When I was engaged to be married 25 years ago my fiancee was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythamatosis, a chronic, autoimmune disease that can affect the joints and almost every major organ in the body, including the heart, kidneys, skin, lungs, and brain. In this disease, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues and organs causing damage and inflammation. Over the years, she suffered many periods of remission and exacerbations and much medication, which also hava severe side effects.
We were not supposed to have children due to this disease, but after loosing two children (one miscarriage and one live child at 32 weeks, all due to this disease), God granted our wish and blessed us with two daughters who are now 19 and 16 yrs, respectively.
In 2004, my wife started to experience severe headaches that became more frequent and more severe each day. After being to doctor after doctor and hospital after hospital and being diagnosed with many things ranging from attention seeking, hypochondriacism, anxiety, unexplained headaches and pain relief not having any effect, we were at the end of our tether. One morning, after little sleep we managed to see her doctor who had been away when all this happened. He organised a brain scan, (no one else had done this so far!) and it was revealed that she had a brain haemorrhage that covered 90% of the left hemisphere of her brain. She was admitted immediately to hospital and had surgery to evacuate this haemorrhage.
We were both devastated and as nurses, we knew how serious this was and the outcome could end in death.
When I left my wife in hospital that day, I had to then collect my children from school and break the news to them. They were 12 and 9 yrs.
Breaking this news to them also broke me. How do you tell your children that their mother has a major illness, needs surgery and could die from either the haemorrhage or the surgery or both? How do you tell them that if she survives she may have brain damage and not be the same again? How do you deal with their emotions and grief?
This was one of the most difficult decisions/situations I was in. I had already determined that I could not hold any details back from them as they would know this and demand me to tell them. I know my kids and with-holding information would not work with them or myself.
This is what broke me. I realised I could not do this on my own. I was at the end of myself. I did not have the strength to tell them and prepare them for the worst case scenario or to even face this reality myself. In my brokenness, I realised that the only one who could help me would be God. So before I told them, I cried out to God, I told Him, I could not do this on my own, that I need to do it for my kids, I owed it to them to now be the stronger one in their lives. I cried and cried, I asked Him to take over for me. I found myself saying to Him that I accept whatever His will is for my wife and our family. I knew I had to give all the outcomes over to Him and let Him decide. I decided that if He healed my wife with no side effects, if she survived with brain damage, or if she died, I would accept that this is what He wanted for me and I had to acknowledge that He is still Sovereign, loves me and allowed this for His glory. In all this time pouring out my heart to Him, I knew it would do no good for me to harbour any bitterness or resentment towards Him. But I still stated to Him that despite all this, I would still like my wife to be healed and brought back to myself and our daughters and be restored as a family. I had no other source of strength, purpose or motivation to go on except to give all this over to Him and let Him continue to be in control.
When I did tell my daughters, they cried and I cried. They immediately wanted to visit their mother before the operation. We did. On the way there, they were honest with me about how they were feeling and even asked me how I was feeling. We discussed all our emotions and I then let them know what I had discussed with God. I was so impressed and relieved when they also stated they felt the same way. I know that on the surface it may have appeared superficial but again, I knew my kids and knew they would not have agreed to that without honesty and sincerity as they had already developed a healthy respect for and relationship with Jesus.
There were two more major hurdles in our way that we did not perceive. They both reminded me of the severity of the situation we were all in and that we had to continue to rely on God to see us through this.
To be continued tomorrow . . .