I was supposed to teach a lesson to the young women of our congregation but could not find the health necessary to do it. For the first time in over a decade, I missed church. I could not teach the lesson but fortuitously Grace could. Capable and competent, she came to the rescue.
I was also supposed to take a group of parents and students on a week-long field trip, camping and hiking in southern UT the next day, a responsibility that would not as easily be passed off to Grace…..or anyone else for that matter.
My health deteriorated. By late afternoon my entire body, especially my lower back, ached. Moving anything—even the hair follicles on my head—hurt, nothing seemed to want to stay in my stomach, and I felt miserable. The chances that I would enjoy Monday’s field trip seemed rather remote.
I sent Lance to the pharmacy to get over-the-counter medicine for another what-I-assumed-to-be unrelated ailment. He faithfully responded and returned with a box whose label I diligently read. In bold print it said “Ask a doctor before use if you have lower abdominal, back or shoulder pain, fever, chills, nausea or vomiting.” Bingo.
An Internet search, a series of phone calls, and a fair dose of divine tender mercies led us to a University of Utah urgent care facility in Farmington that was open until 11:00 on a Sunday night. There I was diagnosed with a fungal and bacterial infection, prescribed medicine for both the infections and the nausea (Zofran continues to be one of my best friends!), and sent home with instructions to drink lots.
Modern medicine is miraculous and God is real. Monday morning found me on my feet and on my way to southern UT. Monday and Tuesday were a bit tough but I was back on my game by Wednesday and the entire field trip, even Monday and Tuesday, was a great experience.
Sunday’s bacterial and fungal infections were conquered but, it seems, there were other microbes in the wings. Sensing that my shields were down, they attacked in full force. I had not been home from the field trip for long when I developed a cough that caused my voice to deepen, that prevented all attempts at exercise (I find that breathing is an essential component of most exercise endeavors and the cough prevented all efforts to breathe deeply), and that kept me up at night. Periodic coughing fits attacked me, making breathing hard and talking impossible. I slept with a cough drop in my mouth and carried water everywhere I went. After a week, motivated by a desire to breathe, I saw a doctor and was diagnosed with bronchitis, probably of viral origin. I was a microbial soup: bacterial, fungal, and now viral. Great.
But the story does not end here.
While on the field trip my gums became very sore. I attributed it to toxins produced by the fungus and bacteria that were attacking me. About a week into the bronchial infection, my gums again became very tender. This time I blamed the viral infection. The tenderness increased and became localized. It was very obvious that my molars, upper and lower, on the left side of my mouth, hurt.
This happened on the Thursday of Youth Conference. According to my schedule, I was to spend Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Youth Conference and leave for Mesa Verde early Monday morning. There was no time scheduled for tooth aches.
Toothaches do not respect schedules.
Thursday I called Dr. Bjork (dentist) and asked about the tenderness. He offered to look at my teeth but suggested the pain was probably caused by microbial released toxins, a verdict I welcomed. Friday my tooth pain drove me to take him up on his offer to look at my teeth.
X-rays revealed an upper molar (#5) in need of a root canal and a lower molar (#31) whose root canal needed a retreat. The areas around both teeth were infected. It was late Friday afternoon and I was to leave on a weeklong trip on Monday. We decided to aggressively treat the infections with antibiotics (2 pills four times a day) and schedule the root canal when I returned, in 9 days’ time. In theory, the antibiotics would take care of the infection which would eliminate the pain.
The theory did not work. At 2:00 (a common time to awaken to ill health it seems) Saturday morning pain caused me to dig through Lance’s medicine and use one of his heavy duty pain killers. The pain dulled slightly but did not diminish. On my knees, I plead with my Father in Heaven for relief.
The night before, at Youth Conference, Justin related a personal experience about his interactions with God. He told how, in his earlier days, he would occasionally bargain with the Lord while hunting, offering to give up a bad habit or start a good one, if God would help him in the hunt. “I drew out a once-in-a-lifetime elk tag recently,” Justin continued “and there just were not any elk in the area. I thought about what I could offer the Lord, what I could put on the table in asking for His help, and I could not think of anything. I am not perfect, not at all, but at this point in my life I am fully committed and I could not think of anything more I could offer God. As I was pondering, I received a distinct, divine message. ‘You don’t have to offer anything.’ I was told, ‘I will help you because I love you.’”
As I prayed, Justin’s story came to mind. “Please, Heavenly Father,” I prayed, “I do not have anything I can offer you. Please, please help me just because You love me.”
Despite another dose of narcotic, the pain intensified as did my concern. There was no way I could wait nine days for relief and I really, REALLY did not want to disappoint my family or family with whom we were traveling, by forcing a delay to our planned Mesa Verde adventure. What to do?
I thought of Paul Mackley. He and his wife are my friends. Our friendship began two decades ago when we established the Traditional Family Values Scholarship and continued in the 4-H barns where our children showed hogs. We see each other only annually at the fair but our interactions are always warm. And, thanks to our hog interactions, I had his cell phone number.
Paul and Karen are wonderful people. They are also very busy. He is a dentist, stake president, active advocate of the family and the Constitution and owner of five dental offices and she works full time keeping him and their family going. Dare I contact him?
At 5:15 a.m. I sent a text, explaining my situation. It was Saturday. I hoped to leave town on Monday. My face was swollen and my pain was intense. Was there anyone in any of his offices who could help me out?
At 10:00 a.m. he called. “I have to conduct a funeral,” he said, “but if you can wait until 2:00 p.m. I can do it.” And he did. Oh bless his heart! (And his hands!) He opened his office, he recruited his daughter, who had not acted as a dental assistant for years, to help, and he took care of my teeth. Karen came by to offer support as well. It was a true family service project.
And the service worked. I left as scheduled for Mesa Verde, microbes vanquished and health restored.
For a month I have been soup--a microbial soup. It seems God loves soup; He certainly loves me. I know He loves the Mackleys as well. And, on Saturday, He loved me through the Mackleys. Thank you to both. Sincerely.