A QUICK LOOK BACK AT THE TIME I GOT TO LIVE LIKE I WAS DYIN’ – OR THAT TIME I GOT FUNGUS CONTAMINATED SHOTS FROM A LIL’ COMPANY CALLED NECC. I’ STILL ALIVE!
THE PROBLEM WITH NUMBERS
17,000 vials. 14,000 injections. 3 lots recalled. 23 states. 247 sick with fungal meningitis. 19 lost lives. Thousands of us are scared, full of anxiety and still dealing with our original back pain as we wait to either develop symptoms, or for those who have gone through a lumbar puncture, for the results to come back (and even then it isn’t certain that we won’t get this). Hundreds endure a treatment with horrid intravenous anti fungal drugs for an unknown period of time. The incubation period has gone from 1-4 weeks to 42 days, to the possibility of it being months before we feel safe. We don’t sleep. We don’t eat. We cry. We panic. We are angry. It is an unthinkable tragedy – a crime. We had black mold injected into our spines. That certainly isn’t something I EVER imagined happening…
But I am here to reach out to others. Are you out there? I care. I am praying for you. I don’t know you, but we are bonded by an unthinkable outbreak that could have so easily been prevented. Was the NECC operating out of greed? Did the FDA drop the ball? Where was the safety net? I don’t have answers, but I have HOPE. I have had moments of joy. That joy and hope comes from God. I know without a shadow of a doubt that He is walking every step of the way with me as I go through this. That good will come from this. He is in control and I have to trust Him. He has put people in my life that show me His love daily. I feel so BLESSED. Yes. I said blessed. I have family and friends texting, calling, emailing, sending cards, preparing meals and praying for me. I have an amazing God who is drawing me closer. Do you know Him? If you do, I would love to hear how He is loving on you through this. If you don’t, would you give me the opportunity to share my story? Would you allow me to share His story? Keep coming back…He is AWESOME!
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;the Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Today is Friday and it is going to be GOOD! I just know it. I am trusting God for it!
The last two Fridays weren’t so great. Friday, October 5th, I got the call that I had received my steroid injections from the recalled lots from NECC. Friday, the 12th, it was reported that the first case of fungal meningitis in Texas was a woman who got her shots from the same place I did (and on the same day). There are only 17 of us from this particular place. It seemed like my odds weren’t looking so great.
But my God is a God who defies all odds. He can move the mountains and calm the seas. He works miracles. He is bigger – so much bigger – than this fungus. My heart and my soul know this. My head and my anxiety keep getting in the way.
I believe God is who He says He is. I don’t have a single doubt. I believe wholeheartedly that He can heal me. What I have anxiety about is whether or not healing me is His will. Anxiety attacks me every time I get a headache or a stiff neck or a slight fever. I worry, “Is this meningitis? Or is it just my bad back and neck? Is it stress?” There is no way to know. Anxiety attacks me every time I see the case count rise and the death count rise. Anxiety attacks me in the middle of the night. I want so badly to be stronger, but the anxiety is something I can’t seem to control. It physically overcomes me.
I take comfort in knowing that God knows we are prone to be anxious. He created us. I have good friends who remind me that it is okay to be scared and that God understands. I read my Bible and see all the examples of others who dealt with fear and anxiety and I feel comforted. I have countless people praying for me and I can feel it! Last Saturday as I lay in the ER waiting for my lumbar puncture, I had this amazing feeling of pure joy just fill me up. I smiled and couldn’t stop smiling. It came from God. I was in pain (really hurting) and I was so scared. God gave me relief and I could feel all the people praying for me! I am thankful that amidst the pain, anxiety and fear, I have a God who brings joy and peace. He is strong for me. When I feel like I can’t go through this, He can.
So today is going to be a good day. Every time I feel anxious that something terrible will happen, I can be confident that He is in control. He made this day and it will be good!
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Today I am praying for all the people that have been devastated by this outbreak. I am praying for the doctors as well. I am praying for my doctor. A couple of weeks ago, I asked him how he was doing. I told him I could only imagine what he must be going through. I told him I was praying for him. He looked at me for a moment and said, “Thank you so much for praying for me, but you shouldn’t be worrying about me. I don’t have this poison in my body. I put it in yours. I feel terrible. I am worried about you.” I know he is carrying a heavy burden. I can see it in his eyes and face. I know he is going through the same sleepless nights that I am. He has 17 of us to worry about. The CDC just announced the 2nd case of fungal meningitis in Texas. Both cases are from our 17.
I pray for all the people that are in the middle of this horror story. I pray for the ones who have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment, for the ones, who like me, are waiting and hurting, for the families going through this with their loved ones and for the ones who have lost their loved ones – and I also pray for the doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are stuck in the midst of this tragedy, too.
I don’t think any of us ever thought for even a second that we would be dealing with something like this. Steroid injections have always been considered a safe procedure. I was more nervous about the anesthesia than the actual injections. Who would have ever thought they could be contaminated with something that could kill us? Who would have ever imagined that a company making sterile injectables would do something this reprehensible?
I know every single one of us (patients and doctors) would love to not be going through this. It is hard not to think about it every single second of the day. It can consume you. Here is what I have learned – lean into God. I mean really lean. Dig into His Word. Listen for Him in the quiet. Sing praises – even if your head hurts. Write it down – keep a journal. Pray for others.
So today, as my head, neck and back hurt, I am trying to keep my mind focused on others. I am not the only one going through this. There are many. My heart breaks for the many. Today – I am praying for them. Today – I am praying for my doctor.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28
Today, I will spend Thanksgiving like so many others – eating turkey and pumpkin pie with some of my precious family and watching the Cowboys. Such a normal thing for so many in America, but not something I will ever take for granted again. I am so extremely thankful. I am gratefully aware that there are many people with empty chairs at their dining tables this year. There are families that have tragically lost loved ones to fungal meningitis. There are families whose loved ones are stuck in the hospital battling this disease. I will be saying a special prayer for them today and saying a huge prayer of thanks that I am okay so far – a prayer of thanks that I get to be “normal”.
Over the past couple of months, I have had to learn the art of “being normal” in a crazy situation. Turning on the TV to see constant reminders of the case counts and congressional hearings and new problems/symptoms to watch for has been crazy. I never imagined I would be affected by something that is a national news story and health crisis. It has been a little surreal. I am thankful that those news stories have slowed down – it has made it possible for me to watch TV without being inundated with the meningitis crisis. For a while, I felt like I couldn’t get away from thinking about it. I am thankful I can watch the Cowboys today without commercial breaks that might contain “breaking news” that could affect me.
The past few days, I haven’t thought too much about my situation (except for one interruption – a call from the Health Department). This Thanksgiving week has been a blessing to me. I celebrated an anniversary dinner with my husband. I celebrated my birthday. I made it through an entire high school football playoff game and I hope to make it through “round two” tomorrow. I have done some crafting. I will never take these things for granted again. Such small things, but they have given me huge joy. I am thankful for “normal”.
So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath; My arms wave like banners of praise to you.
The past couple of days, God has really been speaking to me about control. It is a tough one for me. I admit it – I have a really hard time with it.
When I first found out that I had gotten the contaminated shots, I thought, “I can’t do this. Make it go away. Where is the rewind button?” I wanted to wake up from the nightmare. I wanted to go back and change my decision to get the injections. When my mind finally wrapped itself around the fact that there was nothing I could do to change my reality, I felt completely out of control. It terrified me.
I’m pretty sure that lots of us have had moments like these. This life is full of trials – heart attacks, strokes, cancer, autoimmune disease (and that is just on the health side of things). How about divorce, bankruptcy, job loss? These all cause pain and loss of control, not only for the ones going it through it, but for their families, friends and loved ones. Ultimately, it is a wake up call from God. It puts everything in perspective. We have no control. And then we realize this might be a really good thing. Why? Because God does have control and He only wants good for us!
How great the Father’s love for us when we walk through these trials? As much as I wish I could reverse the situation I am in and make it disappear, I am grateful for it at the same time. Kind of weird, huh? I have had to give God complete control of my life. He must love me so much to give me this to go through. I can feel Him changing me. He sees me and loves me where I am now and He sees where He wants me to be and loves me all the way there! This isn’t an accident or a coincidence. It is a chance to grow closer to my Creator and to rely completely on Him – isn’t that what He wants from us? So I will praise Him for this circumstance and I will sing to Him, love Him and thank Him. I will still have moments of selfishly wanting this to go away, moments of fear, moments of anger, but I will never stop trusting or loving Him.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
THAT SONG ON THE RADIO (OR iPOD)
This song popped up on my iPod the other day and it just got me to singing – “Take the shackles off my feet, so I can dance! I just want to praise YOU! I just want to praise YOU! You broke the chains now I can lift my hands…”. I love this song! I always have. It is so true. When you go through something that imprisons you, weighs you down, makes you sick, gives you pain – how much lighter do you feel when the burden is lifted? How much more do you want to praise your Savior and share what He has done for you when you come out the other side? Well guess what? I’m still walking through this and I feel lighter! He has “lightened” my soul because of this journey!
For more than the first half of my life, I felt unwanted, unloved, different, and bitter. I thought God had forgotten about me. I acted like I didn’t care, but deep inside I longed for Him (but I didn’t realize at the time that that was what I was feeling) and I felt empty. I tried to fill that emptiness with different things. Things that weren’t good for me. I didn’t like myself. I struggled with depression. I’ve been through divorce, being a single parent, struggling financially, Grave’s disease, arthritis and degenerative disc disease, but through it all, God was with me. He grabbed hold of me and I heard Him clearly in my heart, “I am your Father. I love you more than you could ever know. There is still a work to be done in you.”
If you don’t have a relationship with Him – I get it. I was in that spot. I was in that spot for a long time. There is something better! Something so good that can’t be described. I pray that God will grab hold of you like He grabbed hold of me. When He grabs hold, He doesn’t let go. It is the best embrace ever. It never ends!
“Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.” Psalm 51:12 MSG
GET OVER IT (KIND OF…)
If you must look back, do so forgivingly.
If you must look forward, do so prayerfully.
However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…gratefully.
Two years, such a short time in the span of a lifetime, but so long to wait for someone (the CDC, a doctor, etc.) to tell you, “My dear, you are clear.” I am still waiting.
Just today, I looked back through my posts on this blog, I am not a writer of “abundance,” but I know the things I have talked to people about in person have been ABUNDANT! I feel like I have written so much, but I really haven’t. My mind has told the story so many times, my mouth has told the story so many times, but I really haven’t shared my heart completely.
Two years later, as I reflect on the night I got the call, I remember a shiver and a freeze of my entire being. I love a scary movie, but I didn’t want to be a part of one. I received 7 shots in my lower back on September 26th. On October 5th, on the way to a high school football game, as we were exiting for the stadium, I got the call from my doctor. I can still see the lights of the stadium, the slow traffic in front of me. I answered my cell to the sound of my doctor’s voice, “The shots you received were from the batch from NECC. Now, listen to me carefully. Here is what the CDC recommends . . . blah, blah, blah…I want to see you in my office on Monday.” Slow motion. I blindly grasped for my husband’s hand. I began to beat the gearshift with his hand grasped in mine. “No, no, no, no – this can’t be!” Not me. This is the story on the news – the story where people are dying. I am safe in my car on my way to watch the Wildcats play football. This is someone else’s story. Not mine.
I called my parents, and my husband called my boss. Then I called my friend, Jess. There was a lot of crying. Mine. I went to the game – for a little while. My son was a trainer and I wanted to be there – plus, I love football! I sat on the bench, cold, and my husband hugged me and told me I was going to be fine. I just knew I was dead. I remember being there, but I couldn’t tell you anything else. I was numb. And devastated. I didn’t even know what to ask God, except, “Please, let me live.”
Two years ago, this happened. You can’t imagine what the “not knowing” was (and has been) like. With other diagnoses, there is a plan of treatment, a plan of action, something to focus on. I went home that night, and flat on my face, I cried (and I mean CRIED – loudly) to the LORD, Bible in hand, “Please, please, please spare me from this. I’m not ready to leave my son. My husband. This earth.” Even though, I knew heaven and my glorious Father, my Creator, awaited me, I wasn’t done here yet.
To be brutally honest, in that moment, I wasn’t fully sure of my salvation. I second-guessed my forgiveness. I had done terrible things in my past. Had he really forgiven me? It was a “come to Jesus” night like no other I had ever experienced. Was he really nailed to the cross for me? In that moment, I was completely unsure. And that is all I know. I didn’t sleep. That is honest.