These past four months have been hard. What started off as a simple (back?) injury spiraled into something worse and worse and worse as I did not have a correct diagnosis or access to adequate health care. In my last post, I wrote that I was going to be leaving for Vietnam in the next few days and that I felt healthy enough to do it. In that next week, the friend who was supposed to join me had visa problems that prevented her from going, and suddenly my back injury was acting up to the point that I couldn’t walk. The night before I was to leave, I made the difficult decision to cancel the trip. The instant I made the decision I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Even though I was disappointed, I knew it was the right decision. The unbooking process took less than fifteen minutes and my friend and I received almost all our money back. We were extremely grateful.
For the month of July, however, I was stuck in China because I had to turn my passport into the Chinese government for Visa renewal, which took three weeks. I started vacation July 3, so, in this time I was doing nothing but laying on my bed as I’d re-injured my back again. But this time it wasn’t getting better. I could hardly walk and eventually it was difficult for me to even take care of myself as bending over was extremely painful. I went for the seventh time to the Chinese doctor, who gave me a CT scan and told me, “Oh, you have a herniated disc, you should go swimming,” and walked out of the room.
It was then that I began to be paralyzed by fear. I hurt my neck one evening and suddenly, I was going numb down the entire left side of my body, the worst of it in my face and tongue. One minute I was convinced I had broken my neck and was going to be paralyzed, the next that I was having a stroke, and I believed, with utter finality, that I would not make it back to America. I was suspended in a sickening waiting game, paralyzed by fear, by the unknown, unable to do much on my own, and stuck in China because the government had my passport.
Looking back, now, I see the irrationality of my fear, but I am astounded by the incredible compassion and love of the people God placed in my life. Friends offered to shop for me, brought me food, prayed for me, and one friend even came and helped me pack the week before my flight. My friend knew a Chinese woman who specialized in back massage, and she came with a friend of hers who acted as translator. In my terror, I sobbed the entire time she worked on my back and neck, but they prayed for me and the translator would talk to me–and they wouldn’t accept payment for the service.
The week before my flight, my pastor and his wife (both Americans) took me into their beautiful home so I wouldn’t be alone. They took care of me, fed me, did my laundry, and drove me to the airport, making sure I had a wheelchair service when I landed in Korea for an overnight layover.
Looking back on all this, I am blown away by the kindness I was shown. My great-grandmother, who fled the Russian invasion of Hungary after WWII, always said that there are good people everywhere you go if you look for them. I had found that to be true during my travels in Europe, and especially so in the past few months. Even though I was terrified, God was providing for me in the most incredible of ways. Though I felt alone, I never truly was.
I finally arrived in the US on August 1, and finally got to see a back specialist who told me that my spine was completely fine. Everything was related to a right SI joint (hip) injury. He prescribed physical therapy. I realized that the numbness I was experiencing was from anxiety, and once I realized that it disappeared completely. For me, anything was better than a herniated disc and the prospect of an extended healing process and a lifetime of pain, which I’d been contemplating for a month.
I’ve been in PT for two weeks now, and my right SI joint injury hardly bothers me anymore–though I’ve also developed a right hamstring strain, a right calf tendon strain, and cysts behind both my knees form trauma (nothing to be worried about). I’ve delayed my return to China by two weeks to continue physical therapy to get me in shape to be able to live my life, work, and take care of myself when I return, so I don’t end up in a situation like I found myself in in July, overwhelmed by anxiety.
In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying my time at home. I got to go to a wedding in New York, visit relatives in Maryland, and go camping on Lake Michigan. I am really enjoying spending time with my family, with our new puppy, and with old friends.
I just praise God for this time in my life, that he has shown his faithfulness to me through it all, that he took care of me even when I was feeling most neglected. I am so thankful for good health, in a way I never was before, and that I have access to good doctors. I am thankful for the people who helped me, and, that in a strange country, I have friends (and even people I don’t know) who are willing to go out of their way to help me. I’ve learned a lot in this process, and I pray I can return to China asap to continue to work with my kids and continue to grow the friendships I have in China.