When I was in a coma, I was aware of myself. I can’t tell you how much of the time I was aware because, well, I was in a coma.
I don’t know if I should call them dreams, visions or hallucinations but I prefer dreams or visions because they all had the same focus – my comfort and peace of mind. It was like God was reassuring me all through it that He had me – no matter the situation.
One thing I remember vividly is “seeing” myself laying in a hospital bed (I always saw myself laying in a hospital bed, completely incapacitated) and as I looked around me, I saw that I was in a room that had a staircase going upstairs. The walls around me were rich oak with frosted bevelled glass windows. The stairs had a fancy brass railing so I guessed that I was either on a yacht or in a mansion. Either way, I could see that I was in a very nice place.
I could hear people talking upstairs and, by the acoustics, it seemed that the room upstairs was a very large, open space with quite a large group up there. I could even hear their discussion. They were discussing where to allocate funding. From the nature of their discussion, it was apparent that this group wasn’t the slightest bit concerned with meeting a budget, they just determined how much money was needed for a given project and then directed that the funds be sent.
The conversation went on and on and I realized that there was no limit to this group’s resources – they just needed to make sure that each project was sent enough. All the projects they were discussing were humanitarian in nature – meeting the needs of people everywhere. The chairperson would ask the group members to bring up a project they were in touch with and the group members would speak up, explaining the project and how much was needed. There were projects like floods and famines and anything that left people in dire straits. After each speaker finished, the chairperson would say to someone (the treasurer, I guess) to make sure that the funding that was needed was sent.
As I lay there looking around and listening (all I was capable of) I realized that these people were also taking care of me. Even though I had no idea why I was stuck in a hospital bed, completely unable to do anything, I knew I’d be ok. I was in the care of people whose compassion matched their resources.
I remember being so comforted by this knowledge that I just went back to sleep. The funny part was that everyone in the upstairs room had Filipino accents. (My only explanation for that is that I love that accent and find it very friendly and comforting)
Another time, I saw myself in my hospital bed (and I always saw myself from my own point of view, not from outside my body) and I didn’t understand where I was or why but I saw through my open door that there was a lottery booth out in the hallway. As soon as I saw this, I relaxed back into my bed and thought “oh good – at least I’m in BC” (where I actually live except I was in hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel)
As I tried to see out into the hallway, I saw a young man mopping the floor. He kept mopping back and forth and I’d see him every time he’d pass my open door. Each time, he would look at me and just nod and keep going.
I felt safe, knowing he was keeping an eye on me. I knew I’d be ok
One more is that I saw a thing hanging on my wall. It was a box with what looks like sticks jumbled in it. After looking at it for a while, I figured out that it was one of those games that you shook and tried to get the sticks to make words.
But I was stuck in my hospital bed, unable to move, so I realized that if I closed my eyes and shook my head, the sticks would move. I closed my eyes tightly and shook my head and then opened my eyes and quickly looked at the box to see what it said. Every time I did this, I’d open my eyes to find a different encouraging messages! Things like “You’ll be ok!” “Everything will be alright” “Don’t worry”, etc. Each message would relax and reassure me.
It felt like it was God sending me messages to give me peace of mind and courage. Even though I always saw myself as completely incapacitated in a hospital bed, and I never knew what had happened to put me there, I never once felt afraid or panicked, always calm and peaceful, knowing that no matter what had caused “this”, I would be ok
As much as I encourage you to open new and challenging opportunities in life by having a default answer of “Yes”, I must also raise the caution of the cost of saying yes. In other words, there is much wisdom in counting the cost, in understanding – or at least being willing to accept – what consequences we might face, as a result of that Yes.
This is a crucial step in our journey through whatever that Yes brings us. If, after weighing the cost, you decide you are willing to pay it, proceed. If not, choose something else to say yes to.
Before I left for my first visit to the Gaza Strip, I explained to my children that not everyone who goes there comes back. The risk to my life was real and yet, my purpose for going was worth the risk. How else was I to bear witness to the truth?
At that point, I had no idea what lay ahead, but I knew, weighed, and accepted that it could cost me my life. It could have cost my children their mother; but to walk our path with integrity may mean that such risks must be faced, and it may mean that we walk a shorter and more solitary path than expected.
When I was struck by illness, I didn’t die. Instead, my brain and body were ravaged and left helpless. I woke up from the coma to find that the only things I was capable of doing were thinking, seeing, hearing, tasting and feeling – but no movement at all. My physical and mental abilities to speak were greatly hindered.
After being awake for some time and regaining movement in my arms, I found myself contemplating some of the more practical aspects of my condition. I couldn’t get up to go to the toilet, couldn’t even make it to a commode. Now what?
I slowly moved my hand to my body and discovered that I was wearing a diaper. I had been a healthy, active 45 year old woman and now, I was wearing a diaper. And that wasn’t the worst part. I didn’t have enough strength to do anything for myself so I had to call a nurse every time I needed to be changed.
I thought that was humiliating enough. I knew that the fact that I had come from Gaza put me in a position to possibly be discriminated against by some of the Israeli staff. (There was just one nurse that I was sure of. Everyone else was very professional and treated me well regardless of what they may have thought)
My first goal was to be capable of changing my own diaper. It was difficult, tiring and time consuming, but I was determined.
It was then that I discovered heartache on top of my humiliation. When I reached down to clean myself, I found that my skin felt like tree bark; thick, rough and hard.
Even though the man who called himself my husband was there and kept posting on Facebook about his undying love and diligent care of me, I realized that neither he, nor the nurses had provided me with the personal care I needed. I learned that he kept telling the nurses not to worry because he was taking care of me.
No one had brushed my hair. I finally had to ask a nurse to cut out the impossible snarl at the back of my head. I kept hearing this man repeatedly telling the nurses not to do anything for me because he would. But he didn’t.
When I needed help taking a shower, he told me that his feelings would be hurt if I asked for help so I waited. Finally I had to ask for help. The nurse on duty was the one nurse who made it clear that she didn’t think much of me. She pushed my wheelchair into the shower stall and hosed me down like I was a farm animal tied to a fence. I wasn’t yet able to raise my arms to cover my face so all I could do was sit there naked, sputtering and trying to turn my head while she pointed the hose straight at me.
More humiliation and more helplessness.
He kept telling me not to get help from any nurse for my next shower because he would help me and he kept telling the nurses not to worry about helping me – but I found out later that he was off “making a new friend” instead.
I sat on my bed, willing my arms back to life. I still couldn’t fully raise them but I didn’t need to. All I needed was for my fingertips to reach across the top of my head. Once I achieved that, I took my first shower alone. It took over an hour, left me completely exhausted so that I slept for hours once I got back to my room – BUT I was happy and proud of my huge accomplishment!
Does “yes” require a price? Yes. Sometimes that price is easy, but sometimes it’s hard.
Sacrifice isn’t a reason to say no, but it is a reason to stop and think.
I don’t regret my yes. Count the cost, so you can boldly embrace yours.
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