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God, my Refuge and Strength in my Near-Fatal Battle with Covid-19

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God, my Refuge and Strength in my Near-Fatal Battle with Covid-19

Sister Ighid, a Coworker in Indonesia

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear … (Psalm 46:1-2)

The emerging situation with Covid-19 and the many news reports around us are creating anxiety and worry about the future and our well-being. In times like these, it is especially important to remember God’s promise to us. He who made us, and gave his own Son for the salvation of the world, will not leave his children in this time of need.

Covid-19

The first hint that something wasn’t right was on a Friday. I felt more tired than normal and by the time I went to bed I was exhausted. It was a particularly tough weekend. On Monday, I started getting pains in my legs which were excruciating. I thought it was a nerve issue and took some paracetamol but the doctors later told me the virus had gone directly into my muscles. I had a cough but it wasn’t persistent, which people always think is the sign of Covid-19. I took a Covid-19 test which came back posi­tive, so I isolated myself at home. Pastor Aisu and Pastor Suyi delivered me all kinds of vitamins, and all the medicines that Covid-19 patients usually need. Everything was getting better, except that my oxygen saturation level was stuck at 90%.

On the 18th day of isolation, I was shivering and feeling freezing cold. At one point I had four hot water bottles on the sofa and two blankets, yet I just could not get warm. Then a fever set in. It felt as if my body was on fire, and I was getting splitting headaches. I couldn’t eat anything. I was vomiting and absolutely soaking wet with sweat, and then my breathing started to get more difficult. That’s when I decided to call the hospital so that I could be quarantined there. I remember that when the paramedics arrived, one of them was talking on the walkie-talkie with the ambulance driver outside, saying: “She’s in very bad shape, we need to bring her in.” He put an oxygen mask on me and carried me out to the vehicle. One of my brothers was there watching. That was one of the hardest things for me to take: seeing the look of helplessness on his face.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were in a queue of ambulances wait­ing to offload patients. I was lying there for about three hours before it was my turn. They put me in a wheelchair, and I remembered them saying they had no cubicles, for the hospital was already operating at full capacity. The nurse said, “I will have to swab you for Covid-19.” He stuck the swab stick so deep down the back of my throat that I was retching, and then just as I was recovering from it, he said: “Now I have to do it up your nostrils.” At one point, I felt the most excruciating pain in my chest, like I was being compressed with slabs of concrete. That was followed by terrible stabbing pains in my stomach, possibly as bad as labor contractions, and I cried out: “I can’t take this anymore! I can’t carry on!” By the time the pain subsided, I was almost delirious.

After a period of waiting, I finally got a room at the safe house (a safe house is a Covid-19 hospital and quarantine center). There were only three beds in my bay, and everyone there had tested positive for Covid-19 and had an underlying health issue. Two women there were diabetics. I don’t remember much of my first few days, just nurses going in and out all the time, and cleaners coming in to disinfect everything. Most of the noise was coming from me ringing the bell and gasping for a drink of water. I was so weak that that was all I could manage to say, that and “commode” (toilet). I was watching the nurses; they were all working shifts of a minimum of 12 hours. You could see that they were absolutely exhausted.

One night, I saw a man in what was supposed to be our all-female ward. I rang the bell and the nurse came and explained that he was the son of the woman in the bed opposite me, and that she was an “end-of-life” patient. I felt dreadfully sad for them but at the same time I was thinking: “So I’ve got somebody who’s about six feet away from me who’s basically waiting to die, yet I’m so near to her. No! I have to do something”. I offered to pray for her. But the nurse didn’t allow me at first because she thought I was going to be an end-of-life patient too. She allowed me only after I had told her that I’m an evangelist.

After praying, I went back to bed, and started hallucinating. I was getting flashbacks of conversations I’d had in my life with people I’d met. At one point I thought: “Am I alive or dead? Do these flashbacks mean that I’m transitioning to death? Is this what people mean when they talk about your life passing before you when you die?”

Then all of a sudden — it was the early hours — I heard a male nurse outside the door say, “She’s gone.” The poor woman opposite me had died. Then I waited for people to come and remove the dead body, but nothing happened. Her body was there for what seemed like hours before they eventually came in. They cleaned it and then wrapped it in plastic like packaging goods. Then I heard them put her in a body bag; they zipped it up and said: “On the count of three … one, two, three.” The noise of her body coming into contact with the metal trolley — that’s a sound I would never forget.

Someone started cleaning the place where the woman had been, and sprayed lemon scent to freshen up the smell. By daytime I was just looking at an empty bed. The day before, I’d been looking at somebody opposite me but now the bed was empty. That thought really affected me. The nurse told me that we were in a bay where 50% had died and 50% had survived, and that we were on the lucky side of the room.

From Covid to Lupus

Because my pain had spread to the kidneys and other parts of my body, I took some medical tests. I found out that I had lupus. “You have lupus” — the doctor’s words cut through the air against the stark white of his examination room, and right through my soul. Now it was real. All the questions and confusing symptoms — all of it just slipped away. A panic swelled inside my heart. I looked down at my feet dangling from the table. The doctor continued to speak, but to me his words were nothing more than a jumbled mess. This day of diagnosis began like any other. The unusually humid morning had morphed into a mercilessly hot afternoon. Ironically, what had started so ordinarily would conclude extraordinarily. There will be a new “everyday” for me to get used to. There will be lots of pain and uncertainty. When I wake up in the morning, I will never know if I will have the energy or the ability to do what I want or need to do that day. It can be very depressing. Some weeks are filled with doctor visits or medical tests, and have become very tiresome. My symptoms progressed to extreme fatigue, hair loss, anemia, and a facial rash. Lupus basically means that my body is on “self-destruct” mode. Cruel, isn’t it? There are many damaging effects of lupus, some of which I have suffered and some I have not. Tiredness is a major problem for me. The tiredness is there every day; some days are worse than others, but even if you have an afternoon nap or an early night, the next day can be just as bad because the nap only offers very short-term relief. What you have to do is just accept that your body knows when you need to rest and you have to listen!

‘’I have to listen to what my body is telling me!’’

Days at the Safe House

At the safe house, we patients were given the opportunity to share together. We had our sharing time in which we share about anything. That’s when I started to distribute literature from Cahaya Pengharapan Ministries (our bulletins comprise of sermons/articles, books, Pastor Eric’s testimony), and to evangelize. God’s mission goes on! The gospel mandate of Christ has not changed, even if masks and social distancing have made evangelism more challenging. It reminds me of apostle Paul who “didn’t let being shackled in place prevent him from sharing the Gospel.’’ If apostle Paul “can do it shackled, we can do it sheltered.” I love to share the story about me and God. People love stories, and they are often open to hearing both salvation testimonies and accounts of some life experience through which God really helped me. They were very impressed by how God changed me, from someone to whom God means nothing to someone to whom God means everything. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to document our activities because of strict regulations.

There were two persons I personally shared the gospel with, and after that they passed on. But the most important thing was they got a chance to hear the true gospel and accepted Yahweh as the only true God at the last moments of their lives. To serve Covid-19 patients isn’t easy because of the physical conditions; I see that most of the patients are having negative emotions. With emotions reeling like an emotional rollercoaster, you may wonder, “How can things change for the better? How to ‘play our role’ when a pandemic is shaking people’s lives and, for some, their foundations and their faith?’’

In this time of crisis, I asked myself, “How is God calling me to serve?” How to reach out in tangible ways to let our neighbors know that they are not alone?

I was reminded of the beautiful words of a song,

“God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side with love and strength for each new day. He will make a way.’’

I believe that God is doing something this season to soften hearts. God can change impossible situations. He sometimes moves mysteriously, but will provide you with what you need in miraculous ways. And it is going to be far better than you could ever imagine. God will successfully execute what you can’t. Nothing is impossible with Him. After being almost ready to give up at the start, I had to tell myself: “No, I’ve got to carry on.’’

Most of our church members texted me constantly with love, care and support, and that gave me the will to fight.

To all pastors, brothers and sisters, I thank you for all your prayers. Perhaps Pastor Aisu had already shared that when I was in a serious condition, I had to be put on a ventilator. I do believe that God answered each prayer right away and in time: the next day the ventilator could be removed. Glory be to Him!

This is also a testimony to the nurse who took care of me. She said, “It’s a miracle that you’re still alive. I thought you were going to die. Wow, God is great!’’ I feel grateful that I have been served by a nurse and a doctor who were responsive and caring. It seems to me that our God had pre­pared them to help me. He had provided everything I needed from my first day as a Covid-19 patient to the time I came down with lupus. He is Jehovah Jireh!

Scriptures – Solid Foundation

I’ve been staying at the safe house for more than three months. My latest Covid-19 test was still positive and I still have lupus, so since last month the doctor gave me immunosuppressant therapy which is quite expen­sive. But again God provided. When we have God, we have every­thing we truly need. This therapy is helping me to recover slowly. This week should be my 6th therapy. Hopefully I will recover soon.

The atmosphere in the unit is oppressive. Fear and uncertainty are making people panic. The situation is also very difficult for the nursing staff. In these difficult days and hours, when at times I feel panicky, I cling to the Bible verses that come to mind. “The Bible is like a treasure trove full of help.’’ I won’t list all the verses that have helped me because there are many. But one amazing verse in Psalm 119:143 often returned to my thoughts:

‘Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights.’

I notice that when these words come to mind, they help me control my breathing. They give me peace and are a source of joy and delight, as it says in that verse in Psalms! How grateful I am that those words could come to my mind and help me! I would recommend them to every young person—when you are still young and think you still have time. You may think, “I still have years left,” and that is often the case. But in this day and age, during this unpredictable time when there is so much digital inform­ation and entertainment to offer, you can easily let your time slip through your fingers. There is no better investment in your life than delving fully into God’s word. Consciously take the time to do this, not just a cursory reading of the Bible, but thinking about what it means for you personally. Then these Bible verses will come to your mind and become your help in all circumstances. By being occupied with God’s word in this way, you will get to know God yourself, giving you a solid foundation in your life!

One other thing that I lately have been pondering on is that so long as it is day, so long as we are still breathing, we must do His will. God’s will for us is to complete the task of Matthew 24:14, that the gospel of the kingdom of heaven will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all people. May God help us seize the opportunity, and change our view of the king­dom and our sense of mission these days. May the Holy Spirit help us see God’s work in us and through us in every circumstance we face. Immanuel!

Ighid

 

(c) 2021 Christian Disciples Church