How Being Paralyzed For Three Months Brought Me Closer to Jesus. Part 2.
The Date: January - March 2002.
The Place: A Hospital. Long Island, New York.
The Setting: A hospital bed.
SCENE 4: On the road to a miracle . . .
The surgery to repair my hip and ankle lasted for eight hours. There was a lot of anesthesia. There were two blood transfusions. They removed as many bone fragments as they could. They put me back together and hoped for the best.
The ball of my hip was completely cut in half. It shattered. Normally, a hip replacement would have been the solution. I was not a candidate. So my doctors put me back together in hopes that a few months in the hospital would cause the bone to grow enough to where I could start trying to walk again.
The doctor who performed the surgery was not hopeful. He couldn’t imagine my right hip ever regenerating enough bone to be able to function.
In a week’s time, I crashed, I was broken, I was put back together again (not nearly as good as new), and I was told to lie in bed a wait.
Nothing is worse than waiting for an answer when there is none on the horizon. But this “waiting-room” is exactly where God needed me to hear His voice and to find beauty in brokenness.
Lesson 1: Humility.
I couldn’t move my body from the waist down. My left leg could move slightly but moving it caused severe pain in the right leg, it wasn’t worth moving it. The surgery gave me 50 staples in my right hip and thigh. To this day, I have a candy-cane looking scar that starts at my back and travels all the way down to my mid thigh. I cannot feel anything above or below the scar due to nerve damage.
My right ankle was in a cast in order for the screw to set. I had compression balloons on my legs to prevent blood clots. An IV line was buried in my neck so I couldn’t turn my head to the right. I had IV’s in both of my arms and one in my right hand. I was hooked up to more wires and cords, I looked like a tangled ball of Christmas lights.
I had a catheter because I couldn’t use the restroom by myself.
My mother, who diapered me when I was an infant, was now doing so again as an adult. My sister helped on days when my mother had to work. I could not bathe myself.
I couldn’t move myself up on the bed. My mom had to pull me up from one side and a nurse from the other. To change my bed sheets was a two-hour ordeal because any slight movement sent excruciating pain down my body.
My hair was caked in dried blood. My mom and dad used a bedpan and shampoo to wash the blood out of my hair and off of my face. I couldn’t scrub my hair because the stitches to sew my head back together were still healing. They washed my hair five times and the blood still wouldn’t come out.
I couldn’t wash my hair, go to the bathroom, take a shower - without someone helping me. Things that I took for granted - gone.
“God, I’m not prideful. I am one of the most humble people I know. You've given me so many gifts and talents, and I’ve given them all back to You. My prayer every time I hit a stage or platform is “Let Your glory be evident. Let the people hear You through me. Let them see You in me.” So why? Why such a degrading existence? Why be brought so low?”
“To teach you that I am in control. Erika, you cannot do everything in your own power. You must rely fully on me. (Zechariah 4:6) You cannot be in control of everything. You must rely fully on me. You cannot direct your every step and expect me to bless it. You must rely fully on me. I am your source. I am your shield. I am Your all in all. I must bring you down low to raise you up in my will and stature.”
And so for three plus months, I had to fully rely on God and the people He put in my path for every basic necessity of life. I was humbled.
Lesson 2: People will walk into your life. People will walk out. It’s just the way it is.
When you spend three months in a hospital you become a revolving door of patient/roommates coming in and out. I had at least a dozen. Some more memorable than others.
The first roommate was a sweet woman with blonde hair. Bethany. Bethany was with me for the first week before she was discharged. She broke both of her wrists and I couldn’t walk so we made a great pair. She walked around the room getting things for me. I opened things for her, turned pages of books and changed the tv channels.
She gave me peace. I made her laugh.
Sometimes God sends people you can rely on. They become your feet. You become their hands. But God knows that you cannot move into the next chapter of your life with them. They need to fly and so do you. That was Bethany. After a week she flew away and I was left alone to only rely on God.
There was Anne. She was loud. Her family was loud. Her visitors were loud. They didn’t even care they were loud. I’m Italian and from New York and I’m telling you - she was loud! She was sandpaper to me. Smoothing out my rough edges and teaching me how to be patient with the most annoying people.
There was Esther. She was with me for one night. She died in her sleep in the bed next to mine. I remember singing to her before she drifted off to her final rest.
Then there was 88-year-old Eve. God sent her to me to teach me compassion, patience and strength.
She was senile and had broken a few bones from a fall. She slept through the day and was up through the night. She was nocturnal. I was not and as God would have it, she was with me the longest.
The first two weeks Eve was my roommate, I didn’t sleep. She would stay up every night and call for “Sal”. “Sal, did you make the pasta?”, “Sal, the kids need the meatballs.” “Sal, stir the sauce.” “Sal . . . SAL. . . . SAAAAAAALLLLL”.
Now before you think I have no compassion, please understand that I was with this woman for two weeks, twenty-four hours a day. I couldn’t leave the room to get a break. I couldn’t even walk! She never let me sleep! Ever. She cried and yelled and screamed and kept bossing me around. That in between CAT scans, MRI’s, x-rays, pain, pain and more pain, pokes, prods, needles, IV’s, catheters, and did I mention pain . . . Eve and “Sal” were just too much.
“Girl, get up and get me some water.”
“I can’t walk Eve.”
“Then get Sal.”
“Sal isn’t here, Eve.”
“Well then you get it. I’m thirsty, Girl.”
“I said I can’t walk Eve.”
“I told you to get Sal.”
“SAL ISN’T HERE, EVE!!!!”
And this went on for two weeks. I would always ask her about Sal. But she slept during the day so she was unavailable to answer.
One evening, at my lowest, I yelled at the top of my lungs to be quiet and go to sleep. The nurses ran in and yelled at me. I yelled right back at them. It isn’t a moment I am proud of. Little did I know God was setting the stage for another lesson.
Eve’s family came to visit. Before they drew the privacy curtain, I asked her daughter who Sal was. I explained that Eve spoke to Sal every night as if he was in the room.
Sal was Eve’s husband. He had died a few months before Eve came to the hospital. Being High School sweethearts, married for fifty-something years, Eve could not get over losing her best friend, her world, her everything.
I began to cry. This little lady was confused, lost and alone without her Sal and here I was losing my patience with her and hating her because she never let me rest. I asked The Lord for forgiveness. Despite my pain, I should have been patient. Despite my lack of sleep, I should have shown strength. In spite of my condition, I should have shown her compassion.
That night I changed my strategy.
“Girl, get up and get me some water.”
“I can’t walk Eve.”
“Then get Sal.”
“I’ll go get him. (Costume Change - Put on my best New York man voice and Action) . . . Here I am Eve.”
“Sal, honey I am so thirsty”
“How about we go to sleep first and get some water in the morning?”
“Will you sleep next to me tonight Sal?”
“I’ll sleep in the bed right next to you. You need to get your rest tonight, Eve.”
“Okay Sal. I love you.”
“I love you too, Eve. Always will. Now get some rest.”
That night was the first night Eve and I slept peacefully in over two weeks.
I could win an Academy Award for my portrayal of Sal in the weeks to follow. Some may say I lied. Some may say what I did was wrong. When I explained to her daughter what I had been doing, she told me I gave her mother hope and rest.
Sometimes, God sends people who bring out the worst in you so that you can see yourself for who you really are and change to become who HE has called you to be.
Eve taught me compassion. Eve taught me patience. And Eve eventually gave “Sal” the recipe for her coveted pasta sauce!
After Eve, I was alone for the rest of my time in the hospital. Outside of my best friend and my family, no one visited.
No one. All that remained was me and God.
It’s amazing how many people abandon you in your darkest hour, isn’t it?
Lesson 3: He gives us songs in the night.
Another month went by and I couldn’t start therapy. The ankle hadn’t healed enough to put weight on. The hip still was shaky. Both were on my right side so any physical therapy on one would hurt the chances of healing on the other. I was stuck in that bed another month.
I was mad. I was mad at God. I looked at the same beige walls every day. No windows. Just beige. No color. Just beige.
I lost all of the color I once had. I lost the reds of passion. The blues of peace and calm. I lost the joy of yellow. I lost the royalty of purple and the sweetness of pink and I began to blend into the beige walls.
I didn’t pray. I cried and yelled at God every night.
“YOU LEFT ME!”
I have served You. I have loved You. I never rebelled. I didn’t 'do the college thing'. I’ve never smoked or drank. I have given You everything I have. I have worshipped You. Written songs to You. Prayed, fasted, Bible-Studied to You. I’ve taught Sunday school and I’ve been to Youth Group and You have abandoned me in my darkest hour. Do you see my pain? WHERE ARE YOU?”
Have you been there? Have you ever been angry at God?
Like Jacob, I wrestled with God and He dislocated my hip. (Genesis 32:24-32) Like Jacob, to this day, I still walk with a limp - a constant reminder of my time wrestling with God. And like Jacob, God would begin to bless me in ways I could never imagine.
To make matters worse, when my dad would come to visit me he would always say, “Keep singing, Er. You have to keep singing.”
“SING? Are you freakin’ kidding me? Sing? Like this? I can hardly breath without pain and you want me to sing to a God who has left me? I love you dad, but you have got to be out of your mind. I won’t ever sing to Him again.”
Yes, I know the verse, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) I didn’t want to hear it.
I vowed never to sing to The Lord again. I was a worship leader in my church. I had been on the praise team since I was thirteen. I wrote my first worship song at twelve and at this point, fifty other songs were penned by my hand to The Chief Musician and I vowed never to sing to Him again.
Late one night I was lying in my hospital bed and the pain was excruciating down my right leg and I wasn’t due for pain pills for another hour. I laid there alone and sobbing. Not praying. Definitely not singing. Just sobbing.
Out of no where, I heard a still small voice . . . (1 Kings 19:11-12)
“Erika, I will keep your song until you can sing it again.”
Complete and total peace swept through my hospital room. I felt warmth cascade down my right leg and I wept.
God was with me and I felt Him and I heard Him. When I was horrible, He was merciful. When I was angry, He became peace. When I ignored Him, He spoke to me. Through tears I begged God’s forgiveness for my unbelief. I felt His love, not His condemnation. His understanding, not His judgement. I saw my foolishness in the eyes of His power.
I picked up my journal and began to write. . .
“Oh Lord, You’ve been so good to me.
When I could not sing You were the melody.
Oh Lord, You’ve been so patient with me.
When I could not walk, You carried me.
My life is in the hands of the Keeper of my Song." ©Erika Michelle 2003
After I wrote it, at two o'clock in the morning, I opened my mouth and sang a simple tune. A simple song. But in the midst of the pain, I found my song. It was there all along. The Lord was keeping it, until I could sing it again.
Do you feel that painful situations have caused you to lose your song? Trust me, my friend, it isn’t gone, He is holding it safely in the palm of His hands until you can sing it again. (Job 35:10 and Psalm 77:6)
Lesson 4: When you come out of an experience with God, you will see differently.
It was time for me to leave the hospital. Three month in a hospital bed, surgery, countless CAT scans and MRI’s. A ton of x-rays. Stitches. Countless roommates and nurses. I was ready to leave this home that I had lived for three months.
My mom wheeled me out of the hospital in a wheel chair. I couldn’t walk. I left the beige room, the beige blankets, the beige walls, the beige floors and ceilings. It was time for God to show me how to see through His eyes.
When I went outside for the first time, the sky was the brightest blue I had ever seen. I asked my Mom if it looked different to her. She said that it was the same. The grass was so bright. The green’s were dancing from grass to trees. Every car that passed was the brightest red, the sparkliest silver, the purest white.
I asked my Mom why everything looked different and she said, “You’ve been seeing beige for three months. Of course everything is brighter!”
The truth is, when it came to The Lord, I had been seeing beige my entire adult life. I knew the God of my parents. I knew the God of my grandparents. I knew the God of the Pastor’s. I knew the God of my best friend. But I didn’t know Jesus for myself.
My Dad would tell us that we would eventually have to find God for ourselves. The three months in the hospital caused me to find Jesus. Not anyone else’s Jesus . . . mine! He gave me a new hip and a new walk. He gave me new vision and new eyes.
My friends, God doesn’t bring us through the fire just to tease and torture us. There is always a lesson at the end of the pain. He was showing me that He was in control. He was showing me that no matter where I am He will never leave or forsake me.
What lessons has He taught you out of your pain? How has he increased your vision to see His plan? How has He changed your path and your walk?
He brought me out of darkness - out of beige - into His marvelous light! (I Peter 2:9)
Lesson 5: God of miracles
Before I left the hospital, I had a final x-ray. It showed the right ball was in half and the bone wasn’t regenerating like they thought.
I received a phone call one night from a Pastor who knew my dad. He said, “You don’t know me but I want to tell you that I had a dream about you the other night. You were put on our prayer list by a pastor friend of mine. I saw God come down and touch your right hip. He is putting it back together again and you will walk. Do not fear.” With that, he hung up the phone.
After leaving the hospital, I would live in my wheel chair for another month as I underwent therapy to walk again. Two weeks after I let the hospital, I went for an X-ray on my hip. This was my first since leaving the hospital.
I stood out of my wheel chair and got on the x-ray table. I told the tech it was the right hip.
“Are you sure, ma’am?” “Um, yes, I think I know what hip gives me pain everyday.”
“Ma’am, I am looking at your right hip and it looks perfectly fine. Let’s see what Doc has to say.”
God miraculously healed my hip. Yes, I had to learn to walk again. Yes, I still limp, but it is put back together again. He healed my brokenness. The doctor saw the x-ray and said that the hip looked great. I had to get rid of the wheel chair and start really hunkering down on therapy to walk.
I left the wheelchair in the doctor’s office and walked out on crutches.
My car accident was in January of 2002. By June 2002, I was leading worship again. I was walking. I was dancing. Yes, I was in pain from time to time and I still had a limp. But the occasional pain and the limp is God’s reminder to me of how far I had come.
Our painful memories are not there to be a continual cause of hurt. The memories are there to show you the beauty that God has formed in you out of your brokenness.
I shared this testimony with you to show you that we still serve a God of miracles. A God who is always with us. A God who never leaves or forsakes us.
Everything He did for me, He can and is doing for you. You may feel at your lowest - He is getting ready to lift you up. Learn the lessons along the way. You may not even know God. You may know of Him. You may know my Jesus or a friends Jesus, but He wants to make Himself YOUR Jesus. You may be broken, but the Bible says He will give you beauty for your ashes. (Isaiah 61:3). You may spend your days crying out to God wondering if He hears. He not only hears and sees, but He is moved by your tears and your prayers. (Psalm 56:8)
When I was in the hospital, my dad’s mantra was “Keep singing, Er. Keep singing.”
My Mom had a mantra too. Everyday she would come in and ask. . .
“How are you doing today?”
“I am hurting. I can’t move. I am in pain. I don’t want to live like this.”
And everyday she would return my complaints with “Today is your BEST DAY!”
“How are you feeling today, Er?”
“They have to move me from bed for an MRI. They are filling me with pain meds now to deal with the pain.”
“Today is your BEST DAY!”
After two months of “Today is your BEST DAY”. I figured God was talking through my Mom so I picked up my journal and began to write a new song once again . . . .
“Today’s my BEST DAY.
Today’s my BEST DAY.
And all that I have struggled through will only make me strong.
You’ve carried me to higher ground.
It’s You I lean upon.
I’m in Heaven on earth - holding Your hand.
And no words can express the feeling that I get.
It’s Paradise.” ©Erika Michelle 2003
No matter what you are going through today - if God is with you - which He is (Trust me!) - You are in Paradise. In the middle of your pain - is Paradise. I know it doesn’t feel like it. I know you can’t see it. I know that pain and memories can cripple you from getting to your future. I know you are broken and beauty is far from being found.
Remember to “KEEP SINGING!” No matter what - Keep singing. Don’t let anyone or anything rob you of your song. Today is your BEST DAY and all that you have struggled through, will only make you strong. Keep your head up, Bee-utiful one.
He healed me from being paralyzed in a hospital bed for three months. He took away my pain and replaced it with purpose. He took away my brokenness and created beauty. He took away my tears and gave me joy and He can do the same to you.