Now as a writer....I often look down at my hand and smile. God has a plan for that hand. He is in complete control. Here's my story.....
THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
by Debbie JansenAfter a busy Christmas season my left forefinger began to shake uncontrollably. It trembled for several minutes every hour. The shaking caused the top of my hand to ache.
“Dad, look at this.” My finger shook and an attached vein pulsated.
“That’s strange. How long has this been going on?”
“About two weeks.”
“Honey, you’ve been stressed out with all the work at church, the kid’s colds and your cake decorating business. I think it’s just stress.” I agreed and tried to put it out of my mind.
I tried to ignore the problem and get more rest, but the trembling increased and woke me out of a deep sleep. I can handle loud babies, decorating cakes, end to end meetings, and demanding men, but I can not go without sleep. I’m crankier than a two-year-old if I lose sleep. After a few sleepless nights, I was complaining to my doctor. He peered at me over his glasses and smile. “I believe it’s just a pinched nerve. It’s an easy fix. We’ll put a splint on it and I’m sure it will be fine in a few days.” The doctor’s comforting words made me feel better as I rushed through my day.
Two days later I was back in his office screaming with pain. The hand was swollen twice it’s size and wouldn’t move. He sent me to an orthopedic surgeon who found a small broken bone in the wrist. The surgeon didn’t like the temperature of the whole arm so he insisted I see a neurologist - immediately! After three tests the neurologist shook his head and explained, “The arm is dying. The fall that broke the bone also damaged a nerve. That nerve is sending a message to other nerves to cut off the blood flow to the entire arm.” To demonstrate he held my arm in the air. It began to turn a gray ash color as if it belonged to a dead person.
“What is the prognosis?” Dad put his arm around me for both comfort and physical support.
“She has a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.” The doctor put his chart on the table and moved closer. “In a week the arm will be completely without blood and will begin to wither. She will lose all use of the arm. If it is injured, we will have to amputate because without blood it won’t heal.”
My mind was spinning. Amputation! How could I accomplish future goals without an arm? I wanted to do my daughter’s wedding cake. I wanted to play the piano in church. Dad looked away from me and stuttered for words.
The doctor broke into our shock by saying, “There’s a possibility we can fix it. We can try as many as six ganglion blocks. Hopefully, they will override the damaged nerve, allowing blood to flow into the arm. Sometimes the blood flow will heal the nerve and stop the problem. If it isn’t better after six treatments we can try surgery. With a little luck one of those will work. If not, we will have to amputate.”
Why does he keep using that word? I wanted to say something but I couldn’t breathe. I was still wobbly trying to deal with the term amputation. They wheeled me to the outpatient surgery clinic and asked me to lie down and prepare for the procedure. How am I supposed to prepare for this? The anesthesiologist took out a long needle that looked about three feet long to me. Okay so I was a little overwhelmed at the moment. Maybe it was only two feet.
“Please lay back. We will go in the front of your neck and hopefully isolate a nerve in your back. If we can locate it and deliver the right amount of medication, it will over ride the nerves in the arm and allow blood to flow. Understand?”
“NO! Are you going to push that needle all the way to my back?”
“Why don’t you just go through my back?”
“Too many muscles. We wouldn’t be able to find it. Ready?”
I wanted to yell at him but instead froze. His nurse moved my neck into position.
“Don’t swallow”, she whispered. “He will be near your vocal cords and we don’t want to damage your voice.”
“How long will this take?” My lips trembled and my shoulders tensed with fear.
“Five minutes. Exactly five minutes.”
Tears ran down the side of my face and created a puddle behind my neck. I didn’t swallow and barely breathed. The pain was intense. I was petrified. I begged God for mercy. I clinched my fists. Oh God, where are you. The anesthesiologist hit something that caused intense pain and felt like shock waves flowing across my back. I squeezed my eyes tighter. Have mercy. Please God, have mercy! I wanted to peek at the clock on the wall but I didn’t dare open my eyes. The image of him poking at my neck with his jack hammer wasn’t something I wanted to remember. Oh God, how much longer? Five minutes usually passes without a thought but this time it seemed like an eternity. The adrenaline was pumping, my heart was racing and I was in pain. Please God, please let this work so I never have to do this again.
“Thanks Sarah, we’re done.” I felt the nurse wipe my throat. I took my first deep breath and recalled an old song. There is a Savior, what joys express. His eyes are mercy. His word is rest. For each tomorrow, for yesterday. There is a Savior who lights our way. Thank God there is a Savior who cares about us and protects us each step of the way.
The first treatment was a wonderful success. Five minutes after the shot, I looked at the anesthesiologist and said, “Who turned on the heat?"
He smiled, “Look”, he said, “Watch!” I watched my arm turn fire engine red as the blood made its way to my hand. When the tips of my fingers were red, the paralysis was gone. There was no pain. I was moving my fingers wildly and laughing hysterically.
The anesthesiologist giggled with me. “Good, you’ve got a chance.”
The doctor peeked in to see how I was. “Look!” I proudly displayed my hand. “It feels great.” He nodded his approval. “Doctor, was my finger shaking so hard because it was damaged?”
“No.” He scratched his head and started writing in my chart. “Mrs. Jansen, I have no idea why it was shaking. Without blood it should have been completely paralyzed.”
My Dad choked back a tear. We realized the miracle God had preformed. God knew how serious the problem was even when I didn’t. We both believe that God caused a minor irritation to send me running to the doctor for help. What a loving God we have. He counts the hairs on our head. He knows when each sparrow falls and He even watches out for a tired mom.
No matter what problems you are experiencing, remember that God cares for you. He has more answers that you could ever imagine. He will stand with you no matter what the trial may be. Like my arm you must be connected to the blood source or you will die. Jesus is the Vine and to live the good life we must stay connected to Him.
My hand was like useless branches that must be discarded. When the blood (Jesus Christ) flowed through my veins, it brought the dead back to life. God can work miracles and give you the answers you need for your life.
“Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing. If anyone separates from me, he is thrown away like a useless branch, withers, and is gathered into a pile with all the others and burned.” John 15:5
God loves you,