(This story is much too long to share in one blog post, so I have divided it into parts. Be warned that it deals with a sickness that was so severe I must occasionally delve into graphic descriptions of the symptoms. This is necessary for the telling of the story.)
Me holding newborn Abigail, with Chelsea far left, Meghann far right and Elijah in front–about 6 months before the mysterious sickness struck.
My life seemed to be going just fine when the sickness struck back in the fall of 1998. On Tuesday, October 6, our family went to the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem, N.C.—enjoying the rides, the food, the petting zoo and more. Wednesday found us tired but satisfied, ready to forge ahead with normal life.
It was the next day that our world flipped upside down, propelling us into a catastrophic free-fall that would forever change our lives.
On Thursday, October 8, I spent a lot of time in our basement, working to clear out clutter. By late afternoon, I ran my hand across my forehead and headed upstairs. I told my husband, Keith, “I’m calling it quits today because suddenly I don’t feel so great. I’m achy and feverish.
In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up, feeling nauseated and queasy. I determined to fight it off mentally, feeling sure I would be able to do that since stomach viruses rarely affect me. (Note: I did not understand faith for healing back then the way I do now, or I would’ve prayed, stood on His Word and claimed His promises for healing.)
It was only a few hours later that Elijah Blue, my 2 1/2-year-old son, woke up screaming with his stomach hurting. We rushed him to the potty where he simply had a case of diarrhea. Throughout the next day, his problem seemed to clear up, as did mine. “We’re simply tired,” I rationalized. But later that night after a supper of pizza, Elijah threw up, although his appetite had been great during the meal.
Another night’s sleep was disrupted shortly before dawn on Saturday when Meghann, my 11-year-old daughter, began to throw up. “Oh well,” I thought. “This stomach virus is going to work its way through the whole family, I guess.” (Note: We do not have to receive such negative thoughts! I know that now.) At this point, we were all certain that it was simply a stomach bug….until Sunday morning.
When Elijah woke up before daylight on Sunday, again he was screaming in pain and had to be rushed to the potty where he began to throw up. This was extremely puzzling to me. He had never in his almost three years had a stomach virus that made him throw up. Only once before had he ever thrown up, and that was due to a high fever from a respiratory infection.
“Okay,” I reasoned. “He has somehow reinfected himself.” So I took extra precautions, washing his bed linens in hot water, sterilizing everything he touched. Keith went to church without us that morning, asking special prayer for Elijah. That night, I attended service without the rest of them; I felt better but not up to par.
By now the pattern was set—never a night’s sleep for anyone! In the predawn hours of Monday, my 8-year-old daughter, Chelsea, was up vomiting. Still, I assumed this was a regular bug that was just passing slowly through the family. Keith and 6-month-old Abigail were feeling fine, although Keith had a sense of dread that he was surely next. He was the one of us most susceptible to stomach viruses.
Tuesday, October 12, was a blessed day for my family. Although we were all very tired and strangely weak, the day passed with no vomiting and just light diarrhea for the four of us affected. The girls even went to dance class and then on to the county 4-H Talent Show in Danbury. (In retrospect, I believe God intervened and gave us that Tuesday free of sickness because the girls had looked forward to the talent show for an entire year. They both performed and placed well, with Meghann being chosen as one of the two best acts overall to go to the District competition.)
Since we had been on the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast) for the past few days, we gobbled up some refreshments after the talent show. We were starving for real food again!
The blessed Tuesday was soon over, and as Wednesday crept in, I heard bare feet hit the floor in the girls’ bedroom. Sure enough, Megh and Chels were flying to the bathroom, holding bowls to their mouths. They fought over our one toilet all night, alternating with bouts of diarrhea and a bit of vomiting. All too soon, I heard that familiar scream from Elijah’s bedroom as he erupted with vomiting all over his bed. I, too, felt queasy but managed not to throw up.
By this time, I was worried. Perhaps the girls had reinfected themselves as I had assumed Elijah had done over the weekend. But Elijah reinfecting himself for the third time? I didn’t think so. I racked my brain to think if we had eaten something at the fair that would’ve led to food poisoning. The problem was that we had all eaten from different booths. I, especially, had eaten nothing in common with the children.
Nonetheless, I researched food poisoning on the Internet. Everything I read told me we should’ve gotten sick all at the same time and shortly after eating the infected food.
As we faced the daylight hours on Wednesday, the nausea was gone, and we recovered. But again, I missed church on Wednesday night, staying home with the kids and sending a request for prayer.
Thursday was a better day, and Friday, too. We were unable to do any heavy activities or go anywhere much, but the vomiting had ceased. The diarrhea was sporadic. The BRAT diet had long lost its appeal. I thought if I saw another bowl of rice, I’d jump off the roof!
So I cooked a big supper on Friday night—pintos, cornbread, mashed potatoes. We ate good portions, but no one overloaded. The curious thing about this sickness was that the appetite was not diminished. With a normal stomach virus, food makes one queasy even by thinking about it. Not so, in this case. We wanted food continuously, even immediately after throwing up.
I crawled into bed late Friday night, excited about the coming day. An old-timers’ softball game that I had organized for my dad was scheduled to take place. I had dreamed of doing it for years and had worked feverishly for the past three months to put it together. To see my dad play softball once more with his old team from the 1970’s was something I was yearning to experience.
At 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 17, nausea awakened me. For the first few hours, I simply ran back and forth to the bathroom with extreme diarrhea. Soon I was arguing over the toilet with Megh, who had gotten up shortly after me and casually vomited all over the bathroom floor.
Before long, Elijah woke up screaming. I knew this thing was really bad when I finally gave up the fight and threw up—something that had only happened a handful of times in my entire life. Since having a mild stomach virus at the age of 11, I had only thrown up one time since from a sickness-related cause. This time was especially severe. I felt such heart palpitations that I began to worry I was going to quite literally have a heart attack.
With the help of my parents, I was chauffeured to the ball field where I was able to watch the first few games before I had to be driven home. Mama assured me that out in the open air, I wouldn’t infect anyone else. I didn’t say anything to her, but I was almost positive now that we weren’t going to infect anyone; this thing wasn’t contagious and I knew it.
This strange sickness had an all-too-familiar pattern by now. We would be sick in the night, spend the next day recovering, have one or two fair but weak days before waking up sick in the night again. Would it never end? I began to wonder.
That Saturday night, I was supposed to go to our annual Richardson family reunion in Walnut Cove. I felt an especial urge to attend, because of a dream I had had the previous year. I had dreamed that I was at a picnic shelter at a park with many relatives around. As I walked and talked with them, I was fingering a pair of glasses in my right pocket. I knew that I was supposed to be wearing those glasses, but instead I just walked and reminisced with my cousins. The only cousin I remember specifically in the dream was one who attends the Richardson reunion.
Suddenly I heard glass breaking, and I felt the glasses in my pocket shatter beyond repair. My heart was burdened with such a sense of guilt and shame, and immediately I repented to God that I hadn’t put on those glasses when I was supposed to. Immediately—in a single second—with my hand still in my pocket, I felt the glass splinters re-form into a perfect set of glasses once more. It was a total miracle.
In the dream, I couldn’t see the faces of my cousins, but I could hear their dear voices calling to me—almost as if we were children again, calling each other to come and play. I reached into my pocket and put the glasses on. They were thick, Coke-bottle-lensed glasses that made my surroundings go blurry. I couldn’t see well enough to distinguish objects even a few feet in front of me, but when I looked up at the sky, everything snapped into distinct focus.
The sky was brilliantly blue, and suddenly I realized that I was seeing colors in a way I had never seen them before. I began to rise into that breathtakingly beautiful panorama. I could see snowcapped mountains to the west. The buoyant feeling was like nothing I had ever felt before. Then I woke up.
God spoke to me later about the dream and told me that at the time of the reunion, He would set my eyes upon Him. Not focus, but SET.
I was desperate to go to the reunion, especially since my mom had called to tell me that for the first time ever, it would be held at a picnic shelter at a local park rather than the usual place. And of my great-grandparents’ 11 children whose descendants rotate annually to host the reunion, THIS was the year that the branch of the family hosting it would be the one that included the only cousin I clearly remember in the dream. And I had dreamed the dream LONG before these decisions were made. It was too uncanny.
As it turned out, I was too sick to go to the reunion, but I see now that it didn’t matter. The timing was what was important. This sickness was one of the most important things that had ever happened in my life. It would truly SET my eyes upon Jesus.
TO BE CONTINUED…..See Pt. II at https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/our-miracle-of-healing-pt-ii-going-downhill-fast/