Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So you don't believe in miracles....

When I was a senior in high school, taking AP English and Writing, we were reading the New Testament.  We had to choose a topic to write about and I chose the healing ministry of Jesus.  Not because I was particularly interested in it, actually, but because it was the easiest to outline, the easiest to talk about (because I had 4 books of the Bible that referenced it), and overall, in my mind, the easiest A.  I did get my A, of course, and I actually found the paper when I was moving out of our house last month.  When I read it, it kind of made me chuckle to think about my 17-year-old mind and my 17-year-old faith.

I grew up in church.  Yes, I'm one of those kids who went to Sunday School AND Children's Church every single week and mid-week.  I have to say I enjoyed myself.  In Massachusetts, where I was born and halfway raised, we attended a fabulous church with excellent programming for children and families.  I credit that church for providing me with the foundation of my faith.  And I had FUN, had wonderful friends, made great memories.  All of that aside, as we all know, at some point we have to decide for ourselves what we believe, if we believe it, how we believe it, etc.  I was taught that God could do anything...anything!  He could move mountains if He wanted to, He could appear and disappear like magic...the proof was in the Bible.  If you are a reader of scripture you are probably familiar with all of God's activities....the parting of the sea, Daniel being spared his life in the lions den, the water turning into wine, and the healing of the blind, just to name a few.

Be honest with yourself.  Do you REALLY believe in miracles?  Not just that they happened in the Bible,  I mean REALLY believe in them?  And not just for someone else but for yourself?  By the time I became an adult I think I believed God could do miracles, but I didn't actually believe He would do them.  At least not for me.  Which meant I didn't believe in miracles.  I have come to realize that first-hand experience is something that most human beings need to really feel confident about something.  This is where God has challenged us.  He wants us to have faith.  I had weak faith.

In December 2008 I came down with the flu.  It was horrible.  High fever, throwing up, misery, misery, misery.  After about a week of this, and after my temperature hit about 104 degrees I went to Urgent Care to see a doctor.  I assumed I was dehydrated and needed some fluids and I would be just fine.  They ordered some labs and as I waited for the results I received a bag of fluids. The doctor came in shortly and told me that I did not have the flu, I had hepatitis.  Hepatitis?  How would I get that?  I had received my vaccinations for Hep A and B, and I'm not a drug addict or sexually how would I get hepatitis?  The doctor said he did not know, but that my labs were off the charts.  I needed to come back on Monday for more tests.  I never made it to Monday because on Sunday I was feeling terrible and decided to take a bath.  I looked down at my legs and they were yellow.  Yes, like Tweety Bird.  I freaked out and had my parents take me to the ER. 

The hospital had difficulty figuring out what was wrong.  They at first thought it was my gallbladder and then realized that wasn't it.  I had lots of tests and scans and no one seemed to know what the problem was.  About that time I developed pneumonia due to something going awry with one of the gallbladder tests.  Off to the ICU I went.  It was there that we received the news that I had mononucleosis.  They believed that the virus was causing my liver to fail.  Ok, what???  Looking back I can see that God had his hand on me.  Because my primary care physician just happened to have an interest in hepatology, and he realized that I needed to be at a different hospital.  He already had started the transfer request.  Meanwhile, I was losing my mind, literally.  My memories are clear in some places but unclear in others.  I remember my parents trying to convince me to sign the transfer request.  I refused for a solid 3 days.  Fortunately behind the scenes, my PCP was looking out for me, and by the time I was convinced to sign the papers the EMT's were walking in my room with a stretcher to take me away.

I went to Tampa where my condition declined.  My liver was failing, my kidneys as well.  The second or third night there I collapsed on my way to the bathroom.  My red blood cells were depleted to the point where I could easily stroke out.  I feel so bad for my poor mom who witnessed this whole scene.  I can't imagine what she was thinking or feeling watching them squeeze blood into my body.  I went to the ICU again, but I was alive.  They told me I had to have a liver transplant or I would die.  One of the nurses told my mom that it appeared I had cancer and that she wouldn't be surprised if the tests revealed that over the next day or two.  The transplant team met with me and my family and it was determined that in the next 48 hours I would have a transplant, provided there was a donor.  My liver was in complete failure and had no hope of working again.  I remember one nurse telling me, Miss Casey, you will be going into a coma soon.  I think I may have sworn at her.  Other nurses told my parents to prepare for my death.  It would be soon.  I was moved up to number 1 on the UNOS list for a liver.  I remember asking my mom if I was going to die.  I wasn't asking because I wanted to know.  I knew I was dying.  I was asking because I wondered if she realized it.  Of course not!, she said.  I remember my pastor coming to pray for me.  I remember asking him the same thing.  No darling, you're not going to die, he said.  But I could see it in their eyes.  I was going to die.

The next day was to be final preparation for the transplant.  Final tests, final labs, etc.  Every morning at 6:30 am I had my levels checked.  This day, they came back at 8:30 am to get more blood.  I thought nothing of it.  My mom woke up and looked at me.  She said, you're pink!  Of course I had no idea what she was talking about at the time.  My initial morning labs indicated that my liver was working...that's why they came back for more blood.  The second set of labs confirmed it.  My liver was working.  It simply began to function.  I was so much less Tweety Bird yellow than I was the day before that I even looked pink to my mom. 

Recovery was difficult.  I remained in the hospital for another week because my hemoglobin remained low and needed to recover.  Slowly it rose and I was released to go home.  Over the next 3-4 months I made a complete recovery.  Then my body, still reacting to what happened to it, began to kill my blood platelets.  Over the course of 2 years I had to be treated for that.  When I had my little Arlis, all of it went away.  I am perfectly healthy today and that is my miracle.

Today I do believe in miracles.  Not just big ones like the one that happened to me, but little ones all around me.  We live in a world full of pain and sickness and corruption but we also live in a world full of miracles.  Breathing is a miracle.  Laughter....a miracle.  I have no doubt that God healed my liver.  I credit the many, MANY prayers of my family, my church family, my friends, my co-workers, and even people I don't even know who heard of my story.  I also know that there are skeptics out there.  I was one of them.  I believed God only healed through medicine, through science.  I believed the miracles of the Bible were for that moment in history not this one.  I was wrong.  I don't know why God healed my liver.  I'm no better than you or your sick child, or your sick mom or dad.  But I know God hears our prayers, He listens, and He has this whole messed up world under control.  So if someone is sick, do what the Bible says--pray!  Know that whatever the outcome, God has a plan.  And remember Isaiah's words-- But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Who Am I?

I'm excited about my first "real" blog.  I always have felt that my most effective mode of communication was through writing.  Back in junior high school my best friend, Amanda and I decided, after a few quite disastrous oral arguments, that we would only disagree on paper.  We would pass a sheet of paper back and forth discussing/disagreeing/fighting over whatever 13-year-old girls fight about and then we'd work it out, on paper, and then walk away as if nothing happened. It was old-fashioned, rudimentary text messaging, with the shouting in capital letters and everything.  Since then I have worked on my oral communication skills, of course, but I have always enjoyed and still do enjoy putting my thoughts into written word.

There's all kinds of pressure when you start a blog....I mean, it's kind of presumptuous to think people will actually read what you have to say, isn't it?  I  don't have great weight loss tips or nutrition facts or the perfect way to apply lipstick.  I don't and I won't pretend that I know the answers to all of the mysteries of life.  I certainly don't want a cliche blog about being a working mom or a crafty cooking female (although I wish I were crafty and that I had genius recipes, haha!) or the political decline of America, or a blog Jesus juking everything and everyone I see.  I just want to share a bit of my life with as many as I can.

Who am I?  And what makes me think you would want to read what I have to say?  I'm nobody special....but I have a special life.  We all do!  I'll spend some time filling in the details as I write, but here's the rundown:  I'm Sarah.  I'm almost 36 (yikes!).  I'm married to Jonathan Kelley, I have a baby boy, Arlis, that will be 2 in December, and I live in Lakeland, Polk County, FL.  I'm a pediatric audiologist (google it).  My husband is a pastor.  Here's my family:

And just for the sake of pure adorableness, here's one more of Arlis:

Yeah, he likes to wear hats and impress the ladies with his charm.  :)

This blog is going to be about the journey.  What has brought me here to this moment and what is to come.  There are a lot of exciting things ahead, so join me if you will.