Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
by Fiona Chow
I was hospitalized this summer for more than seven weeks. During that time, I can say that I truly walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Each day, I faced different forms of pain and hardship. There were several incidences in which I was in such critical condition that my doctors, nurses, friends and even family members did not expect me to recover.
I experienced a tremendous spiritual battle. Many times I wanted to give up. By God's grace, my Lord rescued me from a seemingly hopeless situation. Day by day, I experienced miracles, and when I was released from the hospital, people were amazed by my recovery.
In the afternoon of July 30, I was taken to the emergency ward of Vancouver General Hospital with excruciating pain from cramping and complications with urinating and serious constipation. X-rays showed that I had a blockage in my stomach. Dr. McGregor, my surgeon, informed us that he would have to operate immediately and that I would need a blood transfusion.
At about 1:00 a.m. that same evening, the doctor came out of the operating room and reported to my family that my condition was extremely serious. He removed three-quarters of my stomach. My lungs had collapsed due to perforations caused by broken ribs. The food I had eaten earlier had entered my abdomen. Dr. McGregor said the operation itself had gone smoothly, but I was in great danger of not recovering from the complications aggravated by my Parkinson's. He recommended that we notify family members. It was apparent he felt my chances for survival were slim.
That first week, my physical body was essentially unconscious but a spiritual battle raged in me. Satan taunted me and bombarded me with accusations: "You should not accept the blood transfusion. You should simply die." ... "See how selfish you are! If you live, can you imagine the kind of burden you will be to your family and friends?" ...
By God's overwhelming grace, the battle was still the Lord's. Indeed I was very weak and inclined to give up and die. But God kept His promise: He said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." On several occasions, I actually experienced my body and soul trying to separate from each other, but there was an invisible force pulling them together.
During those seven weeks, my physical condition was like a roller coaster. Changes occurred without warning. Just when it seemed I was getting better, I contracted pneumonia; a blood clot formed in my throat; fluid collected in my lungs; I developed a bladder infection; and there was a blockage in my feeding tube so that I wasn't able to receive the nutrients or medicine I needed.
At first, Satan's attacks were doing their work. I wished to leave and be with the Lord and every time I opened my eyes, I was greatly disappointed to find that I was still in the hospital. Then God brought me to my senses and reminded me that since I was not dead, I should do my best to continue to live a life that is worth living. That was my turning point.
When I realized God was continuing to give me life, my health was rapidly restored. People were amazed at my improvements. Blessings, like rain, showered upon me. Though Satan prowled around like a roaring lion, God's protection enveloped me each step of the way. These were some of His great blessings:
1. When I began to recover and was ready to come out of ICU ("Step Up"), I was to transfer to a regular room which I would share with three other patients. We did not have extended health benefits for a private room. By God's wonderful mercy, there were no vacancies in a regular room so I was placed in a private room. It was not necessary for us to bear any of the cost for it. Also, at one point, when I was in a regular room, my condition deteriorated dramatically so I was put back to "Step Down." I stayed there for several days and when I was ready to return to a regular room, I was again very surprised and grateful to find that they had reserved the same private room for me.
2. Most of the nurses were kind, respectful and cheerful. There were only a few who were not so nice. Almost daily I prayed that I would have the care of a very kind nurse. One day, I had one who was not so "friendly." I asked God why I got the nurse I had. He asked me, "If everyone prayed like you, then which patient would get the unfriendly nurse? My grace is sufficient for you. Learn to rest in me." Indeed, after that, the seemingly "not so nice" nurse turned out to be "not so bad!"
3. While in the hospital, my greatest frustration was not being able to express myself. Because of the operation, I could not speak. The rigidity and stiffness of my body made the situation that much worse. At times, I felt sorry for those who were looking after me. I could imagine their own frustration in not being able to understand my requests. I realized that the only thing I could do was pray. I asked God to give the nurses wisdom and in those seven weeks, He did not fail me once. Each time it seemed that it was impossible for me to make my request known, the nurse would miraculously understand.
Now that I have had time to reflect on my experience, I've asked God about His purpose for me to go through such suffering. The answer I've received is "to produce spiritual fruit" - endurance. I pray He will continue to grant me the endurance I need to run the race He has set before me. I believe the ultimate purpose for my life is to glorify God. He knows what is best for me; therefore, the only thing I can do is to trust that He is with me - even through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.