There isn't anything new in what I have to say, but I do see life from an unique perspective. As my body is shutting down, my soul is opening up to a greater and greater relationship with Christ. I am sharing the things I learn as I go through my trials so that those who read what I write will be encouraged in their own walks by how gracious God has been to me in mine. Ask me questiions, dispute my views and most of all pray for me.
Clearly many of you have noticed that I have not posted for awhile. The reason is simple. I was too ill to breathe on my own much less write for my blog. I started getting ill last November with a somewhat mild case of pneumonia. After I got out of the hospital, I just couldn't seem to get my strength back. Month after month I got weaker and weaker. None of us could figure out what was going on. If you have read my testimony (I recommend you do), you know I am prone to unusual illnesses. Well, here I was again baffling doctors and frustrating medical providers. My prayer warrriors never slacked off and my faith was only made stronger by the unknown.
Shortly after my last posting, I began having acute pain in my back behind my right shoulder blade. Eventually the pain became so severe I had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. Unfortunately, this was not my regular hospital. They did not have my medical records. Statements by my wife and I about my medical history fell on deaf ears. They felt we had to be mistaken or simply making things up when we shared my bizarre history. Because I lost my prescription coverage last year (something for another posting), I had eliminated all the medications we could not afford and was only taking two pain medications. Unfortunately, the medicine combination my doctor had found most effective in dealling with the neurological and muscle pain was of a type that raises the hackles of self proclaimed drug warriors. I was taking a combination of Oxycodone and Methadone. These affect different areas of the brain, but can also be highly addictive if misused. Immediately I was branded as a probable alcoholic and recovering heroin addict. As punishment for my denials, the care I received was less than kind. This was unfortunate because the hospital was supposed to be a Catholic run non-profit. I did not find the love of Christ from my care providers.
It was determined that I had pneumonia again and that my right lung was so full of fluid as to nearly be unusable. It was also determined that I was severely anemic. Over 600 cc of fluid was removed from my right lung using a very long needle. I was also given two units of blood for the anemia. After giving me a prescription for oral antibiotics, they released me from the hospital. Needless to say, I was still feeling very ill. I was so weak that I went from the hospital bed to my own bed via the incredible physical and emotional strength of my wife.
As soon as we could we went to see my regular doctor. She was very upset by our tale. Like us, however, she leaves the past in the past and immediately went to work trying to discover what was wrong. The antibiotics were not working. I was getting weaker and she could hear nothing in the way of air or movement from my right lung. She immediately had me admitted to my regular hospital, Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento. Dr. Li-Han Chang began to do what she has done so many times before, to prolong my life or improve the quality of my life.
Let's take a break here lest we forget what this blog is all about. During this entire time of weakness, fatigue, nausea, pain and fevers; neither Rhonda nor I ever despaired or felt things were hopeless. We always knew we were in God's hands. Time after time in the last five years I have been at the brink of death. Sometimes I have even welcomed the opportunity to die such was my physical state at the time. Each and every time I have been brought back from the brink by the skilled work of Dr. Chang and her associates. In some of those cases, one might say my recovery was impossible. Did Dr. Chang's efforts save me? Yes. Was I saved by God's intervention? Yes. God worked through Dr. Chang and He also intervened when her abilities fell short. Each and every time has been miraculous. This time was no exception. I write about it because I want to give God the glory for my recovery and share with you all just how miraculous it got this time.
Within hours of being admitted I received another blood transfusion. I had now received four units of blood in less than ten days. I was placed on powerful antibiotics intravenously and strapped to more equipment than I can describe. I had x-rays, CT scans, blood tests and a variety of other tests to see if I was bleeding internally. It was decided to drain my lung again. This time there was a problem, a big problem. The fluid was so thick that it could not be drained out using a needle. It was very like geletin. I needed surgery, but they weren't yet sure what type of surgery and I was still too anemic. I was to receive another six units of blood before I was discharged.
Whatever was attacking my lung was so harsh that my body was simply using all it had to fight this strange infection. In the process my red cells which carry oxygen were being pushed aside by my white cells which fight infection, or something like that. Additionally, my body had developed another way of trying to force out the attacker. It walled off the portion of my lung containing the apparently infectious fluid to keep it from the rest of my body. Good concept, but poor execution. This new growth was filing the thoracic cavity not leaving my lung room enough to expand. This type of growth is not generally very large and can be removed easily.
The surgery would require a very small incision, about three inches. This "wall" actually is on the outside of the lung. It would be "peeled" off and removed through the incision. The entire area would be washed and drained to remove any infection. I would have a small drain tube for a few days to be certain all fluid was drained off and the lung could expand fully. Simple. Two hours and the surgery would all be done. I put myself in God's hands, said good night to the anesthesiologist and went to sleep.
Time for another break in the action. Remember the other hospital, the Catholic one? It is sad to say that just because someone or someplace proclaims themselves as followers of Christ, they will not necessarily show that in practice. Sutter Memorial Hospital is a non-profit entity as well, but they are not a religious institution. However as soon as it became known I was a Christian, Christian nurses and nursing assistants and other staff made a point of coming by to see me. I prayed with and for dozens of people. We shared the word. We shared testimonies. We shared the wonder and joy of walking with a Christ filled heart. The weaker I got, the more God surrounded me and my family with prayer warriors and fellowship. How can you feel hopeless when God surrounds you with hope and the impact of His Holy Spirit? God even saw to it that one of the most respected thoracic surgeons in California should perform my surgery.
So, eight hours after my two hour surgery began it was over. My three inch incision had become eight inches and one small drain tube became three. Did I mention the pain? It seems my surgery was not so simple. Big surprise. The growth on the outside of my lung had apparently been growing there secretly for months. It covered the entire backside of my lung and was the largest such growth my surgeon had ever seen. The surgery took so long because they were trying to preserve my lung. One wrong move and I would lose my right lung. The pain was horrible. Even with morphine and anesthetic pumped into the chest cavity I was in for several days of agony. Still the prayer warriors came. They prayed for me. They wept for me. They encouraged me. Most of all, they helped me keep my focus on God and not be distracted from that by the pain.
Just an aside: why didn't the anti-biotics work? Because my pneumonia was caused by a rare fungus! Just another bizarre illness for the biblemike record book. God used this strange disease so that His glory could be displayed.
I am home now, although still very weak. It has taken days to compose this posting. I am getting stronger every day. I walked downstairs by myself today and dressed myself without any help. That may not seem like much to some, but it is tremendous to me. So when is healing a miracle?
The easy answer is that healing is always a miracle. Healing most often arises from the body's amazing ability to restore itself after injury. That ability was put there by our Divine Creator. The means by which it works is a wonder to behold and complicated beyond imagining. Created by God this mechanism is a miracle at work at all times.
I have another answer. Healing is always a miracle when it comes with prayer. I would like to believe my faith was strong enough to get me thorugh this last ordeal, but I am wise enough to know that I needed the prayers and support I received from my fellow saints. People who did not know me went out of their way to come to me and pray for me. They were all different denominations, some conservative, some liberal. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)
My miracle was found in each and every prayer, every tear, every touch, every smile and every thought that came from these my brethren. Therein was the power of God made manifest and the presence of His Holy Spirit made known. I glorify God for my healing and ask His blessings on my brethren for obeying His Son's command, "A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)
May God's blessings and His saints find you wherever you are and whatever your trial in the name of our living Saviour, Jesus Christ, amen.