I expected to spend this past week with 133 awesome middle school students on Bradshaw Christian's annual Spiritual Retreat at a Christian retreat center outside of Chico. I was all prayed-up, mentally and physically prepared to keep up with them, challenge them, and do my best to help them grow in their walk with God. I fully expected to have not a single moment to myself because I would be constantly interacting with my precious students, my fellow teachers, the wonderful parent volunteer chaperones, pouring myself into these lives. And that's how the first two days of the retreat looked. I was having a ball, feeling completely normal and healthy, enjoying non-classtime with my students. Then came the "storm."
While walking down the dormitory hall Wednesday morning to unlock "my" girls' rooms, I was rocked by an inexplicable wave on the right side of my body. I couldn't see out of my right eye, couldn't control it, couldn't stand straight. Everything started to spin, everything felt out of control, nothing felt like it was okay. My conscious mind was saying "this isn't happening, this isn't real" as I was trying to turn and stagger back toward then end of the hall to find another chaperone. I reeled to catch my balance and was holding myself up against a hallway wall when my friend, Sue, came down the hall and saw me. The next few minutes were a blur, but I ended up in Sue's car being driven to the local hospital. Hours later, after a CT scan and an MRI, I was diagnosed. Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA is what they call it. A mini-stroke.
At age 43, poster child for perfect cholesterol numbers, active and very healthy, this doesn't compute well in my head. I lay there in my hospital bed trying to get a grasp on all of this. My right eye regained full function immediately, but the right side of my face was still numb at that point, and my right arm and leg were extremely weak. I struggled for hours with "word finding" as I tried to express myself, though my speech itself was not affected. Still having to deal with a bit of that. The "transient" part of TIA means I will regain full function of everything and that no permanent damage was done to my brain, both very good things. Most of my strength has returned to my arm and leg and all the feeling in my face is back. But the why of it all is what continues to puzzle me and the doctors. I desire very much to know what needs to be done to prevent another TIA or possibly a full-on stroke. They thought they had an answer, but it's not as clear as they first thought. I will be taking additional tests now that I'm home and options are being further investigated and questioned.
My "retreat" had changed from being "on" with my students and colleages 24/7 to hours of quiet in a bed 100 miles away from my friends and family. In my "flesh" I should have been an emotional wreck, revelling in one long pity party as I lay there alone in my hospital bed with not one single familiar face around me. But God provided peace that truly passed all understanding. I had time that I NEVER have to be still, to pray, to read the Word, to write, to listen and truly ponder what God was giving me in this time. Sitting still and being quiet is not my natural state of being. At all. I like being in control and really don't like asking people for help. But God is pressing that out in me as I really don't have a choice. It is abundantly clear to me that I don't have control and that I really do need to humble myself and allow others to help me. I am blessed beyond belief with amazing friends and people who will without hesitation support us. I am so grateful.
I got home from the hospital last night and am resting. That's the theme of the weekend. I love that I'm no longer hooked up to an IV and telemetry monitor, that I'm in my own space with my awesome family. But I greatly value all that God has done and will continue to do in this experience He has given me. I will be still, I will listen, and I will give up control.