Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Unexpected Hospital Detour

"Have you ever been admitted into the hospital for DK?" The nurse asked me.

Even though my brain seemed to be racing, the rest of my body felt trapped in molasses--including my tongue.

I mumbled, "Uh, what is DK?"

"Diabetic Ketoacidosis." She replied.

"I don't think so." I responded.

For many of you, the following account of my visit to the ICU will make absolutely no sense. "Shawn did WHAT?!" You may say.  To some of you, what I did will make a good deal of sense. Unfortunately, I can't tell you about everything first-hand...many of the events had to be told to me once I regained consciousness.

This particular tale begins over a year ago, when I visited a Youth Discipleship training week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The focus of the training week was on spiritual warfare, and how spirit issues can affect physical issues. While I was there, on February 7th, 2014, I was healed from my gluten intolerance. Our group had done some prayer and repentance, and I renounced some spiritual strongholds in my heart. My head was anointed with oil, and we prayed for victory over Celiac, the intestinal disorder that gave me my intolerance to gluten. God was faithful, and instantaneously healed me. Previously when I ingested trace amounts of wheat, I would become increasingly sick until I vomited 6-8 hours later. Since that day in February, I have inhaled truckloads of wheat with no ill effect. It was a true miracle, and I have been grateful each day for it.

This past February, I returned to Myrtle Beach for another week of training. It was an incredible week; similar in many ways to the first week but yet vastly different in other ways. I met strangers that quickly became dear friends and spent a week listening to Jesus speak to me. We opened our hearts to hear from the Holy Spirit and bared our lives to each other, disclosing our fears and stumblings and weaknesses. We waged spiritual warfare against the Enemy on behalf of each other, often praying well into the morning hours. It was refreshing, stretching, exhausting, invigorating. There were visions and prophecies and the speaking in tongues and supernatural healings. Perhaps even the thought of some of those things causes you to feel squeamish, and I don't blame you. Two years ago, I felt the exact same way. That week at Myrtle Beach, I felt like I stepped back into the era of the church of Acts, where apostles proclaimed the Word of God despite the threats against their lives, and where many of the spiritual gifts were manifested among believers.

I've heard it said many times that "We can't be a first-generation church, like the account in Acts." and I disagree.

"But the apostles were able to tell first-hand accounts of Jesus. We can't do that!"
Why not? Doesn't Jesus speak to you?

"But those hocus pocus 'gifts of the spirit', like speaking in tongues, they're just manufactured spirituality, aren't they?"
Unfortunately there are many people who would try to make themselves look more righteous by mimicking the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I've seen false humility, I've seen man-centered joy and exultation. I've heard of people speaking gibberish and presenting it as a word from God, twisting out an "interpretation" that panders to their personal vendettas. Due to the deceits of the enemy, our modern churches have run from the gifts of the Spirit and said, "We will NOT be deceived." But it has come at the terrible cost of missing out on the life that the Holy Spirit provides. Yes, there is so much to be gained through quietness and prayer and steadfast living. I'm not expecting everyone to become raving Charismatics or shouting Pentecostals or chanting Baptists. The key here is being open to the Holy Spirit's moving. Two years ago I was completely unaware of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was moving, nudging, and prompting but I would quickly explain away the phenomenon. Perhaps that stirring was just my own conscience? Perhaps these emotions I felt were due to this revival/worship service/awesome church retreat?

"It is to your advantage that I go away." Jesus told his disciples in John 16:7. "...for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you."

The King James version calls it "the comforter."

See, when Jesus visited this earth as a human, he was confined inside a mortal body. When Jesus was in Jerusalem, there were miracles and blessings in Jerusalem. When Jesus was in Galilee, the works of the Spirit were there. When Jesus was in Nazareth, that's where you could find forgiveness and peace and rest. But Jesus wanted his love and forgiveness and peace and wisdom to be in all places at all times, which is precisely what the Holy Spirit is.

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." -John 16:13, ESV

See, the Holy Spirit's job is to aid us in our faith, comfort us along life's journey, provide truth, give visions for the future, and much more. Now, many things can be learned from the Word of God, but if we try to somehow separate the Holy Spirit from the Bible, we only end up with lifeless text. Truly, the gifts of the Spirit are worrisome. Will I look like a babbling idiot in front of my entire church family? What if the vision I'm seeing is a figment of my own imagination? What if I say something and I get ridiculed for it? These are difficult questions but the answer can be found in John 10:27.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."

How beautifully short and to the point! Eliminate the distractions, evade the hectic bedlam of activity for just 10 minutes and ask this one thing. "Jesus, I want to hear Your voice. I don't know what it sounds like and there are many voices crying for my attention. I'm just going to listen. Would You please speak?

And Jesus spoke on that beach in South Carolina. He said, "Are you ready to be healed, Shawn?"


In faith, I stopped taking insulin shortly after returning home from the trip. My blood sugars had been doing fairly well on a reduced regimen of insulin, but I wanted to act in total faith. I planned to perform a Daniel fast, subsisting on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and water for a week. I completely stopped taking my insulin. This (rightfully) appears to be the resolution of a complete lunatic, but after all, I had to step out in faith just 12 months before and start eating wheat to know if I had been healed or not. When I placed that handful of White Cheddar Cheese Nips in my mouth, I was willfully eating more wheat than I had consumed in over 15 years. This act of faith seemed no less daunting, but I jumped right into it.

Things didn't quite work the way I expected, as can be discerned by the photo of myself, lying unconscious in the University of Iowa Hospital intensive care unit. When I was admitted into the hospital, my blood sugar was over 1,000 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). A standard, non-diabetic human's blood sits comfortably at 80-120 mg/dl, so I was ten times the acceptable limit. Who knew celery and almonds had so many sugars in them?

Going back a few days before my hospitalization, my Daniel fast had been going well. I felt tired, but in a similar way that I had been on previous fasts. I was eating large quantites of fruit and vegetables, with supplements of almonds, cashews, and peanuts. On Saturday for lunch, I boiled some potatoes, diced an entire sweet onion, carmelized it in olive oil, and mixed the onions into the boiled potatoes. Unconventional, to say the least, but the mind churns out a surprising amount of creativity when given the proper motivation. In this case, ravenous hunger was sufficient incentive. I ate everything I had prepared, and it tasted surprisingly good. A few hours later, I vomited everything I had eaten for lunch, breakfast, and the previous day. Afraid I had violated some kind of culinary law, I asked Google, "Is it okay to eat an entire sweet onion in one sitting?" With all the answers pointing toward the affirmative, I then suspected I had gotten some form of food poisoning. That would explain my extreme weakness, nausea, stomach distress, and vomiting. The last of these was causing me the additional problem of dehydration. I started timing it; I could only hold down water for 7 minutes.

At this point, it was late into Saturday night. I was exhausted and my body had emptied itself of everything. Now when I vomited, there was only my recently-consumed water mixed with a brown fluid coming up, which smelled awful and burned like crazy. I determined that I was now purging stomach acid. Mom became sufficiently alarmed and sent over some Mylanta or some such remedy for stomach ache. I took some and vomited it up 15 minutes later. Nothing tastes quite right returning from the stomach, and I now had a strong distaste for onions.

On Sunday morning, I was too weak to attend church. I was also too stubborn to request assistance, because I was still positive this was just food poisoning or a spiritual attack. Call me insane, but I was having a difficult time thinking clearly. I was borderline delirious and my trips to the bathroom became dangerous adventures filled with sharp furniture-shaped obstacles and a floor that wouldn't keep level. Mom dropped off some Powerade and told me to take a tablespoon every 15 minutes. I did, and it was the first substance I was able to keep down without vomiting.

Mom and Dad picked me up after church and took me to their place. I grumbled and complained and made it known that I wanted to weather this storm in my own comfortable bed. They wisely ignored me and carried me to the van.

I don't remember much of my 4-hour stay at my parent's home but I vaguely remember my friends coming over to pray with me.

Mom and Dad rushed me to the hospital. I was nearly unconscious at that point, but Mom tells me I grumpily declared to the ER desk attendant from my wheelchair that I needed to use the restroom. Mom was upset with the staff, evidently it took quite a while to admit me and Grabers don't have much patience. Once the doctors discovered my sky-high blood sugar, they started shouting and running and stabbing needles into my veins. Dad says they started out with a single drip IV but quickly advanced to two separate IV's and put them under pressure. Soon fluids and insulin were pouring into me. Dad counted 8 bags of fluid emptied intravenously. It was the first insulin my body had received since Tuesday, four days previous.

Visitors came to see how I was doing, but I don't remember many of them. I was in and out of consciousness for most of Monday. Once I was up and conscious, all I wanted was water, but everything tasted awful. I couldn't understand why they kept giving me water that tasted like burnt copper. I slowly realized it was perfectly clean, fresh water and my throat and tongue were still mangled from the stomach acid.

With consciousness, I got to appreciate my guests a whole lot more. I wasn't able to see them, since my contacts and glasses had been left at home, but it was good to hear their voices.

Many friends visited me. I'd write down the names and thank you publicly but I would be guaranteed to miss some of the lovely people that took time out of their day to see me. For all you kind souls, thank you very much. You lifted my spirits and brought joy into my room. I appreciate it more than I can say.

I felt lashed to the bed. I had cuffs around my ankles that alternated pressure to stimulate blood flow. I had a blood pressure cuff on my left arm that took readings every 20 minutes and two IV's in my right arm. I had sensors attached to 6 places on my chest and stomach with a wire trailing from each. I had a little alligator clip attached to my finger. A nurse helped me detach the cuffs so I could shuffle over to a bedside commode when I needed to use the restroom. It was at one of those moments, half-naked, half-shackled to the bed and blind as a bat, one of my friends poked their head into my room. At least, I think it was a friend. The doctors would come in and politely do whatever they wanted to do. This stranger was just standing there with their head poked in, looking at me.

"Uh, hello. I can't see who you are." I said, trying to modestly use a bedside commode while keeping from pulling the IV's from my arm.

"I can see what you're up to!" The voice of my friend Nate replied. He chuckled, "Do you need some more time to finish?"

Relieved in several ways, I replied that a little extra time would be nice. Nate and I had a good conversation and I was glad for the visit.

Tuesday was a flurry of activity. The door to my room was constantly flapping about, with doctors and insurance agents and nutritionists and clinic attendants coming in to ask me all sorts of questions. The nurses kept giving me bland-tasting gluten free food, because all of my hospital records still said "Celiac - allergic to wheat" on them. I tried explaining that I had been healed from Celiac for over a year, but they weren't very inclined to listen to the ravings of a wild young man sitting in the ICU due to DK. My Dad brought me a hot, steamy McGriddle for breakfast and I nearly cried in thanks. It was the most delicious thing I had eaten in the past seven days.

After some recuperation and half a dozen conversations with my doctors (who asked understandable questions such as, "Why did you stop taking insulin?"), I was finally allowed to walk around a little. With help from my parents, I hobbled around the ICU in my scandalously immodest hospital gown. I wasn't bothered. It felt good to be out of bed, and since I didn't have my glasses, I was free to jaunt around without seeing the looks of shock and alarm on the faces of passerby. I was quickly exhausted though and although I didn't admit it out loud, I was grateful to return to my bed. I rested for a while as the doctors took some final readings. They announced I was free to go later that day if I wished.

I left the hospital late Tuesday afternoon. I was unsteady on my feet for a few days but slowly regained strength. My blood sugars were abnormally high for a week after the hospital stay but I was told that was to be expected. Since then, they've come back down to agreeable levels, but only with constant insulin injections.

So what does this mean about Jesus? Had I misheard him?

In Daniel chapter 10, an angel appears to Daniel and announces that he had been journeying to get to Daniel, but "The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia," -Daniel 10:13

Perhaps Jesus is sending a ministering angel that hasn't yet reached me. Perhaps Jesus was referring to the vast spiritual healing I received in my heart during the week at Myrtle Beach. I don't know what all my Savior has up his sleeve, but I DO know that He's in control and He has wonderful things in store for me.

As for myself, I'm grateful for the work God is doing in my life. I'm grateful for my energy and strength and sense of balance...things I took for granted until they were taken from me for a few days. I'm grateful for my family and friends and my church, who ministered to me and tended to me and cared deeply for me. I'm grateful for my doctors, pharmacists and nutritionists that want to see me live a long, healthy life. I'm even grateful for onions, even though I pause momentarily before eating them.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
-Jeremiah 29:11, ESV