Last Sunday night, our pastor’s daughter, a young professional, gave testimony of her medical missions trip to Africa (part of her schooling to be a nurse practitioner). She is a very petite, blonde-headed young lady . . . but don’t you be fooled by her physical size . . . God has truly equipped her with some big plans and she’s ready to take them on.
This was the first time Jason and I had ever heard Jessica speak. And given that her dad and mom are both so incredible at preaching and teaching, I was not surprised in the power of her presentation. She embodied intellect, information, humor, passion, emotion, burden and just simply love in her presentation of that month of her life. She was involved with a team that set up mobile clinics in the “bush” of Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. They faced adults and children who had malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis and other illnesses and diseases . . . they also had people who were cut or injured who needed stitches or antibiotics for infected wounds. She found herself praying aloud for complete strangers when medically she could do nothing. Held infants, some in the last hours of their life, and prayed and begged God for a miracle when medicine was not enough. She prayed for women who came to the clinic who wanted to get pregnant as culturally it is necessary to bear children, many children, to be accepted in society and by even by their husbands. And many other stories of people, real people, who were in desperate need for medicine and miracles, Jessica shared for a little over an hour.
Needless to say, for those of you who know me, I cried from the time Jessica began to speak until I got up to go get the boys from their classes. And I know you are asking, “That’s great, Amy, but why include it in your diabetes blog?” There was a slide of a little boy who had tuberculosis in his bone (I believe that is right, it was TB and it had to do with his bones). This sweet little boy about eight to ten years old or so, sat on a cot in Jessica’s clinic while she took a picture of why he was there. There was such a growth on his back, under the skin, as if there was another spine that started inches below his neckline and protruded outward so much that it looked a huge bump on his back but the skin looked normal. I don’t know if it caused him any pain. But I would imagine that it would only continue to get worse and was effecting his overall health. And Jessica’s comment was that if he was in the states, he would have been immunized for this disease and this would not be an issue for this little boy.
That struck Jason and I in the heart particularly hard. In all this diabetes mess . . . Jason and I have desperately tried to figure out what Ryan’s “environmental trigger” was to set this whole diabetes life into motion. He had not been sick in forever, there had been no traumatic event (that would cause enough stress), we don’t know of any infection he had that would cause his immune system to start attacking his own body. But immunizations have been something we have struggled with. Most medical personnel will argue that there is nothing that can support that any immunization could cause diabetes to trigger. But there is article after article that supports this possibility. Ryan had a round of immunizations in April and then again in October (because Texas and Missouri require different immunizations, so he was loaded up to get into school). His diagnosis followed just two months after the second round. Made both of us very terrified to have Aaron immunized for school at the end of last month. And there has been an anger and fear towards immunizations and a frustration that it was something that was required for us to give to Ryan that caused this disease, if only we had refused, would things be different for him. Would he be T1-free if we had just been more educated on side effects or possibilities? It just goes on and on in our minds even though if we KNEW that was the trigger, we could do nothing for him now.
But the words Jessica said Sunday night, “If he was in America, he would have been immunized . . . ” and he would not have the disease and deformity that he has and will perhaps live with for the rest of his life and possibly even take his life. Jason and I talked that night about diabetes vs. immunizations. If we had the choice, we’d choose diabetes for him again even if there was proof that the immunizations did play that role as trigger. And it made us think how thankful we are that we live in America, we have medicine, we have insulin and glucometers and test strips and ketone sticks and glucagons and icing gel and Capri Suns and low carb snacks with high protein content and food we purchase at a super market that give us carbohydrate counts and sugar content. Diabetes really sucks . . . but he has a MANAGEABLE DISEASE and we live in a country that has wealth and insurance and pharmaceutical companies (the latter two of which I often am upset with or fighting with) that can provide Ryan with what he needs to be healthy.
Oh, God, let me be thankful for cards that I have been dealt! Let me see how blessed I am that I have a child who has been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, not an incurable or terminal disease. Let me find a way to still be grateful that I live in America despite the mess we are in economically, morally, politically, spiritually and otherwise. Help me be patient with the pharmaceutical company who charges way too much for insulin and test strips and pump machines, for without them, my son might not be alive. Help me to praise you that when I look at Ryan, when the world looks at Ryan, they do not see a child with a disease because diabetes does not alter his appearance or deform or cripple his body (if we keep him healthy and managed). May I ever be reminded that life with diabetes is hard and overwhelming and exhausting and frustrating and constantly present . . . but it could always be worse.
God used Jessica in a way I am sure she never thought possible Sunday night. She was a voice that helped two parents gain some much needed perspective, to find a way to praise despite our circumstances and to accept that our ways are not HIS ways and that he promises never to give us more than we can handle and that there is a purpose and a plan for us . . . for Ryan with Type 1 Diabetes.
And as I write, God is still speaking to my heart. I have the television on a Christian music channel and as I write and listen to God speak to me all over again as I recall Jessica’s words and pictures, MercyMe is singing “Jesus Bring the Rain.” Now (Krista C), I am still not there yet; I am a work in progress! 😉 But for those of you who don’t know, Bart Millard (lead singer for MercyMe) wrote that song after what he describes as a really hard year when his son was diagnosed with T1D and a few he was close to died unexpectedly in the same year. I am not ready to tell God to rain hard times in my life and the life of my family, but I am at a tender place with God and diabetes today and in my humanness, I am not always there, but needed to share my perspective for today.