Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday Shots

I don’t know how the month of April snuck past me. I usually gear up for my birthday month, because how can you not set apart the month of your birth for special celebration. And me of all people! I love birthdays. I think it’s a crime that Kenyans don’t think celebrating birthdays is important. Case in point, my foster daughter Milly thought until a few days ago, that she was 16 and born on April 28th then we spoke to her birth mom who said she was in fact 19 and born on April 6th.
I know my date of birth, the fact that this year I scheduled a painful procedure that may possibly alleviate my back pain the morning of my 42nd birthday did not escape my notice. It’s a long story…
I saw a back specialist at Cure International at Kijabe Mission Hospital (about two hours from Nairobi) in February. The MRI and the doctor’s visit proved inconclusive. The back specialist could not determine why I had pain on the right side of my back.
I met a young woman at church, named Ashby, who could be the subject of a whole other blog, who’s fiancĂ© is a famous doctor in Canada. He is famous for treating among other things, mystery back pain! So I emailed the Canadian doctor who got back to me promptly with a possible solution. Inject lidocaine into the scar and muscle tissue that is painful to get the tissue to release, as it was previously all knotted up!
I forwarded said email that gave procedure directions to the back specialist, who forwarded it to the pain specialist who works out of the Cure clinic in Nairobi one day a week. Tuesdays! For the week before my scheduled procedure I had been in pretty severe pain, so I didn’t want to put it off. So that’s how I ended up with 30-some injections in my back on my birthday.
But let me back up, (that wasn’t a pun)… Monday is Bible Study day. I attend two different bi-weekly Monday Bible Studies. Ashby attends the one that was on April 22. I got a text near the end of Bible Study that it was raining hard in Ngong (and as my 23-year-old, who tends to exaggerate a bit, texted – there is an ocean forming outside our gate! Come home early!)
Ashby, who spends the night at my house after Bible Study because she has recently opened a children’s home in the bush and can’t get there after dark, has a four-wheel drive vehicle so we didn’t rush out of Bible Study. This was a good thing because the women laid hands on me and prayed for healing through this procedure I was to endure the next morning.
There was in fact a small lake, ocean is a bit strong, in front of my house, but Ashby’s vehicle easily crossed it.
Ashby and I made pasta, salad and French bread for the girls and Gracious. My Kenyan niece, Gracious, who is six, has been a fixture at my house for the past two weeks as her mom who works overnights at a gas station, looks for a new house help. 

Sorry about the blurry picture - I need to train Ashby on proper operation of the camera!

Ashby had bought me a present and gotten at everyone at Bible Study to sign a card for me! After pasta we ate chocolate cake from the local supermarket that is dyn-o-mite!
Me and my girls on the eve of my 42nd birthday!

The next morning my neighbor offered me a lift to Nairobi as I was leaving! Lorraine is my upstairs neighbor. I don’t know her well but her kids are friends with Gracious and spend a lot of time in my house.
She dropped me off and I walked about ¾ mile to where I boarded a matatu for Westlands where the clinic is located. When I got to Westlands I walked another ¼ mile to the clinic.
I was early and spent my time waiting for the doctor in prayer. It went something like this: God please let this procedure work. Please take away my pain. Please be with this doctor, guide her hands, make them instruments of your healing.
Breathe, Breathe, Breathe, pray some more.
In walks the smallest doctor I’ve ever met. She was tiny! After a few minutes the nurse called me to take my vitals. Wouldn’t you know it my blood pressure was low. 97/51.
I convinced the nurse that I hadn’t eaten breakfast and that my blood pressure usually ran low. Started to kick self because of not having eaten anything…but I was so anxious I couldn’t bring myself to eat…so lesson learned. Force-feeding oneself on occasion is called for!
Then I went to see the doctor who asked me about my medical history and talked to me about the procedure she was going to perform. She also told me it would be painful!
I wasn’t quite prepared for the pain. Little pops of pain as the lidocaine entered the muscle…so many time that I stopped counting. As I laid on the table recovering, I noticed severe pain further down than she’d injected. When I mentioned it she probed the area and said I could come back another time to inject that area or I could do it now but that she didn’t want to overwhelm me.
“Do it now.” The thought of the mile walk and the two bumpy matatu rides I would have to endure made the decision easy. Of course this was the tightest muscle and of course the most painful. Saved the best for last!
As I lay on the table crying from, I think, relief more than pain, she reached over and took my hand and said, “Can I pray with you?”
“Oh please,” I said. I knew Kijabe was a mission hospital. I knew mission hospital doctors were encouraged to pray with and for their patients. But the back specialist hadn’t asked to pray with me.
My being was flooded with God’s pure grace, mercy and love as my doctor prayed for my health, my ministry and for God’s blessing on my life. As I walked back to the fancy Westlands mall to eat at my favorite salad bar (my birthday treat), I started to contemplate the experience.
When we are at are lowest, when are backs are against the wall, we cry out in prayer. “God, are you listening? Here my prayer.” And we cry and wail and we tell God about our pain, frustration, anger, hurt. We’ve been betrayed, belittled, beaten, physically or emotionally harmed. We need healing.
That’s what I felt like in the waiting room. And then a tiny angel in the form of my doctor walked through the door and said, “this will hurt but it will be worth it.” And isn’t that what being a Christian is all about enduring the suffering because there is an ultimate heavenly reward.
And then she prayed…and while the pain didn’t stop, I felt something more important healing. I felt the frustration and anger I had held onto for so long about this back pain begin to ease. God has a plan. He has a plan for my life and for this pain. He loves me. He doesn’t want me to suffer. This too shall pass.
So in years to come when someone asks how I spent my 42nd birthday. I will tell them about my 30 birthday shots and the praying doctor who began my healing celebration.