My neck and I have been on quite a journey for a very long time. In and out of extreme pain, but always pain of some level. I have been the recipient of many prayers, prayed for myself, studied scriptures about healing, recited healing decrees, my faith is strong and I firmly believe in healing and in the power of prayer. I have tried chiropractic, physical therapy, massage therapy, essential oils, over-the-counter pain meds, prednisone, cortisone injections, etc… I’m not sure if my pain levels actually decreased, or if my tolerance for pain increased, but I never let it stop me from life…….Until it ‘stopped’ me. My physical therapist (who is also my friend) said, ok…. you’ve gone long enough, it’s time to go back and get a 2nd opinion.
In previous blogs, “Half Way Free” & “Rest She Said” I explain how I ended up ‘stopped.’
One thing that came back to me during that prayer session described in “Rest She Said” was another lady said, “Healing hands. I feel God telling me that healing hands will touch you and you will be healed.” I had a chiropractic appointment plus an orthopedic visit scheduled for later that day. I was just SURE that somewhere between the two visits I would encounter the healing hands. Little did I know how many more hands would be involved, and how much more ‘rest’ I would encounter. Three weeks flat on the couch, three doctor visits, 1 MRI, follow up next day…. emergency surgery recommended. That day if possible!
“I need a minute” I said “Maybe I need more like a day to wrap my head around this. I have forms laying on my printer to fill out for my daughter to leave for summer camp in 2 days and her suitcase to pack.” In the back of my head I’m thinking, “I’m in the middle of teaching a bible study group. I’m leading worship in 6 weeks for our women’s retreat. I’ve read many reviews online and singers often lose their ability to sing after this surgery and in some cases are hoarse for the rest of their life! The ‘what if’s’ digressed to worst case scenario. I also knew I couldn’t live on my couch in pain either…. then God’s still small voice, “trust me.”…………I recounted all the ways I had trusted God before now and how He has never let me down. Made me wait? Yes. But God is always right on time.…….”Okay.” I said, “Schedule me for tomorrow.”
There is blessing in pain. It may not feel like much of a blessing, but if God allows the pain you can be sure there is a reason. Not to run off on a sermon (which would be so convenient right here) but sometimes pain can get our attention when nothing else will! You see, I had an MRI a year and half ago that showed a rupture. I saw a neuro-surgeon about the results. His office demeanor and flippant response to my condition left me knowing surgery was an option, but certainly not necessary. In fact, he said that if I was able to manage my pain with Advil that would be a viable route to take. I also knew from X-rays that I had arthritis, but this was not uncommon. I made up my mind that surgery would be a last resort and even made the statement that I would have to be unable to move before I considered it. With Advil and physical therapy I was able to maintain and stay mobile.
Fast forward a year and a half. The new MRI revealed that my pain was coming from a bulging disc above the one that was previously ruptured in addition to arthritis. This was pinching nerves that radiated down my left arm causing spasms in my arm, upper back and numbness and tingling in my fingers (my guitar chording fingers!). However, the real problem was the old rupture on the right, which had now calcified and was pressing into and causing bruising on my spinal cord! If I were to be involved in a car accident in this condition, I could be left paralyzed from the neck down! …….but God. He allowed the pain of the lesser condition to bring attention to the bigger one I had conditioned myself to ignore. (Man there’s a sermon here too! But I have to stick to the story!)
I came in at 11am to get a room and pre-op blood work, etc. We got to sit and wait until after 3 before blood work was attempted…… my veins were in hiding. Three fishing sticks later by 2 nurses and an ER nurse was called up who got it on the first try. Thank you Lord! Then they came to get me for surgery, which was scheduled for 5pm. You go to a holding area where they ask you a million questions, trade your cotton gown for paper and everyone who will be on your surgical team comes by to introduce themselves. All that was completed….. and I wait. Turns out some blood work was missing, so they get more and I wait. Now during this time another patient comes in with a broken arm and broken knee from a fall. He was 83 and his breathing and cough was scary sounding. I also learned that my caretakers were nearing the end of their 12 hr shift, and it looked as if they were going into overtime. What do you do when you wait? You can worry. I did a little of that. I rehearsed every embarrassing thing that could happen during surgery. I wondered how exposed I would eventually be with this new paper veil of false modesty they gave me. I could keep worrying about stupid things, or I could pray. SO… I prayed. I prayed for this man behind the curtain beside me. I couldn’t imagine the pain he was in and how scared he was. I prayed for the tired staff. I prayed for my surgeon because I knew he had worked a full day, was pushed late, maybe not able to eat dinner. I prayed for myself, but mostly I told God over and over, “I trust You. I may not trust all else going on around me, but I trust YOU. You brought me to this, You will bring me through this and whatever is on the other side is in your sovereign plan.” And I sang under my breath Great is Thy Faithfulness (which I also sang in my head for 30 minutes in the MRI machine just days before). I couldn’t sing out if I wanted to at this point, I had been hoarse for 2 weeks. I don’t know if it was meds or laying down so long, but my voice was shot. Finally, in walks my surgeon. I asked him how he was feeling, if he had a good day and told him I’d been praying for him. He said, “Good, I’ve been praying for myself too!” I told him that we were both ready then. Then I heard the man beside me call out, “pray for me too!” I said, “Sir, I already have!” He said, “Thank you.” They wheeled me into the OR and asked if I could move myself to the table, which I remember doing, but it’s the last thing I remember……until recovery. Ugh.
I got back to my room at 10:30pm to find my family and a praying friend waiting. Two angelic nurses got me situated and then we were able to have a time of prayer before everyone went home. My mom stayed the night with me and brought me popsicles and chicken broth several times. My night nurse was a cracker jack nurse who popped in every hour for vitals and pills. She was the most efficient, good natured person I think I’ve met in a long time!
My surgeon’s assistant came in the next am to explain my surgery to me. My surgeon also came in not too much later to explain it to me again. After I heard what happened I had even more reason to praise God for his timing, provision, and yes even the pain. You see, the ruptured disc was not only pressing into and bruising my spinal column, it had fused itself TO my spinal cord dural sheath. The surgery took almost twice as long because of this. I also developed a spinal fluid leak, which he patched with “spray glue” (modern tech ya know!). He told my husband that if I had waited 6 months longer to have this surgery the outcome may not have been as good. Want to hear more of the blessings?!? My voice was clear! Clearer than before surgery! My pain level was that of a sore throat you get with a cold. No headaches at all from the spinal fluid leak! No soreness at the surgical site. No more pain in my arm or back. I was up, walking around, taking it easy, and feeling good.
I had brought one of my CDs to give to my surgeon, but he got away too fast, so I gave it to my awesome night nurse before she left. Do you know she CALLED me at the hospital to thank me before I left! She had already listened to some of it and she said she felt like it was God that brought her to me for the night. She is a travel nurse and goes all around to other hospitals.
Later a man came to get me for my exit X-ray. He was a friendly, big strong man. The X-ray was quick, but the wait to go back to my room was not. I knew my lunch was being delivered and I was getting hungry. Not to mention the whole radiology dept appeared to be walking past me into a room where the smell of food was distinctly coming from. I actually considered getting up and walking back to my room just when the same man came in to roll me up.
On the way to the elevator I saw a lady from my bible study group. She hadn’t been able to attend our summer session so she didn’t know I had surgery. We stopped and talked a minute. In the elevator I told the man that she was in my bible study. He said, “well ain’t that somethin! You teach bible study?” I said “Yes, I also lead worship which was a big worry of mine having neck surgery.” He said, “Go ahead! What church do you go to?” I told him and told him about my CD coming out soon. Then he said, “You just never know who you are going to meet! I can’t believe this!” I assured him that I’m not anyone special, just a servant of God. Not a superstar. We rolled into my room. Then he go serious and asked, “Do you know anything about the moon and the stars and all that stuff?” I said, “You mean the blood moons?” He said, “Yeah, that’s it.” I asked him if he was afraid of the End Times and he told me he was. I said, “You don’t need to be afraid. No one knows the time or the day of Jesus’ return, not even Jesus himself. Only God knows when that day will be and no man on this earth will be able to tell you when. But if you belong to God you have no reason to fear. We are called to be a light, to share the truth and the gospel until his return, not to hide in fear. God will take care of you.” Then a lady shoved some discharge paperwork into my lap and started talking a mile a minute, nothing of which I heard. I asked my mom to give him my card. She said he had tears in his eyes as he walked back toward her and said I had given him peace today. Praise God! I hope that peace stays with him and he has a new kick in his step for sharing that gospel of peace!!
Dressed and ready to leave, my pastor and his wife walk in to visit! She had a similar surgery a year and a half before and has recovered beautifully! The volunteer shows up with the chair, and we all take a moment to pray before leaving. I so appreciated the prayer, but I was also glad the young volunteer was there to be a part of it. She even said God bless you as I got in my car to leave.
I’ve been praying and praising every day… thanking God for healing hands…. His hands coupled with so many wonderful medical staff and surgeons.
I’m a week and 2 days out from surgery. I quit all the narcotics Tuesday. I don’t think I needed them that long, but was afraid maybe it was them keeping the pain away.
Do I still believe in divine healing? YES!!!! But I also believe in divine appointments. I’ve mentioned a few here to encourage you, but there were so many other deeply personal divine moments that could not have been experienced if God didn’t allow this journey. It’s not always in the easy miracles that our faith is strengthened in God and in each other.
Thank you to My Healing Hands:
ORTHO VA Hanover
Abilio A. Reis, MD (surgeon Ortho VA)
Matthew Carleton, PA-C (under Dr. Reis)
Cindy Smith, PT
Tripp Stover, P.C.
Memorial Regional Medical Center
staff and nursing
and the MANY prayer warriors!
Here I am rockin' my neck brace and bone growth stimulator collar!