TITLE: Praise God He gave me a second life
By Nancy D'Costa
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PRAISE GOD! HE GAVE ME A SECOND LIFE!
Ps. 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom
shall I be afraid?
My God who says ‘fear not’ as many times in the Bible as there are the number of days for a year
and who says in Jn. 15:1 ‘… every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful’, moved His pruning knife on me mightily in the first half of this year – 2007. All through this time of my testing He gave me such a wonderful time of learning about Him and His ways and His wonderful people that I now stand at His feet in awe, and wonder what a Mighty and Awesome God I have with me to take care of me all the days of my life! I also wonder how I managed to exist so far without the knowledge of His most loving Parenthood. So here I place before you the thesis of my ‘Pruning Time’ which has made me understand and experience the feelings of the psalmist in the Shepherd’s Psalm (Ps.23) especially when he says ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’
I am Ms. Nancy Henrietta D’Costa, aged 43 years. I am married to Mr. James Neslyn D’Costa, 48, whom his friends call Nes. We have been married for 20 years and have no children. Though we have left no stone unturned to find the cause for it, this matter has not perturbed us much as people expect us to be, for we have learnt to rest assured in God’s wonderful plans for us. We reside in Mangalore, a city in the state of Karnataka, India. Nes works for a bank as a credit officer and I work as a professor at a College in Mangalore. We have been a part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the past 16 years. We are moderately involved in church activities and are a part of the movement ‘Couples for Christ’ since Dec. 2004. We have taken up the charge of the CFC family ministry ‘Youth for Christ’ in Dec. 2007. Writing has been a passion with me but secretly so, since I write in order to refer to it later in case of need. If I have sent my personal writings for publication in the past, they have been under a pseudonym except those which relate to my profession.
In a very strange way I find that God has exposed me to many odd situations, which most would label ‘terribly trying’. In another testimony, which has been published in my parish bulletin at the insistence of our assistant Vicar in the year 2000, I had shared a wonderful time when I experienced the presence of God in a series of ‘impossibles’ regarding my maiden, unescorted travel to a foreign country, which was to Assisi and Rome, to present a poster at the Seminar organized for professors in the Jubilee year. I have been exposed to many ‘impossibles’ especially because I have traveled alone a lot in the past three years in connection with my research work which has often put me in very difficult situations. But every single one of them has left me a wiser person opening my eyes to God’s wonderful ways, made me more patient and braver. I wrote this present memoir at my doctor’s suggestion and also because all those around me wanted to know what went wrong when I was ill. To be frank, this came out mainly as an expression of my gratefulness to God and to all those who helped us at the time. Some of my friends and well wishers suggested that I publish my testimony. I am not at all familiar with publication and if this has reached your hand, I take it that God has somehow worked to bring it out and it is with a grateful heart that I say thanks to Him, to all involved in its publication and to you for helping me to glorify His name.
Now I begin my testimony. The roots of my story go back to around 8 to 10 years. Somewhere towards the end of the past decade I seemed to often develop an ‘sudden sickness’ which would begin with a sudden pain in the lower right side of my abdomen (where our appendix is) followed by high fever and vomiting. If the medication was either delayed or what was taken was not fit to heal me, I would soon get into such complications and be practically carried to the hospital in an extremely critical condition; all sorts of high doses of antibiotics would be administered, but in the end, my discharge summary would always pose a question mark in the place of diagnosis. This recurred at least twice a year and the blame would finally rest on my tensions or my over exertion, the reasons which I knew to be baseless.
I have for sometime had a history of endometriosis or rather adhesions in my abdomen, responsibility for which some of my doctors in the past have placed on a D & C that I underwent in the year 1990 which was in fact done to set right my infertility problem, needless to say, it never solved the problem. In the year 1996 I underwent an urgent appendix surgery as the abscess that had formed had burst open. In the above cases (D&C and appendix), I had actually got the best of the doctors who had treated me with utmost care and concern and I am absolutely sure that they had done their level best with best intentions for me. I can only say that God has His own way of working in my life and I can say boldly with conviction as St. Paul says in Romans 8:28 ‘… in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’
I seemed to have developed my ‘sudden sickness’ after my appendectomy though my doctors opine that uterine infections were also the cause for it. Every time I would be discharged after my ‘sudden sickness’, we would consult a spate of gynecologists who would assure me that none of the symptoms pointed to the adhesions as their cause. Though they would advise me to undergo hysterectomy or an operation to correct the adhesions, they would invariably back out due the complications that may ensue. Of course we too were ready to keep away from such a complicated surgery if they were not the cause of my undiagnosed sickness. Umpteen kinds of tests, scans and what not, had been conducted to find the cause for my sickness without success. I state these health problems as a background to all that took place from February this year.
It was in on February 9th this year that I fell quite seriously ill. I started with the chills while returning home after attending an early mass. I felt so stricken that it was difficult to even stand up. I managed to just reach home and lie down. Nes then used to stay at his place of work and would come home twice a week. Having noted that I had reached home but was not seen around as usual, my aged mother came in search of me and found me in a very critical condition with a high temperature. She found me shivering with severe chills, which was one of the usual symptoms of my sickness. My mother went to our family doctor to get medicine and then my husband after he came home, since going to a qualified physician was out of question as it was a Sunday. In the evening our CFC friends visited us and when they found the state I was in, they offered to take me to Dr. Maben the next day.
Dr. Maben’s first comment on seeing me was that I should be admitted, oral intake of food and fluids be suspended and be started on IV. It was with my husband that he seemed to have said ‘it is too late.’ My kidneys, which otherwise looked normal and functioned normally till then, suddenly seemed to have failed and I was diagnosed to have suffered from an ‘acute renal failure’ (ARF). My creatinine level was shooting up and the nephrologists suggested that I undergo hemo-dialysis in order to prevent damage to my kidneys & to take care of the problem. But all this time the reason for my kidney failure was again a guess work and a big question mark. My husband seemed to have been in an inconsolable state and this was the first time I had seen him so broken. But God who knows all things had sent His angels to take care of me and him and all our needs. There were with us Ben-Rose, Harry – our CFC friends, there was Charles – my colleague, and of course there was the ever present Norbert – my husband’s cousin. There were other people who visited us and gave us moral and prayer support – My College Principal, sisters, colleagues, the whole band of CFC, my friends and parishioners. They were all there to take care of both of us – name it and they did it for us. We did not even have to worry about our food or the fluid or any special diet I was prescribed. The result …? After two dialysis, the antibiotics and other medication, I was discharged just in a matter of six days. Praise God! To speak of the seriousness of my problem ARF …? Medical sciences say that ARF patients requiring dialysis have a very small chance of survival, especially in a small place like Mangalore … just what my doctor had told my husband ‘it is too late!’. Remember what the word says in Mt. 19:26? ‘With God all things are possible’. After all none less than my God was in control who has said ‘Do not be afraid – I am with you! I am your God - let nothing terrify you!’ (Is. 41:10)
Before I was discharged Dr. Maben had told my husband that I should be operated for hysterectomy once I was strong enough and at the earliest. When Neslyn pointed out what the doctors had said in the past, he insisted on it anyway as there may not be a second chance for me if the same problem recurred. Since we had come to respect him and his word greatly and as I recovered quite fast, I was admitted for my hysterectomy on the 12th of March. Due to my anaemic condition and the need for blood transfusion my operation took place only on the 14th night.
So begins the second part of my story! The word that had got firmly rooted in my mind before I got ready for surgery was ‘…for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’ (Jer.29:11-13). I knew that mine would be a very complicated operation. Some doctors had discouraged me from undergoing such an operation in the past and had cautioned me of the likely complications. Even the doctors I had consulted at Bombay had told me of the complexity involved. But now that we had decided to proceed, we placed our trust in God. I knew He would put me in the hands of the best doctors
The mess caused by adhesions in my abdomen was even beyond doctors’ expectations. They later confided to Nes that they had even contemplated briefly on the option of closing my abdomen without hysterectomy having discovered the state of my adhesions. It was further found that the long history of these repeated intra-abdominal infections had taken their toll and my immune system had taken a toss.
Though with courage my doctors proceeded with my operation (God bless them for their courage!) and took enough and more care and caution to check my intestine for possible perforations after the surgery, my condition was worsening day-by-day. The problem seemed to have come to a head when on the 19th I started with an excruciating pain in my abdomen. My past problems had fortified me to bear quite severe pain but what I was experiencing then was incomparable. I was in the MICU of one of the well equipped hospitals, with no family members near me except the attendants and they never seemed to understand the intensity of my pain. It appeared to be ages since I had started groaning with pain, pleading that they contact my doctors but their response was that they were unable to contact them. Having failed to convince them that it was no ordinary pain, I practically threaten them before I could convince that they call at least my husband who was in the room above. No one is permitted to enter the MICU except the doctors and the attendants for fear of infection. I think that was the first time he had seen me cry so much with pain. Between my groans I managed to tell him that I wanted him to contact my doctors wherever they were and also that he should call the priest to give me the last sacraments. At that moment I did not mind whether I lived or died. The only concern in my mind was for the pain to subside. I knew the attendants could not give me pain killers due to my recent kidney trouble. My only hope was my Jesus. (I remembered later what Sr. Olivia, my former Principal and the present Provincial of the AC congregation, had told me. During her father’s long illness he had been given this sacrament 19 times after which every time he had recovered.) Just as I was crying with pain before my desperate husband, my sister residing at Mumbai telephoned. She was stunned to hear my agonizing cry over the phone. She took the telephone numbers of both my doctors. When she called them up they were just concluding another surgery somewhere else and promised her to visit me at the earliest. But long before they could make it, our CFC friend Bernard had managed to contact the priest in my parish and he came with Fr. Edwin (the assistant parish priest) and Fr. Victor (Director, CFC). Later when the doctors arrived, I was given a sedative after which I don’t remember much except that once at night my pain again seemed to have awakened me from my sedation. I did not find any attendant near me to inform them of the terrible pain that had recurred. Since it was deep in the night, I tried to stifle the groans and decided to sleep on my agonizing stomach forgetting that I had been operated just four days back. Though it was extremely difficult to move, I managed to sit up when I noticed a nursing attendant in the next ICU watching my struggle though the glass partition that separated our rooms. That is why I say that God keeps his angels to guard us at all times! She was a Tibetan whose name, I found out later, to be Purbu Tensing, a girl with the sweetest of the dispositions. I do not know how soon she had reached me for I seemed to have lost my consciousness and when I came back to consciousness, I found her speaking to me in a soft and concerned tone and gently she reached out to administer another dose of the sedative. That seemed to have taken care of me till I surfaced to consciousness the next day as I was taken for a CT scan. As I was taken past the corridors and rooms I saw a sea of familiar faces. Anyone I thought of, they were there! Was I glad to see them, though I found it strange that they were finding it difficult to return my smile! I did not realize then, that my extremely ashen face had wiped off the entire smile from their faces. There was my colleague Charles, Bernard-Rosy, my friends, my relatives and of course the ever present Couples for Christ. They were all a great support to my dear husband. Two of us had learnt to lean on each others shoulder for the past 19 odd years and when my husband was facing a time when it looked as if the shoulder would be snatched away from Him, God seemed to have provided him so many of them for moral and any kind of support he needed, you name it! Of course there were many more out there on their knees and folded hands, to help him wrestle with death in order to save his wife!
Many tests were conducted on me to know the cause of my deteriorating health without much success. My doctors who had performed the surgery were very confident that nothing could go wrong due to it as they had taken every caution. But here again the angel whom God had chosen for me (and of course all through my illness) was Dr. Maben, whose intuitions always seemed to work in tune to the cause of my problems. He seemed to have insisted on a CT scan and of course the reports seemed to confirm his doubts – there were leaks in my intestine which had inflamed my peritoneum causing Peritonitis in addition to septicemia. Again, Peritonitis by itself is a grave life threatening sickness. The inflammation in my abdomen caused by septicemia seemed to have damaged my intestine. The realization caused a great flurry among my doctors. In spite of my extremely unsteady and delicate conditions – unsteady and very low pressure, pulse rate, blood count … - it was decided on an emergency operation on the same day. All the necessary signatures were taken from my husband whose nightmarish experience seemed to have been aggravated when he was told that anything could happen on the operating table and without the surgery of course there was no hope. In addition to the already strong shoulders of our friends that God had provided Neslyn with, he found those of two noble souls, my physician Dr. Maben and my surgeon Dr. Harishchandra. The great affection that we feel for them today is mainly because of their love and concern and the time they give to their ailing patients and family members, very rare qualities to be found these days!
My surgery was successful but no guarantee could be given about my survival for the next 24 hours. Of course that was what my doctors felt reading my symptoms, but not all those on their knees holding on to the Lord’s feet! They were so many of them standing before the Lord with my family – The couples for Christ, my college – sisters and colleagues, my parishioners, my friends who seemed to have strengthened their hold on the Lord’s feet with the help of all the retreat centres, prayer groups, their friends and well wishers in Mangalore, all over India and abroad and their hosts in heaven too! There were SOS prayer requests sent on the internet. Could anyone defeat that army? No indeed! I seemed to be recovering against all odds and just when all were feeling confident of my recovery; my doctors were posed with another grave problem to battle with. This was thankfully something which was known only to me, my doctors and the MICU attendants present at the time, thus Neslyn who was just beginning to believe that I was on the way to recovery was spared the pain and anxiety.
It happened like this: On Wednesday night I woke up to notice the flurry of activity around me, the urgent beeps of the machines and a gas mask covering my face. I could feel the tension round me and when the attendants noticed that I was awake and watching, they seemed to retreat hastily in an effort to behave they were busy with their own work. Inspite of their ‘everything is normal’ behaviour (I am sure they had not forgotten the Sunday night!), the almost tangible tension around me prompted me to tell my attendant, who was struggling to act nonchalant, that instead of worrying so much she should call up my husband in the room upstairs and tell him to pray. Pat came the reply, ‘Nothing is wrong with you, you are fine!’. Hardly had she finished her sentence two things happened simultaneously, one of my machines gave a heart rending beep and my surgeon entered the MICU and rushed to my side. His face and his words ‘I am sorry Nancy’ told me that something was very wrong and that his sorry was for not being able to do anything more for me. Inspite of all the odds around me, I felt quite at ease. All through I never felt in my body that anything was so seriously wrong with me or that I would die, though, the scene around me pointed to it and everyone there seemed to feel so. I remember even to have had enough stamina to grumble about the system of the MICU that does not allow my husband to come inside even when I was going to die!
Later I was to know the cause of all the tension that day. I had suffered from the Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a rare and newly discovered health complication. It is the rapid onset of respiratory failure (inability to adequately oxygenate the blood) caused by extensive lung inflammation and small blood vessel injury that can occur in critically ill persons. The condition can be life threatening and occurs when the lungs cannot perform normal gas exchange due to severe fluid buildup in both the lungs. Septicemia, multiple transfusions, trauma and/or severe pulmonary infection, are among the many conditions that can trigger it off. With very limited research regarding its treatment, the problems that can ensue with the delay in its diagnosis are quite frightening - to the extent of requiring the patients to be placed on a mechanical ventilator at a very high of cost treatment. But in my case, with God by my side and the prayers of His people caressing me, my doctor’s guess is that my condition must have been diagnosed quite early to have reverted back so quickly. God in His goodness seemed to have taken care to see that even no extra discomfort or pain was added to me due to it, by seeing that I was either asleep or had lost my consciousness at the critical time.
From the following day onwards, there seemed to be steady progress in my health condition. Most of the patients in the MICU are generally unconscious and are oblivious to all the happenings around them. But all through, except for the short spells I have mentioned above, I was fully conscious. With none of my family members or loved ones around me, the attendants very busy with their work, it was a time for me to look around and reminisce about the wonderful way in which God had ordered my life. It was a time to count His many blessings in my life, especially in the person of my husband, the best life partner one could ever be blessed with and of course so many loved ones! I have mentioned that we are a childless couple, but would anyone be taken care of in a better way than I was and with so much love and concern from so many?
It was time for me to look round and see the terrible suffering and misery of the patients in the MICU, it was a time to see the helplessness experienced by patients, family members and doctors alike waiting for God’s own time and His way to take care of their misery and uncertainty. It was a time to experience the futility of human existence without the Almighty’s presence, His help and guidance. All through the almost two weeks of my MICU stay, Neslyn seemed to have counted none less than five deceased taken out of the place during his permitted two hours a day MICU visits (where I found him everyday faithfully standing outside the Unit trying his level best to gauge my condition personally). MICU is a place where most critically ill patients with least hope for survival are generally placed.
Best of all it was a time for me to bask in the love, affection, concern, support or call it what you will, of so many of God’s own angels. They seemed to have come to my aid forgetting even their wings in their hurry! I never ever knew in my life that people around me were so caring and loving. God did not forget to send a few angels even to the MICU I was in! There was Purbu, the one I have already mentioned above, there was one called Jincy, there was Wilma and a few others whose name I do not recall, and there were the beautiful, young, innocent and wide eyed ones – students of nursing on their practicals, among whom there was another very caring Tibetan by name Tensing. They all took turns to ease my pains and complaints, alleviate the bouts of heat that I was suffering from in whatever way they could, at the same time taking utmost care not to oblige me and instead making me forget my thirst on all the days I was forbidden to take anything orally. Somehow we all seemed to have developed a special bond; one of the reasons might have been that I was one of the very few who looked alive and kicking in the whole of the MICU! Somehow the prayers of all my dear sisters at St. Agnes convent seemed to have come true verbatim, for it was Sr. Prem who had written a small note and sent it into the MICU when she had come to see me, to say that they all pray that God’s beautiful angels may surround me always!
It was a time for me to truly appreciate God’s wonderful gift of fullness of life. I learnt in this time much, much more than all that I had ever learnt in all my life. This was a special time when God reminded me of His wonderful and loving words of truth, like ‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all ways …’(Ps. 91:11), ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil …’(Ps. 23:4), the many ‘fear not’ and ‘It is I’s, ‘With God all things are possible’(Mt.19:26)/ ‘Nothing is impossible with God’(Lk.1:37), ‘Everything is possible for the one who believes’(Mk.9:23), ‘when you pass through deep waters, I am will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you, when you pass through fire you will not be burnt; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. For I am the Lord your God …’ (Is. 43: 2-3), and of course along with so many others my ever so favourite one, ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose’ (Rom 8:28). I know it was a time He had set aside for my ‘practicals’. And of course, with all this it was time for me to realize, tell myself and pray that I should never be the same old Nancy again.
One may very well conclude – In this modern age with so much of advance in the field of medicine what is so great about the healing received by me? For this my answers are these. First of all we know that the field of medicine is and will remain incomplete, has failed to answer many healings/happenings, has failed to find an answer to many disease. Secondly there are many health issues that have not found the optimal solution from medicine, for research on them is very limited. My last problem of ARDS is one such. Thirdly the four life threatening problems that were encountered have a very high mortality rate even in advanced countries like America and there are cases from India which were shifted to the western countries for treatment in the past that have ended in the death of the patient. (I really feel wonderful about my Mangalore which seems to have great doctors who can take care of such serious problems with expertise!). Fourthly, you only need to check the Internet for facts and figures on the problems that came my way and discuss them with experts or knowledgeable people to know the gravity of each of them. Finally, this is what I have to repeat from what Dr. Maben said when my sister thanked him for all that he had done to save my life – ‘Thank the Almighty not me! I think it is all because someone’s prayers were being heard. When we tried to do one thing something else would come up and we would be against a wall!’ Of course, medicine has done its part, so have my doctors chosen by God for me – ever so the best one could find. Nothing less than Rs.75,000/- worth medicine has gone into me in the month of March 2007 alone. One of the reasons why I was kept in the MICU for so long and, with a board ‘Admission Restricted’ outside the door even after I was shifted to the room was the fear of infection. My doctors seem to have commented, ‘I don’t think there is any medicine left to be given to her if she gets into any other problem now!’ They seemed to have been relieved to find that other than surgery and related problems that I had, I suffered from no other single common health problem which could have complicated matters. Do you feel prompted now to say a loud ‘PRAISE GOD’ with me? Please do so!
Here if you think that my trials were over you are wrong! During the second surgery, it was found that the inflammation caused by Septicemia and Peritonitis had created a situation which required my large intestine to get a breathing time of three months for a natural healing. Therefore my doctors had performed a colostomy whereby they had fixed my large intestine by an opening on the right side of my stomach. The rest of the intestine had to be left free from all its activities so that it could heal naturally from the perforations. This required that I get a person to take care of me even after I was discharged. Here I think all of us have experienced the difficulty of finding a maid, leave alone the right one, to do the kind of work required for a colostomy patient. Believe me when I say that I got exactly the kind I needed even at such a short notice about which I would like to defer my narration a little.
The three months of my colostomy saw me recovering quite fast. By the time of my discharge from the hospital on the 4th of April, I had been reduced to mere skin and bones with no appetite whatsoever, many health indicators showing me to be far below the required minimum, like difficulty in speaking, dizziness and weakness and the like. But in a month’s time I had started getting some semblance of a normal person and I think by the second month I looked almost normal. By the third month I did look normal, except for the bulge on the right side of my stomach where the colostomy bag was, though it was not very obvious. I could speak without any difficulty and do many things by myself. With the completion of the healing time of 3 months, having found that there was complete healing with a barium X-ray, I was operated for the last time for a colostomy repair. The tests conducted prior to the operation revealed that all my health indicators were very well within the normal limits. My hemoglobin, which normally showed an 8 for the past so many years and which had not shown anything more than 9 even after courses of Iron capsules, had risen to 11.9 just by my diet! I was not given any medicines after my discharge except for a short course of antacids. Remember I had taken all the medicine I had to during my stay in the hospital and there was no scope for any more?! Of course I was on a high dose of protein supplements for a month since my protein level was 1.5 after my surgeries in the month of March. This is what I heard from my surgeon regarding the progress I had made - generally patients who had gone through the problems I had, improved very slowly. But in my case there seemed to be an exception, I had recovered quite fast and well! Would you like to say ‘Praise God’ with me?
My colostomy repair operation took place on the 21st of June and again I seemed to be recovering faster than expected. I had been placed on liquid diet. As I rested on my hospital bed I would think of the terrible and sleepless nights that I gave to all including Neslyn, my family members, friends and of course my doctors and would pray to Jesus to give me such complete healing all through the rest of my days that I may never ever trouble anyone in anyway in future but instead, that may He use me to bind the broken hearted, the suffering, the troubled, as he has given me sufficient practical training in the field!
This is what Dr. Harishchandra had to say regarding my recovery: ‘We seem to have been really tested in a furnace by God and I think this time even He is tired of the testing. So He is healing Nancy faster!’ This was said on the 23rd of June and the same night I faced another problem. Though the barium X-ray clearly showed that my intestines had completely healed, I discovered that the bowel movements, which had just begun after a lapse of three months due to colostomy, did not fully find their way out as normally as otherwise. I had heard that such a problem is faced by some women after delivery when a fistula develops on the rectal wall due to pressure. I seemed to suffer from similar symptoms but with a greater intensity. With trepidation I consulted my surgeon to discover that I did have a problem. I decided to spare Nes and all the rest from further tension if I could help it as I had given them enough trouble. I wanted to speak out with someone whom I could depend upon. So I called up my sister Nora as she was the only one who could take it well and support me emotionally at the time. Moreover she had contacts with many doctors. I would call her up at night and bare my heart to her and she would try her level best to allay my fears.
I was taken for a test by my doctors the next day and on examination it was found that the rectal wall did have a perforation of half a centimeter. My surgeon had to decide whether to repair it or leave it to natural healing. These were such terrible days of uncertainty and anxiety for the threesome; my surgeon, my sister and me. Though I slept well due to the medication and had no lonely moments to worry during the day amidst all those who came to visit me at the hospital, I don’t think my sister and my surgeon were lucky enough to get a peaceful sleep, when they must have been hoping and praying that there would be no other perforations higher up in the large intestine which by now all of us knew to be very dangerous. After all one was already there though not so serious! Do join me in saying ‘Praise God!’ because there were no other complications except that I had to undergo a lot of discomfort because of the fistula. I had to be very alert when I had people around me as not to cause me embarrassment especially due gastric problems, a common problem after any surgery involving intestine. My very concerned and considerate surgeon wanted to spare me more pain and we decided to leave the fistula to natural healing. I was discharged from the hospital on 30th of June.
In the past whenever someone confided their problems with me and would ask why God permitted such a thing when they had done no wrong, I usually told my friends what I always believed to be true with regard to the innocent sufferer. I would tell them that among many other reasons, it is mainly through some problem, difficulty and suffering that God could teach us what life is and help us know first hand how people with similar problems feel so that we can help them with real concern. I would tell them jokingly that since God cannot stand before us and give us a lesson on others suffering, that He sends such situations as practical classes and that He was so very practical that He demonstrated it by taking the worst lesson Himself. Generally, later they would confide that such a thought had helped them in their crisis. These were the very thoughts that would come to my mind every time when I encountered any problem, especially at this time when it looked as if the problems were refusing to leave my back.
This year seemed to be a ‘year of surgeries’ for the two of us. Neslyn had been diagnosed to have hernia and had been advised surgery. He had got it postponed till my problems were settled and in the month of September we decided on the hernia repair as I felt perfectly normal and could cope up with any strain. During and after his surgery on September 4th everything went on perfectly well. He was advised rest and told not to lift heavy objects for a month. I had no difficulty whatsoever in managing all the work alone. My maid had left in August since I had promised to allow her to proceed to her hometown after I got well. She had told me in advance that she had to go to her native place to take care of an urgent personal problem. On September 16th I experienced slight discomfort. My legs ached and I felt slightly feverish. I went to Dr. Maben who prescribed the necessary medicine for me. When I reached home I discovered that my body pain had worsened, my cheeks had coloured and Nes took just one look and declared I was sick. I told him that I did feel sick but had already brought the medicine. Since I was feeling very tired, I lay down after which everything seemed very distant and hazy. By night I developed very high temperature. I threw up and to Nes’s utter terror he found me showing similar symptoms that I had experienced in the past years. Medicine never seemed to have effect may be because my body had got attuned to high doses of antibiotics and other medicines and also because my immunity must have been very low. Since I looked very ill Nes went to consult Dr. Maben who told him to get me admitted the next day. Norbert was there by Nes’s side all through the night to support him and next day Harry arrived promptly to take me to the hospital. Nes seemed to feel an impending doom. It was so painful to see him going through the same mental torture. Thankfully he still did not know about the fistula. Both Drs. Maben and Harrischandra checked me up and found that I just suffered from gastroenteritis. On checking, my fistula seemed to have reduced in size. To make things look worse I started with diarrhea which made me realize the kind of problem I could face with the fistula! To Nes and to those around me it looked as if I had lost control of my bowels when it caused a lot of mess around me. My doctors, who had promised to keep the secret of my fistula, and I alone knew the reason why it was so. I was back again on diapers as my frequent bowel movements due to diarrhea would otherwise make me and everything around me messy. I was in the hospital for four days and was discharged on Friday. The diaper problem continued for two more days. The cause of all my problem this time must have been as simple as water. Since I found it difficult to travel, I had shifted to my cousin’s flat which was at walking distance to my college. Her flat was kept locked for some time and though their water purifier had been set right just a week ago, the problem seemed to lie there for I don’t remember having taken anything else that could cause the problem. I had always been very cautious with my diet as I knew that my immune system was still not strong. Nes, who had to forget all of his own restrictions at the time my need, feels good enough to think back and joke that I didn’t even let him take his usual minimum rest after a surgery. It was not until March 2008 did the problem get resolved. I noticed then that the usual problems caused by the fistula no longer visited me. Though the matter has yet to be checked by my doctor, I did inform my doctor first regarding it and then my sister who was always with me in trouble. I had to tell Nes, which I did in the first week of April. If I say that he was shocked, that would be an understatement!
In the mean time I have resumed all my work and a day never ends without the two of us thanking God and praying to Jesus to cover us with His precious blood and protect us from all danger especially sickness.
In the mean time I have realized that the word which says in Romans 8:28, is really true: ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose’. Though I cannot say for sure what specific purpose He has for the two of us in life, I have come to realize how profound the general purpose He has for all His people is. I had learnt in my catechism classes, especially at the time of my first Holy Communion that the purpose of our life on earth is ‘To love God, to serve Him and to be happy with Him in heaven after our life on earth’. If we pray for grace to take all that He permits in our lives in paving our way to the ultimate goal with love and a grateful heart alone, can we feel the kind of peace which Jesus has promised us in Jn.14:27 and thus be His cool witnesses!
There are times when people ask me, why did ever God send such miseries your way? What mistake did you make to deserve it? I recently met a highly educated elder at the University who is a non-Christian. He told me in very clear terms that I had somehow offended God. He told me that I must have stopped an ancestral practice or worship or a devotion, which may even be the lighting of a candle to a saint, which is why the deity must be angry with me. He advised me strongly to find out what it is and do the needful! I was really touched by the love and concern that he felt for me. Of course, this is just without knowing the last health problem I had since it is known to no one! If he knew about it I don’t know what more he would have said. Of course I managed to tell him of my own belief and gave him a copy of my testimony which could tell him what I really meant.
This is not his opinion alone. Many Hindu’s and sometimes even Christians express it in subtle ways and words since most of them know that I hold firmly to Christian beliefs alone. According to the Hindu belief if a person suffers continuously it is either because the person has angered a God by denying some Pooja, worship due to him or some other reason, else, it may be because of some ‘Karma’ (something bad one must have done) in the previous ‘Janma’ (life). Those who hold such beliefs make concerted effort by going from one poojari (Hindu priest) to another in finding ‘parihara’ (solution) when they encounter a problem or sickness either till the problem gets solved if it is a minor one and in case of difficult problems, till no more solutions can be found. I am not saying this to belittle their belief, because human as we are, the cultural belief generally has a strong influence on us, but just to say why I get such suggestions. I know this because I have encountered numerous suggestions of the type in the past since we have had no children. My outspoken nature in telling them of the belief I hold contrary to theirs have ensued many discussions which have been to convince me of their belief. By God’s grace I have successfully and convincingly managed to counter them by telling firmly of my own belief in God’s love and mercy in all that is permitted our way. My prayer for these innocent, extremely concerned and loving friends and well wishers of mine is that they may know the Truth so that the Truth may set them free from the misery they go through when sickness and suffering comes their way which makes them waste a lot of their time, effort and money unnecessarily adding them more burden than solution ultimately leading to swindling. Anyone who experiences their love, concern and generosity would feel prompted to do likewise.
PRAISE GOD! HE SENT HIS ANGELS TO CARE FOR ME!
Ps. 91:11 For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
The above was the story of my sickness and recovery. Don’t you think God was wonderful in taking care of me all through? Now I would like to tell you of all the wonderful people whom He brought into my life and taught me through them how I could serve others selflessly. As I already said, they were the angels He had sent to take care of me and Nes. About them the book of Sirach 6:14-16 says: ‘A loyal friend is like a safe shelter: find one, and you have found a treasure. Nothing else is as valuable; there is no way of putting a price on it. A loyal friend is like a medicine that keeps you in good health.’ If I had had to speak of the close friends I had as recently as January this year, I would have had very few. Though they were the best one could have, most were not in a position to help me at the time as some of them were not near, others being ladies, were not in a position to help to the extent required. This year helped me find so many new friends, who are just like the ones spoken of above in the book of Sirach! Till then I preferred to call them ‘my colleague’, ‘the CFC’, ‘… convent sisters’, ‘my parishioners’, ‘my relatives’, and so on. There were some who, though I would not dare include in my list of friends out of great respect for them, they were my friends in need. They were my superiors – my parish priests, my Principal, superiors of the convents, and of course there were my doctors who were perfect strangers till then, but who selflessly struggled to save me without giving a thought to their time and inconvenience and who left no stone unturned to do it, owing to them I feel – that which was chosen for me by God has been the best in my life!
Since it all began with the help of my CFC friends, let me tell about them first. It was my own household CFC couple Joseph (Bernard) and Rosy who helped my husband to take me to Dr. Maben on the fateful day of 12th February. Since then they have been with us in and out of all our troubles. We know that God sends His angels to us in our times of need even without our asking Him to do so. That is exactly how this wonderful couple seemed to come to our aid just when we felt we were in great need right from February 11th to June 30th. There were Harold and Gracy, our household leaders, who seemed to sense all our needs and arrange for them even before we felt the need ourselves so also there were Alex-Lynette, Paul-Therese, Maxwell-Juliana, Cyril-Stella, Gerald-Jane, Prasanna and his family. There was not a single day we were left alone, especially Neslyn; not an operation day or emergency time when the whole band of them was not by our side forgetting even their families till the hour of need would pass. There was not a single day we ate canteen food for it was brought in turns in the morning, noon and night without fail. Money was arranged, bills were paid by them whenever emergency needs cropped up. There were
Peter-Eugene who helped arrange blood. There was Michael-Gracy, Maxwell-Juliana to help me later to catch up with my work of data entry. There would be so many of them at a time standing outside the MICU showing great concern that is found generally in close family members, that my doctors, and MICU attendants would ask me who those people were always with Neslyn and it gave me great pride to tell them that they were our CFC friends. The CFC prayer-chain seems to be the one among the many, which wrestled with God in prayer for my recovery and they tell me that they still pray for me! I should say that I had found our CFC couples the busiest till then, with their families, work and the CFC mission work. But during the time of my hospitalization, they seemed to have had all the time for us (even though March-April happens to be the financial/academic year end!), which would often leave me overwhelmed and wondering at the goodness of their heart. Most of all there was Fr. Victor, our Director, who not only visited me but also made it a point to give me the last sacraments and even accompanied Fr. Edwin who brought me the Holy Communion on the day of my distress.
Then there was my colleague Charles and his wife Asumpta. Somehow in times of trouble Neslyn’s mobile seemed to automatically dial Charles’ number and he would be there with him in no time. I still remember him accompanying Neslyn into the CT Scan room, even offering to remain in the room during the scan. There was hardly a day when I did not taste the soup and other food which Asumpta prepared and sent whenever I was permitted to take oral food. These soups even seemed to follow me home even after I was discharged. Seeing Neslyn’s utter dependence on Charles, I asked him the reason and his answer was that he found a brother in him where he had none. This marvelous couple, again the busiest otherwise, would find time even as late as ten in the night (this is very late in the night for us Mangaloreans as very few are seen outside their houses and some are found even fast asleep) to visit me without fail. Charles being the NSS officer in my college, was chiefly instrumental in procuring most of the blood required during the operations. I often hear their voice of concern ringing out on our telephone even till today.
There was Norbert, my husband’s cousin who would literally not leave my husband’s side all through the time of my hospitalization. He would even stay in the hospital at night with Neslyn especially during the harrowing days of my operations and emergency. He had always been a dear brother to my husband and proved to us that blood is thicker than water. There were many occasions he would get lunch for Neslyn, especially during the colostomy repair operation. So also with him were my husband’s aunt Winnie, my sister Juliet, my uncle Arthur, who would not only get food for us but also took the trouble to be stern and firm in making Neslyn eat. Being family, they seemed to have known the right and firm way to ease the tensions that Neslyn went through during the most uncertain part of the ordeal. There were my mother and mother-in-law, showing all concern and support in the way they could afford in their old age. There were my my third sister Precilla and sister-in-law Jasmine who would call up often and assure us the only thing they could – their prayer support. There was my cousin Ady-Herman who would visit me and try to find ways to ease my suffering in whatever way they could.
Among all my family members there was a very special angel. You must have guessed it from my previous account that it was none other than my second sister, Nora, backed up by her husband Robert and son Nigel. Even though she was at Bombay upto 25th of March, she seemed to be around me in spirit, somehow reaching out right at the time of my distress, consoling, advising Neslyn and arranging things over the telephone more easily than those around me could! She used to call up Neslyn at least 3 to 4 times everyday and her intuition seemed to have made her call, whomever she called up - be it my husband or the doctor, right when they were near me in the MICU. It happened quite often and I would wonder how she would do it so far away from me at Bombay! Even her holiday schedule to Mangalore seemed to have been arranged, though three months prior to my operation, right in time when we needed her the most. Somehow all her plans and actions seemed to work in line with my needs!
There was my College Principal and staff, convent superior and sisters whose prayers and moral support are among the reasons why I have recovered so fast and enjoy normal health today. When Charles was contacted by Neslyn on the day of my abdominal pain, he in turn had thought of calling up the sisters in the convent and asking for their prayers. Even at midnight, the sisters seemed to have sat before the Blessed Sacrament interceding for me and then made it a point of calling up Neslyn to tell him of their prayer support and assure him that everything would be fine – which is exactly what he needed to hear at that time of his distress. It was their wish and prayer that I be surrounded by angels which has made me narrate this part of my testimony. Then our parish Vicar and his assistant priests’ own prayers and their requests for prayers (especially by Fr. Alex), at practically every mass and at any opportunity they got, is sure to have moved the Almighty to grant me my health back so fast. There were my parishioners as well as my prayer group members and friends who never seemed to tire standing before God’s throne of mercy interceding for me. Not satisfied with their own prayers, they seemed to have sent for prayer requests to all retreat centres, prayer houses, cloistered and other convents, if I could sum it up shortly – anyone they met or thought of around them, in India and even abroad, for my recovery, not to say of their requests for intercession with Mother Mary, the saints and the Heavenly hosts. There were some of my friends like Marriet and Br. Tony, who not only brought people to pray over me to the MICU but also managed to get an entry into the MICU in spite of the ‘iron fence’ which had denied even my husband admission except upon my insistence on the 18th of March!
Now I come to my doctors whom God Himself took care to choose for me. First of all there was Dr. Maben to whom God took us through our friends Ben-Rose. Since then we have learnt to respect this man of faith so much that we trusted him to choose all the other doctors who were to treat me. We are very glad that we did that. All that I have said above demonstrates how at the two most critical times his intuition and diagnosis saved my life. He is a man of very few words but what I admire the most about him is his kind though very firm way of correcting people. I remember when I was shifted to AJ after my first operation, he had come very late at night to organize the tests to be conducted to diagnose the cause of my deteriorating condition. Then when he had told me that I had to be shifted to the MICU, I had expressed my reluctance when his curt and firm words of correction made me hastily obey. It was he who had asked me with a happy, relieved look on his face that I should write a ‘Robin Cook’ story about my sickness and recovery. In spite of all his firmness, I found him so cool and consoling when dealing with Neslyn who can be extremely irritating when he gets tense and worried. There was not a single occasion on which I have found him losing his patience with Neslyn.
There was my Nephrologist, Dr. Sushanth about whose unassuming expertise not only we but all our doctors seemed to have depended. It was my surgeon who seemed to have told Neslyn that the antibiotics prescribed by him had really worked wonders. He was the one who took charge of prescribing and screening the medicines given to me due to my recent renal failure and the likelihood of further danger due to septicemia. As for a smiling and patient Dr. Latha Sharma, my gynecologist, I have learnt that in spite of an extremely busy schedule like hers one can remain very cool and collected! I have wondered often how she manages to do it!
As for Dr. Harishchandra, my surgeon, a person ever thoughtful of his patients physical and mental state after the operation, we have found that he never grudges his time when it comes to easing the patients and family members pains, tensions and doubts. This simple, unassuming doctor who always seems to ‘feel’ for his patients is the one who attributed all his work to God when my sister thanked him and who seemed never tired to tell me ‘Nancy God is with us, don’t worry’. Not only did he find enough time to visit me twice daily, he made it a point to meet my husband without fail and would console, explain my situation thus putting him at ease. I am sure that his visits are the one’s which kept my husband sane in those days of uncertainty and fear and I feel very grateful to him for all this.
These were the four doctors who took major care of the situation. Though they have taken lot of pains and helped us in many ways, I must say that they were extremely modest when it came to their charges. There were also the anesthetists, Dr. Padmanabh and Dr. Sudesh who visited me and tried to put me at ease before the operation and Dr. Sudesh even visited me afterwards with his advice on exercises meant for my speedy recovery.
I am grateful to God for every one of these angels of His whom he sent to take care of me in the days of our trouble. Just last year I had heard in a sermon on October 2nd, all angels day, that the people who come to the aid of a needy person are also God’s angels whom He sends to take care. I did experience the truth of this statement practically. What can I ask God to give them in return? Definitely not an opportunity to repay them because I don’t want them ever come to a situation where they would need mine or anybody’s help for that matter. So as I ask God to bless them with the best blessings in His armour of health, wealth, happiness and success, I have also made it a point to ask Him the best gift He can give them – His Kingdom of love, joy and peace and all goodness. Hasn’t Jesus Himself said that if we have His Kingdom in our hearts all the other things will be added unto us? This year on October 2nd I had an added reason to thank God for - His earthly angels in addition to His heavenly ones! Do join me in thanking God for them (both yours and mine) on October 2nd.
Now I speak of my Guardian Angel whom God gave me almost 20 years back in addition to the Heavenly one He had given me at birth. God who speaks of all His eternal choices for us in the Bible, had brought Neslyn and me together, two perfect strangers till then (ours was an arranged marriage), and standing before his alter we had promised to remain faithful to each other in joys and in sorrows, in sickness and health. I definitely will not praise Neslyn here much as he may not like it and it may sound like self praise for the word of God says that we are no longer two but one. I will only make a statement to say that in the days of our trouble Neslyn was very faithful to the promise he had given me. But I have this to say about what my friends and colleagues expressed when they visited me: ‘Nancy you are extremely fortunate to get a husband like Neslyn. In these days I don’t think there is anyone who would do so much for his wife with so much love and dedication.’ The duty doctor in the MICU seemed never to tire in wondering openly with me as to how much he loved and cared for me. I am truly grateful to God for blessing me with the best spouse and also with the best friend in him. My prayer is that all through our life we both should serve our God who brought us together. Do join me in saying ‘Praise God’ if it echoes in you heart when you hear about him.
I have not done any extra-ordinary good deed in my life, not for any one I can think of. This is why I never thought that people cared for me much. During this time of my illness and recovery I have experienced the love and concern of so many. I have often felt touched by the tears of relief of those whom I met after my recovery, knowing then the intensity with which they must have prayed for me. So far I knew that God loves me unconditionally and now I know that many of His people also love us without expecting anything in return!
Praise God! He Carried Me in His arms!
Jer.29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.'
I had heard many times in the past that what God plans for us are the best and that he has planned everything regarding us since eternity. I had experienced the truth of this statement in the past in small ways but not in the way I experienced during these days of my ‘practical training’. Now I take little more time to narrate my experience of His plans for me in these days which, I am sure, will make you exclaim ‘Praise God!’ along with me.
First one is regarding the money that He had arranged for my surgeries. Since mine was a laparotomy operation, I had found out from my doctor that it would cost us around rupees 20 to 30 thousand. Little more than the expected amount of cash was kept ready by Neslyn before my surgery. I never have the habit of keeping any money in my account as Neslyn being a banker is a better and unanimous choice to handle money matters. The month of March generally is the one in which people find it very difficult to arrange for cash as it is the time to invest in order to avail the tax rebate. Same was the case with us. But before I got admitted for my surgery I noticed that one of my NSCs given in arrears of my salary six years back was to mature on the 14th of February 2007. The amount I was to get on maturity was nearly Rs.1,30,000/-. I am sure I must have grumbled at the Government’s ways of giving us NSCs instead of hard cash then, forgetting that any Government is lead by God’s hand. So also I had a deposit certificate for Rs.75,000/-, an amount which could withdraw at any time I wanted. Something made me take care of both of these and I even signed the necessary authorization letter for the withdrawal before I was admitted to the hospital. I did not know that God had planned so perfectly for my needs, though I had read in the Bible that He knew all about me even before I was born (Ps. 139:16). My first surgery took place on the 14th of March, exactly on the day my NSC matured for payment. All through this time of my surgeries and recovery, we needed this entire amount of two and a half lakhs we had with us, which God had already arranged for us in His eternal wisdom! There was no shortage whatsoever though we were unprepared for such high expenses.
If you think that the above is a co-incidence, I would like to say something about my sister’s holiday schedule about which I have already mentioned in the second section. My sister had booked her ticket three months before her day of travel, before any of us could ever get even a whiff of what was to take place regarding me. She was the perfect and most efficient hand to take care of me and to arrange for all that I needed after I was brought out of the MICU as she was well experienced in taking care of her aged and sick parents and sisters in-law as well as other relatives who somehow always think of her first in any of their needs. In fact, if not for Dr. Maben, we would have kept my surgery on the 26th, the day after her arrival, and she would not have been in Mangalore for all the complications that would have ensued or would have had to make alternate arrangements to remain back to take care of me. I did not need her help when I was in the MICU as no one was allowed to come near me. As I have mentioned earlier, the day of her arrival at Mangalore happened to be the day before I was to be brought out of the MICU when I needed a brave and efficient family member like her, to take care of me due to my colostomy. (Even my brave mother could not bear to see me in that condition!) How can I thank God who gave me such a wonderful sister like her and planned her arrival right in time and her departure on April 8th, right in time again for my maid had just managed to cope up with all my work single handed by then. What can I say about His wonderful plan in fixing all the crucial events (my operations, stay in the MICU, and the rest of the events) at the right time so that no one was inconvenienced and His way of opening every one’s heart to help me at the cost of their personal inconvenience? I don’t think my sister had such a tough holiday ever before!
Though I am reminded of a number of things where God showed how He had already planned things for me, I will speak of one more incident. It was regarding my maid. I had to manage with my temporary colostomy condition for three months, before it could be repaired with another operation. For all this time at least I needed a brave, young lady who also had to be gentle in taking care of all my needs. Neslyn and my sister almost moved the heavens and the earth to find one for me but no one was available till about two days before my discharge. It was then that Neslyn’s Cousin Norbert was able to find one. She was brought to our house just the day before I was discharged from the hospital, i.e., April 3rd, a perfect time indeed! As for the perfect choice, neither I nor any of those who have seen her have any doubts regarding the way in which God had hand-picked her to take care of me. Previously she was engaged in taking care of a child due to which, she was extremely gentle and careful in doing anything for me. She never backed out of any of the responsibilities that came her way or were asked of her. She did not require much guidance or help in the house work, and anything she did was just as I would do otherwise.
Finally, Ofcourse I cannot end my testimony without narrating one more wonderful and best ever plan God had brought about in my life twenty years back. I am sure you guessed it right! It had come to pass on Dec. 28th 1987 when Neslyn and I had said ‘Yes, I do’ in His very presence.
Just before I was admitted for my surgery as I was reading my daily Bible, the message in Jeremiah 29:11-13 had come to me very strongly and all the rest of the days this message seemed to recur to me and it remained with me even to the extent of keeping me cheerful in spite of all that I went through. It said ‘I know the plans I have for you, PLANS TO PROSPER YOU NOT TO HARM YOU, PLANS TO GIVE YOU A HOPE AND A FUTURE. Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me and I will answer you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you …’. I am sure you feel like proclaiming with me (which I have decided for all the rest of the days of my life) in the words of the psalmist in Ps. 27:1 ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?’
With this second life that He has given me, it is my desire to work for Him in whatever way He appoints me to serve in His Kingdom. I know it is one thing to express my desire in words but very difficult when it comes to the real work. Many have already prayed for me – for my recovery. Will you too kindly raise this petition to Him on my behalf that I may be faithful to Him and He may fulfill my desire? May we all join hands in working for our God who never keeps back anything in loving us?
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