Yesterday afternoon I began to update the blog with a long overdue post hopefully in time before Christmas. I began writing that post as I lay in bed next to Annie; she had begun the Lord’s day with nausea which kept her from being able to join us in our Sunday morning worship. Later on in the afternoon, while Annie slept off the exhaustion, I took to the laptop to commence that blog post.
This is not that post.
I write this from a windowless isolated cubicle deep in the warren of corridors of our nearby Accident and Emergency room. It’s weird how fitting ‘that’ post will be to ‘this’ one; I hope to send ‘that’ post shortly; but for now ‘this’ post will be of more importance.
At about 7:00pm last night Annie’s sickness developed into something much worse which I felt required the attention of the twilight nurses. It’s been months since we required their assistance and I am equally grateful to God both for His provision through them and without them. Annie’s temperature was rising and she seemed to be losing lucidity of speech but from what I could make out she complained of feeling like she had flu. I helped her to the bathroom at which point she passed out – which triggered the call to the nurses.
Once the nurses arrived their initial assessment was to call out the emergency doctor. Interestingly it was the very same doctor we had seen just over one year ago when Annie was wrestling with the incessant coughing fits. The doctor’s assessment was that Annie had a chest infection and he gave some antibiotics to help fight and clear that up. However, once nurses and doctors had departed, so did the medication which Annie had only swallowed a few minutes before.
In moments like these it’s not just about taking one day at a time, it really does become about asking God to give His grace, direction and strength for the hour. It was a great blessing to have four of our brothers and sisters come over to pray and praise over Annie and I in the midst of those frantic hours. Before they had arrived I had turned to Psalm 42 to give voice to the prayers that I was unable to articulate at the time. All Annie kept asking for was ice cubes to quench her thirst and high temperature – and so the opening words of Psalm 42 really were an oasis of comfort for our hour of need.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. – Psalm 42:1,2
At about midnight the vomiting and delirium was getting worse and I called the nurses out again. Bearing in mind that Annie’s usual morning and evening anti-sickness drugs and morphine hadn’t had time to be absorbed into her body before being (r)ejected, the nurses figured that it might be worth administering some anti-sickness via ‘IM’ (I’ve convinced myself that this means Intra-Muscular because it resulted in an injection in the thigh). Of course, this required a doctor’s approval and so we awaited another doctor-on-call. When the doctor came he checked Annie and then things took a different turn. He said that her oxygen levels were dangerously low (’87’ if that means anything to those of you in the medical profession) and that immediate action was required which resulted in her being hooked up to an oxygen tank, put in an ambulance and sent to the hospital. This all happened at around 1:30am and I was beginning to feel the worse for wear for lack of sleep.
In between the second visit of the nurses and the doctor, I came into the room to find Annie – in a state of semi-delerium – ministering to the head nurse. Delirious or not, she was never more lucid! Through gasps for breath she said:
“Don’t worry about me. Jesus lives in me. And that means whatever I am feeling, Jesus knows and feels it and cares for me.”
She continued, asking the nurse if she believed in God and knew that He loved her too?
I cherish moments like that. They embody the living and powerful Word of God as He promised and on His supernatural terms (terms that we are not ordinarily comfortable with):
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Travelling in an ambulance was a first for me. That’s quite a personal achievement; I was so accident-prone as a kid, I’m not sure how I avoided that mode of transportation for 37 years! It was not quite the high-octane, flashing blue light experience; we only live 2 minutes from the hospital and we were forewarned that they were so busy that there were no beds or wards available anyway. We occupied the edge of various corridors until a small curtained area of the Accident and Emergency department opened up at around 4am. Annie had the luxury of the ambulance bed and I managed to find some comfort from a chair and a make-shift headrest on the corner of Annie’s mattress.
At around 7am this morning Annie went for a chest xray and then by 10am we finally got a moment with the medical doctor. His diagnosis was pneumonia. The lower section of Annie’s left lung showed signs of fluid build up between the membranes which has lead to infection and resulted in the breathing difficulties. This lack of oxygen may explain the delirium. In some ways this is actually ‘good’ news. This isn’t a direct effect of the cancer but perhaps an indirect one. In recent months (see next post) Annie has started to experience an increase in pain which leaves her with shorter breaths. We’re told that as a consequence of shorter breaths, the lungs aren’t fully inflating and emptying which leaves them vulnerable to infection.
The remedy is to keep Annie in for a week for a treatment of IV antibiotics through a drip and then to ‘aspirate’ the lungs which is quite a horrible process that she experienced just before the terminal diagnosis last September. They’ll insert a large injection into her back – usually without any anaesthetic – in order to draw off the fluid from the ‘pleural cavity’ around the lung. If all goes well, she’ll be out by Friday; if not, I guess we better start to develop an appetite for hospital turkey!
As of 6pm, we have been finally transferred to a ward. This afternoon I managed to go home for a couple of hours sleep, some lunch and a shower which has helped. Annie is doing well. She’s had a good amount of sleep and the nausea seems to be under some control. She was just weighed and received some good news: she’s gained a stone since she last weighed herself – over two months ago. She now boasts a ‘plump’ frame of 7 stones (45 kilos).
I close with the words of hope from the end of that 42nd Psalm. They express words of faith and hope that is rooted in the fact – yes, the fact – that God is not only greater than what we face, but with us in the midst; and whatever comes next – whether life or death, sickness or health – He will always take His children joyfully beyond.
Why are you downcast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God. – Psalm 42:11