Psalm 23: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Faye, our next door neighbor for 30 years, enjoys her granddaughter, 26 year old Whitney, living with her. Whitney is going to South University seeking to become a medical assistant. She is doing well in school. There is only one large problem; Whitney has terminal liver disease.
Whitney has always been a sickly child with no understanding of why. Around the age of 12 she almost bled to death. The tests run from that scary episode revealed that Whitney had Sickle Cell Anemia. The signs and symptoms vary from mild to very severe pain and anemia. This disease causes the body to produce sickle shaped red blood cells which are stiff and sticky, tend to block the flow of blood to limbs and organs and can cause organ damage. Many patients have acute pain from sudden Sickle cell crises that last from hours to a week or more. Repeated crises can damage major organs.
Whitney has been on the liver donor list three times and been taken off each time. She wanted to finish school before the transplant. Thursday, a week ago, she came home after about a 10 day stay at UNC Hospital. While there the doctors told her that her liver was shot from all this damage over the years, and that there was nothing they could do for her. It takes about 6 months to go through the liver transplant protocol, but if she comes back to the hospital in another crises there will be nothing they can do.
Last night around 8:30pm an ambulance pulled up in front of their home – lights flashing – no siren. Shirley went next door to be with Faye as the EMT’s worked with Whitney and took her to the hospital. She had been throwing up for two days, and even went to classes yesterday. Remember, she has only been home from UNC Hospital for a week.
She has been fighting this on a regular basis since age 12… for 14 years. Back and forth to the hospital, on tons of meds, probes, prods and scores of tests. Chronic, severe acute pain had become a monthly diet. Now, at 26 years of age, it has all come down to this: will she live until she is able to get through the protocol? Each crises brings with it more damage to more organs. We have not heard how she did through the night nor what the doctors are saying as they treat her and confer with the specialists in Chapel Hill. We hope and pray for good reports.
The message I need to hear and share about Whitney (and all of us) is whether we are in this world or the next we are safely in God’s loving care. I remember after heart surgery my fear of going to sleep because I was afraid that I would not wake up. I struggled and struggled to stay awake until I just fell asleep. The struggle and fear continued until I realized that either way I was in God’s hands. Once I realized that (that which I had preached for many years) I was able to get the rest I needed. Here comes that old reliable 23rd Psalm to the rescue once again. The Lord is with us ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE VALLEY to the other side. I think what we all need at Christmas time or any other time is the PEACE that comes from knowing that God is with us no matter what.
Dear Lord, we pray for Whitney and all the Whitney’s of the world to be healed of diseases that cause death. We don’t want anyone to have to suffer, especially during holiday seasons (that seems to make our pain worse). We pray that you allow the sick to feel the gentle embrace of a loving heavenly Father and the comforting peace and grace of a compassionate Jesus. Let that peace wash over them to give them the calm assurance that you walk with them, hold them, love them all the way through every time of trial. In and through Jesus. Amen.
P.S. After I finished writing this post I went through the room where we have Luanne’s Smile (A collection of colored crystals named after Luanne Hinshaw) hanging in the window and she was smiling all over the wall. I took that as her amen… God is always with us.