Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Worst Holiday Experience

It was the Fridiay before Christmas. My baking was finished. The kids were out of school, and I was frantically putting the finishing touches on my holiday cleaning. Our evergreen tree smelled delicious; chopped down the weekend before it was piled with ornaments and gifts. That afternoon, I planned to take the children to a movie. We were ready for the Christmas weekend.

As it turned out, our plans were interrupted by an unexpected visitor; a brown recluse spider. He may have crept into our house unawares, perhaps on our fresly cut pine tree. The only thing was, I didn’t remember being bitten, and I had no explanation for the excruciating pain that started in my finger and up my arm during the movie.

That weekend, hospitals were staffed with part-timers and interns. I went to three different hospitals during the next three days, each time being sent home with perplexed looks and instructions to soak my finger and wait it out. I was x-rayed, my wedding ring was cut off, and, according to one staffer, I hyperventilated. From my vantage point I was completely paralyzed. I couldn’t speak or respond. I couldn’t even blink. My own doctor told me later I was likely going into convulsion.

On monday morning I saw my own doctor, who took one look at my finger and the deep red line that went up and under my arm and sent me to a private room in the hospital. Not knowing I’d had an insect bite, he started me on intravenous antibiotics, but not until after I’d had a chest and heart x-ray. By the time the drugs kicked in, my skin was yellow, my gums were purple. I looked like death warmed over.

To make a long story shorter, I got gangrene in my finger. A dermatologist was called in. He recognized the symptoms and affects of a brown recluse spider. Amputation was an option, but they decided to wait and see. I was in the hopsital for 10 days. The doctor told me I should have been dead in 36 hours; I did not receive help for 72 hours. How’s that for an answer to prayer?

I will tell you that during that time, I put my life in God’s hands. I felt his presence and his love. I knew that if I died it was okay, and if I lived it was okay. I had absolutely no fear; only a feeling of complete peace.

Illness is not always bad. It slows us down and makes us reflect on what we’re doing with our time, our resources, our connections with loved ones and family. Our attention becomes focused on what’s important; our frivolous pursuits seem shallow and inconsequential. Suddenly the world seems more beautiful, life more precious, and God more alive and real than he’s ever been before.

In addition, our complaints turn to gratitude, our thoughts to appreciation for the ordinary mundane fabric that holds our lives together. And God is good.