We are just starting to recover from eight life altering days of a Crohn’s Disease learning intensive; our first lesson in what I am sure is a Masters level course with lessons in vigilance, patience, love, the tenacity of friendships and the power of prayer.
On February 9th, Anthony was no longer able to endure the pain of the Osteomyelitis despite pain medication and typical antibiotics. In agony, unable to stand upright, febrile and becoming disoriented from lack of sleep, he was finally seen by an infectious disease doctor who took one look at him and said Anthony must be admitted immediately – immediately. And so after a frightful few moments in his office as I held Anthony, comforting him while countering his fears of a hospital and needles and assuring him he was not going to lose his job or die, I gently nodded to the doctor over Anthony’s trembling shoulder to begin the admittance process.
For the next five days Anthony was heavily medicated to relieve the raging pain while heavy doses of strong broad spectrum antibiotics flowed to his veins from the three and sometimes four bags hanging above him, an antibiotic cocktail. For the first time in weeks, his exhausted body knew sleep. Family and friends briefly came to show support but intuitively knew to then give Anthony space to heal. Whole churches prayed for healing. Anthony’s beloved Samantha and I kept vigil, rotating in and out so that we could take care of things for Anthony – FMLA papers, his tax appointment, his banking, bringing his favorite blanket and pillow from home, shopping for the treats we knew he would eventually want, posting updates and working our own jobs as best we could around this nightmare. We massaged his feet and his one good hand that wasn’t track marked up and swollen from the IV’s, the seemingly endless blood tests.
On the sixth day, Trudy and Jeremy came; Jeremy drove two hours from Ft. Wayne. Together they sat with Anthony, Sami and I to share in what they knew all too well – something Jeremy defined for Anthony as, “the new normal.” We talked for several hours as only new students at the feet of master teachers can, absorbing every bit of wisdom they offered, every tip; drinking in the comfort and soaking up the knowledge that this disease comes with remarkable people who will come at a moment’s notice to tell you – you are not alone; people who will drive two hours to tell you – you will survive and you will be a better, stronger person for it even though you don’t see it now; people who will teach you what questions to ask and how to be strong and direct when medical decisions are being made by those not knowledgeable in this disease. It was in those moments that we knew the baton was being passed. Our day would come to return this moment to the universe, the day when we would walk into a hospital room, see a stricken Crohn’s patient with their family keeping vigil and we would sit with them and gently say – you are not alone; you will survive . . .
On the seventh day, Miss Nita, Anthony’s new Patient Care Provider (PCP) came into the room to check his vitals and IV. On the seventh day Miss Nita looked down at Anthony, smiled and said, “This morning I was reading in The Word and praying and the Lord told me someone was going to need me today. When I came in here, He told me it was you. Could I pray for you, Anthony?” With tears in his eyes, Anthony nodded yes.
Miss Nita prayed like only an African-American mother can – with all the force and fury of her Pentecostal and Baptist heritage. In full, robust, resplendent verbiage she tore into the demonic forces of sickness like mother lioness defending her young. It was like nothing I ever witnessed as the fury of righteous indignation swirled around the room. With a rhythm running the full range of human and otherworldly emotions, rising and falling, commanding and tender, Miss Nita bound the illness, wrapped it up with all the spiritual authority given her in that moment and sent it “straight back to the pits of hell from whence it came” in the name of all that is Holy. She then tenderly implored Jesus to heal Anthony’s body as she gently laid my child at His feet. Tears slowly fell down Anthony’s cheeks – and mine. What a powerful moment. It was palpable! And then, as if all the sunlight in the world flooded into Room 6610, something changed. I mean it – something changed. Anthony’s countenance changed; the energy in the room changed. Something happened.
At Anthony’s request, Miss Nita prayed with him two more times that day – in the same way. Each time, Anthony grew stronger, happier; he was laughing and up and walking straight for the first time in weeks; his temperature went to normal ranges; his blood cultures came back normal.
On the eighth day, at the end of the eighth day, Anthony was released.