Last week (January 26-February 2, 2016), I ended up in the hospital. Something simple spiraled out of control. While in the hospital, I kept up with the daily reading of psalms that I’ve been practicing since the first of the year. The psalms I read were chosen by the Presbyterian Daily Prayer Lectionary. The psalms are sent to my e-mail every morning and I often read them on my phone, then again in my bible. These psalms helped to frame my experience. The following is an account of my hospital stay for friends and family who want to know what happened. [NOTE: This contains some graphic depictions of medical problems. No pictures, just words.]
But surely, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life. (54:4)
The East Coast Blizzard of 2016 had ended. Our little family of four had been cooped up cozily from Friday through Monday. On the whole, we enjoyed our time together, though our snow-bonding was hindered a bit by a stomach bug that our one-year-old Matthijs had caught at school. By Monday evening, Matthijs seemed mostly better. It also appeared that the rest of us had escaped unscathed.
Until Tuesday morning.
I woke early with the rest of the family. I helped Sarah and the kids get ready and off to school and work. My stomach felt a little unsettled. I discovered I had diarrhea. I sighed. Looming before me stood the promise of a day’s work lost. I resolved to combat it by drinking a lot of water, eating plain-tasting food and having Sarah bring home Gatorade. It’ll be over soon, I thought. We’d had a few stomach bugs over the past year and I’d survived all of them with less than 24 hours of sickness.
I also resolved not to vomit. Vomit and I are not best friends. I was born with a weak gate between my esophagus and my lungs that all too often allows fluid, food or vomit to get into my lungs. This is called PULMONARY ASPIRATION. In its worst incarnations, it can lead to pneumonia, though this had not happened to me in more than a decade. I felt like vomiting several times, but held it down each time.
By the end of the day, the diarrhea had dissipated, and though I felt a little weak, I thought the worst was over. Then a band of pain flashed across the top of my stomach. It stayed for hours, from 7:30PM-10:30PM, slowly getting worse. Finally, I told Sarah that I wanted to go to the ER. I’d never felt this pain before. We called a few good friends to come to watch the kids while they slept. While we waited for our friends, the desire to vomit became overwhelming. I vomited so hard, after holding it down so long, that I instantly aspirated. I hadn’t had a moment to breathe.
My stomach still hurt and now I knew that I could get pneumonia, so we headed to the ER. By the time we arrived, the stomach pain was almost gone, but I wasn’t breathing well. In fact, I started to feel chilled. Unbearably cold. Nothing could warm me. Once we were registered and accepted into the ER, I was shivering uncontrollably. My stomach pain was gone, but I developed a fever that rapidly spiked to 103. The nurses brought the fever down and gave me oxygen. I settled down for a night of recovery, fully expecting to head home the next day with instructions for how to treat my pneumonia.
God had upheld my life. Little did I know how much.
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