Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The "Perfect Storm"

As promised, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions.

What exactly did I have?
Pneumococcal Bacterial Meningitis - a very resistant strain, I'm told.
How did I get it?
There really isn't a definitive answer to this question, but almost everyone carries this bacteria in their nose/throat. If you are in situations where there are a lot of people in a confined space and your immune system is compromised by something like an ear infection, sinus infection, or you are overly tired, your body doesn't fight the bacteria like it normally would. It is very common in college students. Most likely, I was worn out from all the walking and lack of sleep, and also coming down with something. Most likely I contracted it in the hospital in Romania. Basically, it was the "perfect storm".
What do I remember?
I was not feeling well the night before we left. My right ear was plugged and I was praying for it to clear up because having any part of your head plugged on a plane is not fun. I didn't get much sleep that night (none of us did) and it was still bothering me as we loaded to go to the airport. I had a slight headache which I figured had to do with the lack of sleep - which is a common symptom for me.
When we got to the airport Tuesday morning, the headache was worse, and my neck was hurting, which I thought had to do with sleeping on the way to the airport. I tried some caffeine and some ibuprofen, but neither seemed to work. Tried some peppermint oil once we were at the gate waiting to board, but that also didn't work.
I remember getting on the plane and being in a row by myself. When the seat belt light went off, I slid over and put my feet up on the seats and went to sleep. I remember food being served and being asked to sit up for landing. Things start to get blurry here. I remember one of the team talking to me and me trying to answer but I couldn't. I remember finally being able to get across the aisle to her, and not being able to move very well. I remember the flight crew NOT helping at all, but wanting us off the plane. I remember getting off the plane to the outside (not in the terminal). I know people were asking me questions and I knew the answers but I couldn't form the words.
Then, I remember nothing until what I think was the next day in the hospital, although time was a bit off for me for the first 48 hours or so.
Did anyone else get sick?
Thankfully, no. This isn't the kind of disease you can just get from each other. The conditions have to be exact. Once they knew which strain I had (from a lumbar puncture), the rest of the team knew they didn't have it if they didn't have a fever.
Was I scared?
No. Not that I remember anyway. I could have been scared that first day, but I really don't remember. I knew that I wasn't alone - that God was with me and that He didn't send me to Romania to change the world just so I could be lost in some hospital in France.
What else do you remember?
I remember seeing Chad and Ali come to see me and wanting to talk to them so badly, but unable to speak the words I wanted to. I remember sleeping and waking up so many times, that by the time I was able to talk to them I asked them what day it was, thinking I had been there for about a week, when it had only been a couple of days. Time moved so slowly.
I remember being tied down, and being so frustrated with that. I remember at one point just crying and the nurse looking at me, and just turning out the light and leaving me alone in the room.
One of the doctors asked if I knew where I was and I said hospital. They asked was country and I knew I was in Paris, but I couldn't remember if it was France or French. I think I said French. I think he laughed.
I don't remember the first lumbar puncture, but the second one was quite memorable. They had me sitting up (even though I wasn't strong enough to do so). I was leaning on a pillow and they realized that wasn't enough so they had me hold on to a nurse. All was going well until the nurse passed out! I think I squeezed her too hard.
I remember a severe headache and neck ache.
By Thursday, Ali and Chad brought me my Bible and a book and a notepad. I was feeling so much better and able to answer and ask questions. I was so thankful they were there with me. I don't know what I would have done without them.
What was God teaching me?
This one I'm still working on. I kept holding on to certain promises and going back to them in the Bible and reading and re-reading.
God calls all of us to the same thing: The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. ~ Micah 6:8
He promises to be with us:
Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. ~ Isaiah 43:1-3
He promises to hear us when we are obedient:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. ~ Isaiah 58:6-9
He works everything out:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28
During my third lumbar puncture, I remember just thanking God for sending Jesus to die for me. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks, and I was in a lot of pain for much of that time, but it was nothing compared to what Jesus suffered for me, for you, for the world. A couple of times they hit a nerve or something and my legs kicked out involuntarily. I wondered how many times that happened to Him as he was being beaten and crucified. I am so thankful.
Why did this happen?
A great question to which there may not be an answer for a long time. I kept thinking about Paul, and all that he went through for the Kingdom: shipwrecks, snake bites, beatings, stonings, imprisonment - but nothing would stop him. He knew what he was called to do and he just kept doing it, despite the opposition. I want to live my life like that.
Some of the doctors have told me I was just "lucky". Not a word I would use to describe it, but I get what they are saying. I really was just part of the perfect storm - the conditions were "right".
Will I go again?
This is a tough question to answer. I don't specifically feel called to Romania, but not because I got sick there. The experience there was amazing, and it really opened my eyes to the needs of orphans in the world. I don't know what it looks like yet, but I know God is leading me to serve in this area in some way.
How am I now?
I went to the doctor the day after I got back. She sent me to an Infectious Disease doctor the following morning. He said I was treated properly and that I don't need any more treatment for the Meningitis and didn't need to see him again at all. The next morning, I woke up with a rash all over my body - and it was itchy. Went back to my doctor first thing and while I was there got really weak and my blood pressure was very low. She sent me to the ER. By the time I got there, my BP was normal and I was feeling much better. They gave me IV fluids and steroids and Benedryl for the rash. I was there for a few hours and went home with a prescription for steroids and Benedryl. I took the last of the steroid today but I still have the rash so I'll be contacting the doctor again tomorrow to see what's up with that.
I still have some hearing loss in my right ear, but it's a lot better than it was when I left France. I see a specialist on May 2 to see if there is any permanent damage. I believe that I will be completely healed of that too.
That's a lot of information for one post - sorry about that. Feel free to ask any other questions I may have missed. I'm getting stronger every day. God really is the God of miracles.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Quick and Thankful Update

I know you've been waiting for an update. I really have wanted to write but I've had some road blocks since I've been home. This will just be a quick update, since my creativity isn't quite back to where it was. First, I'd like to thank everyone for all the thoughts, prayers, cards, and donations. I have felt so loved over the last few weeks - it has been overwhelming. God has been so faithful, which really is no surprise. That's who He is. I have so much to be thankful for. Right now, I'm glad to be home and to have my sister and her husband living with me. This would be so much more difficult if I were alone. A lot of people have been asking questions, and I'll post an update with a lot of those answers soon. Yesterday, I had a relapse of the allergic reaction I had in France, only this time it's SO itchy. I now have steroids and Benedryl to take and the Benedryl is making me too sleepy to concentrate for very long. I just wanted to let you know I'm back and hope to start writing again very soon. Again, through it all, God has been with me and so faithful to answer the prayers of his people. The more I learn about my condition while I was there, the more I know God's healing hand was on me. For that, I am truly thankful.