merely intended to share a heartfelt reflection on what I have learned and how I have been blessed. It was never my intention to ‘preach’ on this blog, but I guess in sharing part of who I am, my faith overflows into that. At the risk of sounding even preachier, I would like to leave you with this Psalm, which some Moldovans suggested to Nathan that he share with me, and which really gives me a reason to hope:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.