I just want to go home!
22 July 2017
On the next-to-last day of the Baltic prayer trip with Operation Capitals of Europe, we were praying in Vilnius down by the river. We had spent the day climbing one hill after another. We had won some glorious victories that day. But I was tired. Prayer is tiring enough without adding hill-climbing to it. It was day’s end and we were just about to split up for the evening. That was when I felt a spirit slide by. I should have paid more attention. I should have prayed. I should have rebuked the thing. I should have bound the thing as soon as I became aware of it. But we had just finished and I was exhausted. All I wanted was to go back to the hostel and put my feet up.
In Vilnius, down by the river looking up at the castle.
The next day I started coughing. Over the next few weeks the cough got worse and worse. I went to see my doctor and she said that my lungs were perfectly clear, so apparently it had been an allergy attack that caused drainage from my sinuses into my throat and lungs, making me cough. The strange thing is that I never had a single symptom besides the cough: no sneezing, no runny nose, no post-nasal drip, nothing whatsoever! She prescribed antihistamines.
When the medication was finished, the cough went away. I didn’t think another thing about it. Over two weeks later I went out to run my usual Saturday morning errands: buy a newspaper and get some groceries, no big deal, really. When I came home I did something very unusual. I went to bed. Normally at noon I would have a rest in my bouncy prayer chair. Instead I went to bed and slept from noon Saturday until about seven Sunday morning.
When I woke up I had goosebumps, which I knew had to be a fever because it was full summer and couldn’t possibly be cold. And the cough was back. This time it was a chesty, rattling cough that brought up hard brown cords of phlegm. So I took some over-the-counter cough syrup and aspirin to bring down the fever—for the next few days. I kept thinking that I was getting better, but I wasn’t. I had no appetite, and so the small amount of energy that I did feel went to doing other things like starting the process of getting my Permit to Live in Italy, and getting groceries as needed. But going into the kitchen to open even a packet of crackers? I had no desire for them, so the effort was simply too daunting. So I ate almost nothing for the week following the Saturday collapse. And since I kept thinking that I was getting better, I didn’t see the point in expending the strength to go to the doctor’s office.
On Friday I finally forced myself to go to the doctor, despite not feeling strong enough to do it. I had to face the fact that it didn’t seem like I was getting better. She examined me and immediately sent me to the hospital for an emergency x-ray. I told her: “I have a flight to the US on Tuesday.” She assured me: “You will fly on Tuesday!”
At the hospital, the emergency room doctor took one look at my x-ray and said, “We’ve got to admit you and start with intravenous antibiotics right now.” I replied: “I have a flight to the US on Tuesday.” She assured me: “You will fly on Tuesday, but we must take care of this right now.” She showed me the x-ray. My left lung was clear, but the right lung was fully half enshrouded in white with tendrils reaching aggressively into the remaining half. It was like seeing Shirley Temple (left lung) holding hands with the Wicked Witch of the West (right lung). I held out my arm and said, “OK, hook me up and let’s get the healing started.”
My right lung!
She had me hooked up to an antibiotic IV drip and I was sent to the waiting room to take a nebulizer treatment while I waited for the admission paperwork to be done.
When the treatment was done an orderly came to take me to my room. I was in the Emergency Medicine ward. My roommate was there with severe liver issues. The whites of her eyes were the color of mustard and she was as orange as an oompa-loompa. Poor thing!
I felt especially bad for her because I knew that I would continue coughing and spitting through the night—it would be like having an unruly dog in the room that barked throughout the night. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted me for a roommate. But she was sweet and kind to me, and so was her whole family. Yes, even in their concern for their mother/grandmother, her son and daughter and grandchildren were each very kind to me, politely asking after my health.
Being in the hospital is when I found out what great friends I have. Several friends came to visit, bringing me things from home or things that I needed (but hadn’t realized I needed). Others sent me messages expressing caring concern and promises to pray for me. I am so very blessed!
When the doctor saw me, she said that I have pneumonia with a severe pulmonary infection. I sang her that same one-note song that I had for the other doctors: “I have a flight to the US on Tuesday.” She assured me: “I will release you on Monday. You will make your flight!”
Thus reassured by all three of the doctors that had seen me, I was able to relax and concentrate on healing. I smiled as I realized that I felt just like Dorothy, telling everyone in Oz: “I just want to go home!” Over the course of the weekend, I found myself profoundly missing my mom. There’s just something about being sick that makes you long for your mom. Being with Mom would surely do at least as much for me as all the medications I was taking.
Each day in the hospital I felt stronger and better. My appetite slowly returned, primed by Italian cooking. Even though I was assigned what they call a white foods diet (primarily plain rice, mashed potatoes, and applesauce), it tasted good enough to coax my appetite back, and since it was already prepared for me, there was no effort involved besides putting it into my mouth.
I was on strong antibiotics (still am at this writing), and I’m not sure what is in the nebulizer treatments, but each treatment has left me feeling stronger and better. On Monday morning, the doctor came to see me. She said that she would see the rest of her patients, then submit the paperwork to release me. I was thrilled. I showered and dressed and packed up my belongings.
Meanwhile my roommate got some bad news from her doctor: the MRI showed a damaged place on her liver. They were sending her to another hospital to have surgery to remove the damaged section. Her prognosis was said to be good, and she seemed strong and healthy otherwise. Over the weekend her color had toned down some. But I can’t imagine having to undergo liver surgery. Please pray for Marcella.
I went home that afternoon just after lunch. My friend, Deborah, had gotten the suitcase down out of storage for me, and I met Sam, my guest. Sam had inquired about a place to stay through MiHOP, the Milan House of Prayer. As a HOP supporter, known for hospitality, I was asked if Sam could stay at my house. Of course I said yes. But all this was before the collapse and being hospitalized. Since Deborah was there to let him in, I didn’t see any reason to make him change his plans. People often stay in my house when I’m not there. So Sam was anxious to meet me, and to find out how I was feeling.
It turned out that Sam and I have a lot of overlap in our ministries, which is always exciting to learn about. Still, my energy level was not great, and I had to pack and prepare for the trip the next morning. While in the hospital, one friend had suggested that I make a list of things to pack so that when I got home, it would just be a matter of putting those things in the suitcase. That was valuable advice. So I packed and rested, packed and rested, checked in online and requested a wheelchair, finished packing, and went to bed.
I requested a wheelchair because both the Milan and Atlanta airports are very big, and there would be a lot of walking involved while carrying my backpack, which weighed about twenty pounds (almost nine kilograms). I had never used the wheelchair service because I had never needed help before. But having just gotten out of the hospital the day before, I knew that I would need help. The wheelchair pusher at Milan Malpensa was a really nice young man. When I arrived at the gate, he refused a tip, saying that it is a free service. He was the only wheelchair pusher that I had ever seen refuse a tip.
The flight was long (ten hours), but uneventful. I had a window seat and did my coughing and spitting as discreetly as possible. Since my seatmate had headphones on and slept through most of the flight, it seems that he was mostly unaware of it all. He was a really nice young Italian who was attending the University of Georgia. When we landed, the flight attendant had told me to wait until the other passengers are off the plane before disembarking in order to give the wheelchair a chance to get there. My seatmate, seeing me sitting there while the plane emptied out, asked if he could hand my backpack down to me. How thoughtful!
Imagine that this whole episode could have been avoided if I had rebuked that nasty little spirit in Vilnius. But God turned the evil into a blessing. I did make it home and though I am still coughing and spitting, I am definitely feeling better and coughing less and less every day. Through it all, I have gotten to meet some really nice people and come to a much deeper appreciation of my wonderful, caring friends and family. Yes indeed, there is no place like home. God is good!
Post Script – When the doctor dismissed me from the hospital, she gave me dismissal papers that described my symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment in great detail. On the last page it explained in very formal language that the cost of my hospitalization was €3,534. That’s almost a quarterly rent payment.
While I was in the US I came across an old HSA debit card. I called the bank and found out that there was about $4,100 on the card—exactly the amount to cover the hospital bill. Thank You Jesus!
So this morning, having returned to Italy, I went to the hospital to pay my bill. On the way, I thanked God for a full recovery and prayed that the bill would not be that full €3,534, but significantly less.
The cashier looked confused and said, “Why have you come here this morning?” I said that I needed to pay my bill and showed her the dismissal papers. She looked at the last page and said, “Madam, this is just to inform you of the cost incurred by your hospitalization. You don’t owe anything.” God is good! I want to shout it everywhere I go: God is good!
 Health Savings Account.
 Sorry to be disgusting!