"My journey with Jesus - November, 2010."
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Ps. 121:2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
Ps. 136:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.
Prov. 3:12 For whom the LORD loveth, he correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Matt. 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Phil. 4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need.
At 64 years of age, looking back through my life, I see that the Lord has blessed me with good physical health. I suffered a broken arm when I was 10 and underwent a hernia repair at 23. With the exception of antibiotics for sinus infections occasionally through the years, I take only a daily vitamin and a low dose aspirin. This is rare for anyone over 60.
On Sunday, October 30th, I carried a vinyl screen door from the back of Lowe's to the cashier and then out to the car where I loaded it, I thought, with minimal effort. Over the next several days, I began developing low back pain which worsened as the week progressed. Heat and Ibuprofen did not help.
By Monday morning, November 8th, the pain had become so severe that I was unable to sit or stand without excruciating pain in my back radiating into my right upper leg. All the previous week, I had prayed to the Lord for relief, which came only temporarily about midweek, but now I knew He had something more in store for me. It was time to get closer to him, to get to know him more intimately, to feel him and to listen for his counsel. We decided to go to the walk-in clinic at the hospital. As Dee, my wife of 40 years, checked me in, I began pacing the waiting room and hallway. I began crying out to God. Some people passed me busily on their way; others asked if I was ok and if they could help me. I had never experienced such pain. I began to think about Brother Billy Mellick and what he went through earlier in 2009. I also thought about Pastor John several Thanksgivings ago down on his hands and knees with back and hip pain. My thought was, "Yes, Lord, you are no respecter of persons." I have said that many times over the last few years. I have heard and read testimonies and have seen what God has done to the faithful and unfaithful, cleaning house in our own community of faith. Did I believe it? Did I have enough fear of God in me that I should have had by now?
A lady scheduled ahead of me saw how much pain I was having and let me go ahead of her. Thank God. I saw Dr. Peed, who, after a thorough exam and x-rays, told me I probably had a severe muscle strain. I was given an injection for pain and prescriptions for Vicodan, Lodine, an anti-inflammatory, and Norflex, a muscle relaxant. If I did not improve in a few days, I was to return for an MRI. The pain was subsiding enough to return home. Home was in LeeAnn's cozy apartment above her garage. We had been living there temporarily while our home was being built down the road. This was a blessing from the Lord to be in the neighborhood, close to God's people, during this time of crisis. We would have been isolated if still living full time in Lexington. God's way is so far ahead of ours.
By 3 am the next morning the pain returned to a point that I began shaking with panic. I could not relax. We called Betty and Earl Pittman. God knows and puts in our hearts the right people to call. He was putting me to the test but giving me a little help along the way. That is our God. He was not forsaking me. Sweet Sister Betty was finally able to quiet my shaking, and we made a decision to call the EMTs to take me to the ER.
Over the next 14 hours in the ER, several diagnoses had to be ruled out. I was having trouble emptying my bladder due to the pain. This triggered the thought that I might have a kidney stone or my prostate might be inflamed. A CT scan ruled out the kidney stone, but my prostate was slightly enlarged, probably inflamed, according to the physician who examined me. At any rate, I needed to be catherized. As a Navy corpsman, I performed many catherizations, but now it was my turn to be the recipient! This was the first of several occasions that the Lord impressed on me true humility. Again, Billy Mellick's experience was foremost in my mind. I remembered him telling what a relief it was to have his bladder emptied, to be relieved of pain. God is so good. Actually, it wasn't as bad as I thought if would be. Thank you, Lord, for drawing close to me. Help me to learn more about you. Thank you, Lord, for putting it into someone's heart to invent the urinary catheter. That is no small thing.
Following that episode, I was sent for an MRI. Never having had one previously, I was slightly concerned about claustrophobia. With my pain (relieved with Morphine earlier) and my bladder now relieved, I was relaxed. I just closed my eyes and thanked the Lord for his mercy. The test was uneventful; however, the results showed slight bulging of all my lumbar discs, mostly due to the aging process. The disc at L2-L3, however, was compressing the nerve root to my right upper leg. I was discharged with the catheter and new prescriptions for an antibiotic and Prednisone. I was to follow up with a neurosurgeon and urologist. Appointments were made with the neurosurgeon the following Tuesday, the 16th, and the urologist on Thursday the 18th.
Over the next week, I was carried by my "family in the Lord." The Lord sent in the troops, so to speak. I was in considerable pain but the love of God through these holy people continued to lift me up. My grandson Samuel brought me a bed tray that he used when he fractured his leg. My granddaughter Samantha brought me a pot holder that she had made. We were never short of food prepared by our daughter Carrie and sisters in Christ in the neighborhood. Carrie also continued to run errands and do our laundry. My son-in-law Taylor delivered a TENS unit offered by "Sister Grandmama" to help control my pain. Sister Tracey and her daughter Laura stopped by one evening and brought me a balloon with happy faces on it. I've looked at that balloon countless times with all those smiley faces peering back at me. It just made me want to thank God even more. I thank everyone for taking time out to call or send a text or stop by to check on me. That was pure religion and we appreciated it so much.
On Wednesday, the 10th, Gary came over with his testimony as to when he had back pain, cured by Jesus without surgery. I was encouraged. Thursday was a highlight when Gary returned with Joel with a new song, "Invincible." It was a source of strength which came at the perfect time. God always knows when a little something extra is needed. This was coupled by a visit by my youngest grandson, David, 19 months old. He crawled up in bed so I could read him a book. Prior to my injury, this had become a daily ritual and I had missed it so much. I also had daily visits with Samuel and Samantha who kept my spirits lifted.
On Friday, the 12th, the neurosurgeon's office called and postponed my appointment another day, to Wednesday the 17th. This day I was hitting a low point. Discouragement was setting in, due to the pain, dealing with the catheter and adjusting the TENS unit in an attempt to override the pain. I rolled and tossed begging God for some restful relief. I would be remiss at this time if I did not mention that Dee was also suffering. She had never seen me in this state before. We were one in the Spirit, and she was feeling my pain as well. I prayed, "God give her strength. Help her to trudge through this valley with me. Lift her up, Lord." Although we were suffering, it was a sweet time together. The Lord brought us a new closeness. In the middle of the night, we would cuddle and thank the Lord for each other and for the blessings he had bestowed upon us over the years. We truly had been blessed and the blessings continued as he gave us strength and comfort.
It was on this day that Dee wrote an update to Pastor John. I told her to add, that I felt that it was "an honor that God had enough faith in me that I could be put to a test, that it was time to turn up the heat." In fact, I unthinkingly used the word "exciting." In a few days I would come to regret that I used that word.
Through all of this, I must say that my appetite did not wane. My eating, along with my immobility (I was virtually bedridden) and continued use of Vicodan had produced a new problem, a bowel obstruction. It had been a week since my bowels had moved, combined with the fact I could not sit up for a minute without excruciating pain. During the week, we had tried prunes, Milk of Magnesia, Metamucil cookies, and stool softners, to no avail. Sunday night, the 14th, Brother Earl brought over some suppositories and a Fleets enema. Neither produced results. I was becoming more uncomfortable, and pain in my leg was even more relentless. I was beginning to lose my grip, but the Lord continued to substain me. His grip was tighter than mine! Unfortunately, it appeared to be time for another visit to the ER. I thank the Lord for the Alamance County EMTs that he placed under my care for both transfers. They were both caring and efficient.
The second trip to the ER was not as pleasant as the first. Over the next 12 hours I was about to enter into the deepest part of God's valley. This time, the wheels of treatment turned even slower than the first. I had to realize that I wasn't the only patient being treated during those early morning hours. An x-ray was taken to see the extent of my impaction. It envolved the large and part of the small intestine. Finally a nurse who either needed some time off or should have been looking for another line of work, entered the room. This was the Lord's doing. He could have sent someone full of compassion and care; however, he sent Joe. Joe was God's servant to test me by fire. The word "gentle" was not in Joes's vocabulary! He brought in an IV bag full of soap suds solution to be used for my enema. I will spare you the details; however, I was in so much misery, it didn't matter what was done to me or how much my feeble body was exposed to anyone who cared to look on. God had me down to zero, a place where I had never been before. Dee had to leave the room; she couldn't take it any longer. I was now clinging with all my life to the rail of the gurney and literally screaming out to Jesus to help me. Who else could help me now? No one, only Jesus.
He wanted me to get to that point. Suddenly a word was brought back to my mind. "Exciting."
Then the Lord said to me, "I am not to be mocked. If you want exciting, I can give you exciting. I can turn up the heat even more." That was the most powerful reprimand that I have ever received. I have never received anything with such authority. It wasn't earthly and I knew it was from God. I learned in an instant that God is serious about his people. He is not to be mocked but to be feared, but in a good way. We are to be serious about him as well. "Oh, God," I said. "Forgive me for what I said," and he did. He is a merciful God. A few more hours passed and sweet relief finally came. It was Jesus and no one else who carried me through that deep dark valley. When you are in that valley, naked and in pain, the flood gates of humility open wide and all pride is cast out. I was at that level.
I was given an injection of Morphine prior to my discharge. So we returned home much relieved, but still lugging my catheter bag and TENS unit. Dee was now hearing from the Spirit, "It won't be much longer now." We were looking forward to Wednesday's visit with the neurosurgeon.
Tuesday evening Pastor John and Barbara stopped by for a visit. He brought a CD with him and he told us that it would "knock our socks off." Well it did just that! It was Darren and Julie singing, "Loving Me." This part is the most difficult for me to explain because it is so personal. The song is personal to everyone who listens to it. As I lay there listening, suddenly a warm blanket of God's anointing spread over me. I have never felt so much power. God's goodness and mercy for me ran deeper into my soul that I ever could imagine. It was mysterious because it was something that I had never felt to that degree before. I was actually FEELING his benevolence, a side of God that most of us have never experienced. I was drenched in his compassion. It was eternal. All I could do was lie there and weep. God is so real. When Pastor John and Barbara left, they took the CD with them. But within an hour, Joel, Sister Donna"s son, returned with a copy. Pastor John had Donna burn a copy of his for us!!!!! Very sweet!
The appointment day finally arrived. The neurosurgeon was Dr. Henry Pool who had previously performed surgery on Sister Willie and Ellen Payne. We were very excited to finally get some answers. I was packed in the back of the car lying down with pillows since it was too painful to stand or sit. We asked Sister Betty if she would like to ride along. We were so thankful for her. She is a great nurse with the ability to keep our spirits lifted. She's a wonderful gift from God. Thankfully, Taylor also came over and helped me down to the car. When we arrived at Dr. Pool's office in Greensboro at 8:30 as instructed, the office was closed and did not open until 9:00. But God is good. There just happened to be cushioned benches in the hallway for me to lie down. Once the office opened, a sofa was available for me in the waiting room. What a merciful God. I could feel his loving comfort.
We were eventually led to a treatment room where I lay comfortably with a pillow between my legs. When Dr. Pool entered the room he seemed very surprised at my condition and was very apologetic. Dr. Pool was a kind and humble man, but at the same time exuded confidence. He carefully examined me and in speaking gave us solace even before he had a final answer. God was definitely in charge here. The stress level was drastically reduced in an instant. God was leading me out of the valley. Dr. Pool left to read the MRI and when he returned, he looked at me straight in the eye and said "I know what your problem is, and the good news is, I can fix it." I knew this was God speaking through this man. He gave me two conservative options but felt it might, at the most, be only temporary due to the amount of bulging of the disc. He told me I would feel relief even in the recovery room. The procedure was a microdiscectomy, in which through a small incision and guided by microscope, a small piece of bone is removed from my vertebrae to relieve the pressure of the bulging disc on the nerve root. The procedure would take about 45 minutes to an hour. He also mentioned that my disc bulged in the direction that only happens 5% of the time, requiring a lesser procedure. Isn't God good? I opted for the surgery and when the scheduler came in she said, "You must be living right, there was a cancellation for day after tomorrow!!!" Wow!!! When God moves, nothing gets in the way. Sister Betty told us later she wanted to say to the scheduler, "Yes, they are living right."
Friday, November 19th, the day of surgery had arrived. The day of liberation from my pain. I was so encouraged. Betty, Earl, and Pastor John came over to help me down to the car. I was so touched to see brother Earl and Pastor John that morning. I was encouraged even more. I was scheduled to be at Moses Cone at 10:00 a.m. for pre-op workup for a 1:00 p.m. surgery. Thankfully, we left in plenty of time, for Dee and Betty engaged in conversation, missed a turn and we were suddenly lost in the beautiful countryside of Guilford County. I was lying in the back seat, couldn't see a thing! We finally got back on track and although the stress level went up a bit, we all had a good laugh.
In His goodness, God opened all the doors for us and sent His servants. We arrived at Moses Cone "Short Stay Center" on time at 10:00 am. The Center had construction at the front entrance so we entered through the ER next door. While I waited in the car, Sister Betty went into the ER to request a gurney for me. Minutes later, the pre-op nurse brought a gurney out to the car. The pre-op workup was fast and efficient, provided by friendly and competent people. Dr. Pool visited me in pre-op, and I asked the Lord to guide his hands. When I woke up in recovery, although still under the influence of anesthesia, I was virtually pain free!!!!!!!!!!! What sweet, soothing relief from Jesus. All I could do was lie there, thank him and give him all the glory.
My surgery was performed late enough in the day that I was admitted overnight. Surprisingly, Dr. Pool stopped in to check on me early in the evening. He looked tired, and I thanked him again for helping me. He said, "I have been thinking, and I think we need to get rid of that catheter." His voice had authority to it, like God again was speaking through him. We had already canceled my urology appointment on the 18th until after surgery. I said, " OK," but Billy Mellick and his experience again came immediately to my mind. What if my bladder won't empty? They would have to recath me. "O ye of little faith," I thought. Later that evening, I began to have the urge. Dee turned on the faucet in the bathroom and handed me the breakfast menu to read. Before I could check scrambled eggs, all systems began to work. Glory to God!!! Thank you for another gift. Now this may seem like a small thing, but I can guarantee you that it is not. I must add that my nurses were also hand-picked by God. He didn't leave anything unturned.
Saturday morning, I was discharged and the nurse wheeled me out to the car. It was a sunny, mild, fall day and I felt like I had been born again. I was regenerated and rejuvenated by the power of God. On the ride home, all we could do was thank him for all he had done and marvel at the display of color he painted in the trees this year. It was a perfect day.
I'd been placed on "house arrest" for one week, which gave the servants of pure religion a chance to do their thing again. Dee and I are part of family that we will never take for granted. A special bond has been created by many of them. A special caller would call us every night. It was Sister Willie. We would talk about many things, especially the goodness of God and then she would "tuck us in" so to speak. The fellowship was so sweet and uplifting from this precious saint. We have continued that evening ritual.
Through all of this, I thank God for this humbling experience. I also know that I will be more compassionate to the next afflicted person I meet. I have learned first hand that God is not a respecter of persons and that we are being tested, whether we abound or are suffering need. I know that my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ will be continually kindled; that I may be of some help to them in their time of need. Most importantly, I have found that when we are suddenly delivered into that deep, dark valley, our help and healing comes only from our friend and comforter, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.