Home > Healing Journey > More thoughts on facing serious medical issues

More thoughts on facing serious medical issues


Last night I went to ER yet again.

Rather reluctantly. I have seen more doctors in the past two months than in my entire life. I’m still not a fan of doctors or hospitals and will avoid them whenever possible.

But when the pain started to get worse on heavy narcotics and after talking with a couple of people in the know, I knew that I had to make another long trek. Thankfully this time I had my tablet charged with some fun computer games to distract me. I’m playing a fun strategy game that has me evolving a virus with an attempt to infect the entire world. A bit ironic that I was sitting in ER with this game. The best part though is naming the viruses – I name them after the heretics I am learning about in my History of Christianity of course. Besides the humour, it has actually been helpful to remember who’s who and what side they are on.

I am stronger medication to tie me over to the Neurosurgeon appointment in 11 days. I had some wonderfully encouraging news though – last week’s neurosurgery on call team arranged for me to have an MRI and in the midst of some challenges around it, I’m very thankful I will have it tomorrow.

But I had another dose of reality in the ER and beyond and wanted to share some of my learnings.

  • Sometimes God shows up in unexpected ways. I called someone on my way to the bus stop to let them know I was going to the ER. I have a transit pass and it’s about the same time as taking a taxi. Plus some recent unexpected expenses made a taxi unrealistic last night. While waiting, a taxi driver stopped and offered me a ride. When I explained I didn’t have any money, he said that’s ok as he is going to the subway, it’s late, I’m alone and it’s cold. When I got into the car he introduced himself and said in his country it’s not safe for women to be out at night and said that he saw a charisma in me waiting there in the cold that made him want to stop. He asked my name and where I was going so late. I told him, and his response was beautiful: “Elizabeth, I knew there was a reason I need to stop for you. God is with you. You have many people who care about you and want to help you. You help others and give generously as you can. But now I need to accept people’s care.” On reflection, it sounds a bit weird. But in the moment, I felt I had met Jesus in this man and was reminded that I do not go to the hospital alone.
  • Waiting sucks. I’m not the most patient person. However, I have always taken great comfort at the long waits in ER as that means two things: 1) It’s not urgent and 2) I’m not as sick as others. Now that I’ve had the experience of short waits and lots of medical attention, there is a part of me that while thankful for a bed, I wish I could wait in the waiting room for 5 hours. Last night I was triaged and had a bed within half an hour. Fifteen minutes later I saw a doctor.
  • Prayer works. I asked people to pray specifically for the triage nurse and the emergency doctor. Last week, when I was in emerg, I was triaged wrong and my symptoms were not taken seriously until they called a neurosurgeon 12 hours later.
  • ER is not the place for being tough. I have a high tolerance level, don’t like to complain and don’t want to be a burden. Add that to having a hard time facing how Ill I’ve been and my people-pleasing side, and I can play down my symptoms quite well. Pain rating scales are useless on me as I tend to think of 10 being someone who is dying and not “the most amount of pain you’ve been in”. I have just realized that this is a subjective measurement and playing it safe with a low number isn’t going to get the help I need.
  • I still am easily intimidated by people in positions of power. On a good day, I will struggle to stand up for myself when feeling dismissed and unheard and working with someone who does not seem to want to budge. When I’m sick, overwhelmed, or anxious this is extremely difficult for me. While this is an area of growth, I will need people to come alongside me until I grow. Many have asked how they can help, and I’ve been ok with the waiting alone but maybe this is something I can allow people to do.
  • Sometimes doctors just don’t know what to do. I’ve had multiple opinions, hypotheses, and degrees of immediate concern. It’s confusing and frustrating as they conflict and what the heck do I know?! But they really seem perplexed – it seems just as confusing and frustrating to them.
  • This is scary stuff. the unknown is scary. the symptoms are scary. being in hospitals is scary. having to prepare for different scenarios is scary. I’m scared. I don’t think I’ve felt that throughout the past few months. But I do now. Sometimes I want to just cry as life is not going the way I hoped and I have no control over it.
  1. john sullivan
    November 13, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I am truly concerned about you Elizabeth. Is there not someone who can play a pastoral role for you: a rector, a professor, a fellow student, a parishioner? Your insights are right on – yes, you must allow others to come to your rescue. I know it is hard, for many of us like yourself have been programmed to think of others first and ourselves last. Thank God for the dear taxi driver, what a wonderful example of an angel at work. No doubt the word he meant was an aura not a charisma, but it matters not . . . in other words you were a light shining in the darkness. God be with you!

    • November 13, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks. I’ve struggled with independent stubbornness and an unwillingness to believe I am sick…but people have been there for me and continue to be so. I’ve had 6-40 hour stints in er and haven’t wanted people to be round the clock. But I am well loved by people I know and people who know of me.

  2. Barb Sanjivi
    November 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Elizabeth I am also quite concerned about you. I felt like crying when I read your post. You have been through so much. However, I was so glad to see that you can recognize an angel offering you help. God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.
    There’s a song we sing in the Army. I think you might know it too.

    He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more grace as our labours increase.
    To addeth afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

    When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done.
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

    His love has no limits, His grace has no measure
    His power no boundary known unto men
    For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
    He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

    We sing it to the tune, The Ash Grove.

    I copied this song for you. God’s full giving is right there with you. God is right there beside you.

    God bless you honey.

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