Friday, 19 February 2016


So now after 5 weeks in hospital I was ready to go home! I could walk without assistance  and eat and my health had improved, now I just needed a mid line in my arm so that a district nurse could administer my antibiotics from home. A mid line is a small tube, the size of a vein that goes from the area just above your elbow to the top of your shoulder, I had this in my right arm. The procedure was simple, just very uncomfortable to have to sit through. I had a great team looking after me and I would have to go back and see them once a week to get it cleaned.

So I was finally dressed in something other than pajamas and wore shoes instead of slippers! I was just sitting waiting on the end of my bed to be discharged. It felt like forever and I couldn’t wait to get home. Waiting for me outside was my own ‘taxi,’ driven by AC who made ‘Naomi’s Taxi’ poster on one side of our van. Heads up! AC is like an older brother to the Martin family, he was a key character in helping everyone on the home front with maintaining the house and making sure everyone was fed and doing alright!

When I got home there were a few people from church who I consider family waiting for me, some I hadn’t seen at all for weeks, others I only got the chance to see one or two times. It was emotional as you can imagine. There were posters, loud celebrations and we spent about 30 mins praising God and just worshipping Him for all that He had done and taken me through. Being in my home again was weird, it was like coming back from a long holiday and getting settled back into home, but I definitely didn’t come back from a nice vacation.
It was a great time and I remember just sitting and taking everything in, looking at all the happy faces and happy tears all around me. I was home, it was a reality not a distant dream anymore.

Starting from Scratch

The operation affected the entire right side of my body. My muscles were practically non existent, I was super skinny some 50kg (110 pounds), I couldn’t swallow because of the breathing tube during the operation and I couldn’t walk. I didn’t know this would be the case, I thought I would have the tumour removed, rest up and get out of hospital. That was way too much naivety and wishful thinking. I had to overcome each and every one of these areas and it wasn’t always pretty or easy to do.

My body was a little bent to one side (weird I know) and had to be straightened up. This happened because during the operation I was lying on my one side the whole time and caused me to be a little hunched on that side, plus that side was swollen for a while too. I had a great physio (physical therapist) who would come in each day and help me get back on my feet.  The first time I walked was with a zimmer frame (walker)! I found it quite funny partly because I never thought being a young 19 year old that I would ever need to be dependent on one before, I actually needed it to keep me up! I remember thinking to myself, ‘So this is how they work!’
My physio wanted to get me off of the zimmer frame as quickly as possible so that I don’t become too reliant on it. When I walked it was slow and I needed someone to hold me up as I didn’t have enough strength in my legs just yet, plus I got tired very quickly. It took time but I made a choice everyday to get up and my mum would help me walk around the ward, swinging my arms and not walking like a cripple.
I had a feeding tube in because I couldn’t swallow. I was plugged into a machine that basically fed me pretty much constantly but at a slow pace, all the nutrients you needed - plus I had a cannula in (which I called my octopus because it had many different tubes leading from the one in my arm) giving me some more of whatever I needed.  So whenever I needed to go up to the bathroom I had to wait to be unhooked from everything. One time I was super desperate to go, that as soon as they unplugged everything I got up real fast and started walking too quickly for my state and not in a straight line and started to fall when the nurse caught me before I hit the ground! My mind was so renewed and confident of the complete healing of God that my body still had to catch up. My mum was a little surprised that I could move so fast already! But I had to take things slowly and get used to walking in a straight line, up the stairs, around corners and judging spacial awareness. It took a couple of weeks to be perfect but I got there in the end (sometimes I still bump into my friends when walking but it's not that often).

The next big challenge was eating. Apart from having the heaviest dose of antibiotics that can be administered in a hospital, my eating was holding me back. I got frustrated at times, it's a thing that we are born into this world doing, something that you don’t go to school for, it's something that comes naturally to pretty much everyone. The tiniest amount of water could make me choke and it wasn’t all that great when you have a feeding tube as it would bring that up too and it was not a nice taste. This was tough. I constantly had to commit it to God and again and again, take it step by step. Every other day I would try and take just a tiny sip of water some days were successful, some days weren’t. About two weeks into not eating I was told that a Speech And Language Therapists (SALT) were coming to see how I was getting on. She came in with a lot of cool gadgets to test how I was doing. They had to put a camera down my nose so that they could see what my throat was doing when I tried to swallow, they wanted to make sure that my breathing airway was closed so that I didn’t get anything in my lungs. She dyed some milk blue so that it was easier to come up on the screen. (FYI Milk is easier to swallow than water as it is thicker) It worked! I could take a sip and swallow it fine, but when asked to take a gulp that was a disaster as I was choking all of the place and gasping for breath, it was very dramatic for something so small! But I didn't let that discourage me, I was thrilled in the small victory that I was able to even take a sip! To me that was still worth celebrating over.

The following day, as the doctors were making their routinely rounds they came to my bed along with 6+ people talking about me. It was weird because they would always look at you but you couldn’t always quite hear what they were saying. sometimes it was the most exciting part of my day as it was an update on how I was doing. They discussed were I was at with eating but this one nurse, who wasn’t the best caring person in the world decided to give her point of view on how things went the day before, she said ‘It didn't go well, she choked and it wasn’t a successful outcome’. I was fuming on the inside, I swallowed a sip, A SIP!!  I piped up and shouted Hey! for the doctor to come over, he looked a little surprised that I did but he came. I said that I WAS able to swallow even though it was a little, but the nurse was persistent that I would still need a feeding tube. The doctor paused looked at me then said to that nurse ‘Get her something to eat’ I was SO happy to hear that I was going to actually eat something. The nurse reluctantly got me orange jello and fed it to me. I think that was a little bit of a kick in the teeth for her as she stood there saying I couldn’t eat!
From then on it was still a bit of a struggle as it would take me over an hour to eat a small amount of food, and it was very painful for my back muscles every time. I would do the simple act of bringing the fork to mouth and it was so painful. There were times I would just cry because it hurt so bad and I couldn’t afford to take any more medication on top of what I was taking, my mum had to feed me most of the time in the beginning, but I had to push past the pain because the only way the muscle will retain its memory of the action, is to repeat it. So many meals were eaten through tears of pain but I wouldn’t give up.   
My diet mostly consisted of Oreos, milk and macaroni cheese (they served the best I have ever had in my life in the hospital!) my aunt always got me sleeves of Oreo cookies when she came and saw me, my mum once caught me with a wrapper of an entire sleeve of Oreos (that I got earlier that day) just before dinner. But I assured her I would still eat my dinner, I love food and the fact that I could eat again! It was the first time in months that I was eating properly again and it was such a wonderful sensation, like I had never tasted before and then all of a sudden I could and it was wonderful. It was still a tough thing to get used and took about 2 ½ months to eat properly, like I did before.

The God we serve is a good God.

God Provides our Soldiers

I got moved to a special care ward which was only 3 patients to 1 nurse. What we found with our nurses was that 70% of them were Christians, which is highly rare in this country. At the time I was in hospital there was a ban for ‘religious’ people to share their faith openly with patients, only if consented. These women of God were Holy Spirit filled, baptised in water, speakers of the word and were incredible. It especially touched my mums heart to know that I was in good hands and gave them permission to speak to me, encourage me and build me up when she or my family couldn’t be there. Which was definitely needed at times. Being in a hospital at night isn’t fun, but I had to be brave each night. I found that some nights would be busier than days, patients brought in and out, or little commotions happening here or there, I was living a whole new different lifestyle, one that I had to get used to, but not settle in.

One night when I was sad and feeling lonely a nurse started singing ‘I am cared for by the one who made the universe..’ I just looked at her and started to cry out of my one eye. Little did she know that God so used that song to keep me in peace and put things in perspective that He is the Great Father of nations that takes time to care for each and everyone of us. It was a God orchestrated moment and He knew what I need to be reminded of, to remain steadfast and not to so easily waver in difficult times.

I was doing well and slowly working my way to the door we joked, I would move round from ward to ward getting closer and closer until the next ward was right next to the exit. But that night I could feel that something wasn’t right with my body, it was struggling and all I could do was pray under my breath, I was too weak to try and get anyones attention so I just asked God to do it for me. Not long after nurse Joe came round to do his checks when he noticed I had a high fever, it was 39c when it should be 37c. Quickly the doctors rushed in and started trying to figure out what was going on. I was in and out of consciousness and wasn’t quite sure what was going on either. I just let them figure it out and take care of me. I knew it was serious when they said they had to do a lumbar puncture/spinal tap - I had no idea what that was but I said OK, you can do whatever it takes to figure it out.

I found out a bit later that this was it for my mum. She called our Pastor and just simply said ‘I’m weary, how much more can we take? Is God really for us?’ She couldn’t stand by and watch them put this giant needle in my back extracting fluid. It was too much. Some may say they are valid questions and we all reach this point, but God is always quick to respond and meet us where we are at. After encouraging her and building her up, one of the Christian nurses got my mom's attention and told her to sit down, as my mum recalls it, she leans on her arm rest and starts pointing at her in the face saying ‘Don’t you dare give up! Don’t you dare give up now, I have heard you praying and asking God for a miracle and He will see it through to the end!’

SIDE NOTE: We saw my nurses as soldiers on the front line with us, in the thick of it giving us the support I need both physically and spiritually and for my mum too. It was such a blessing from God to have the support right there in the hospital, at a time when it was almost like walking on eggshells to be open about your faith.  But I don’t want to forget or overlook all the other people that stood with our family in prayer too, our close friends and family and those who are afar, all stood in the gap and upheld us in prayer.  I felt like I had my own 24 hour prayer system going with all the different time zones, God knew what I needed and no matter what time of day it was for me, He would prompt people to pray and I am so ever grateful and thankful for that. This time was so special to me, where I saw how powerful prayer is and how it can make a huge difference and impact despite whatever we may think could hinder it.

Now back to my mum in the chair. She was a little taken back, but that's what she needed, she had to get shaken out of a state of despair and deal with the task that was set before her. She was able then to be in the room with my when they did the LP and a couple of other tests. The infectious disease consultants came and advised that it is suspected meningitis in the brain, but the fluid they took would be able to confirm it.

This meant I was moved back into the special ward, back to the start, further away from the exit.

I was still in a bad state, my neck started to spaz and I couldn’t move it, I had no control over it and I was also profusely sweating, they had to change the pillow case several times. That day our favourite nurse, came in for a visit and was surprised to see my name on the bed list. She came over to where we were, asked no questions and grabbed my mom's hand and prayed for complete total healing. After praying and believing that when two or more are gathered and pray in Jesus’ name He will answer you. Believing that simple truth and taking His word as he says it they then stood there and watched expectantly to see God move.

It took about two hours and then all of a sudden as mum was sitting at the end of my bed, and I was laying with my head to one side, I raised my head - looked to her and started chatting. Now you have to understand that my head was stuck to one side, moving at random times and in awkward ways as I dipped in and out of consciousness, it was uncomfortable but I was awake! I started talking like no time had past (this fever stretched over a period of two days). I was completely better, they tested my temperature and it went down to 36.9c (which is good!).

To completely confirm my healing, the infectious disease consultants came back and said that the fluid in the petri dish never grew or showed any signs of meningitis and that fluid was taken even before we asked God for complete healing! It was incredible! A Miracle!

Now because we are in the world and they don’t necessarily see things from our perspective, the consultants wanted to put me on antibiotics ‘just in case’ it happened again and to completely be sure that I was in the all clear, where in my heart I already knew I was completely healed and there was evidence. Dr M wasn’t too happy but he didn’t overstep his position and trusted their decision. But this started a snowball effect of other situations I had to overcome all because of their ‘just in case’ outlook.

I will Bless the Lord at ALL times

When I woke up it was the strangest thing. I was in a whole new playing field of pain, every inch hurt, even my toes. Apparently the first thing I said was ‘I need painkillers’ but the first thing I remember saying is ‘I can’t move my neck!’ I had no strength to turn my head to the side, and I noticed my speech was slurred. I was OK, but it was a little scary.

The operation took 12 hours long and 3 doctors rotated during the operation. My facial nerves were wrapped around the tumour, so they had to carefully pull away each nerve, not damaging it and remove the tumour piece by piece. Again, I so saw the hand of God on my life, I envisioned that it was his careful, precise hands operating and guiding the doctors. Every single one of my nerves were saved AND they got the WHOLE tumour out!!

PRAISE GOD!! **Cue happy dance**

It was a relief to hear that news, and another reminder that I am cared for by the one who made the universe.

I was lying there in the bed, with a bunch of wires, monitors and gadgets doing things for me, helping me breathe, keeping circulation in my blood, feeding me nutrients amongst other things. I thought to myself, ‘'s done..I’m here, lying in this bed, not being able to do a single normal thing...what shall I do?’

Holy Spirit answered: ‘Bless the Lord.’
Me: ‘I can?’
I thought for a little bit and realised that in Psalm 34 we are called to Bless the Lord at ALL times, and this was an ALL time. I thought about it some more and realised that, if I can bless the Lord at the lowest moment in my life, I can’t see it get much worse than this, than I don't have a reason to NOT to bless the Lord!.

It was a bold thing to do, but that is what He asked us to do and He never gives us anything we can’t do and so I did. I found that my spirit and my heart were made glad and full of hope, love and the peace of God. I felt so alive when all I was saying was blessings to God and it lead me to remind myself of all the other good things God has done in my life.

Those two days in Critical Care were blessed times I spent with God, I was a awake a couple of hours at a time but all I did and could do was talk to God and talk to my mum, dad or the nurse about God. It was a step of faith to speak out and to take God at his word and really live it, we are called to such higher and greater things that God has made possible for us to reach.

I personally believe it is what got me out of critical care so quickly and such a key moment in my life to remember that where when I am feeling slightly down, or in pain I am quick to Bless the Lord, it's like I made a pact with myself that cannot be broken.