Why am I so weak?

Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner – August, 2002

I have now been working in this very busy clinic for 4000 employees of the insurance company for several months. One of my duties is to give routine vaccinations to employees when they request them. During an unusually slow afternoon, I checked my vaccine stock to see if I needed to order any more. I am praying about doing some medical mission trips, so I decided to give myself a Hepatitis A vaccine. Hepatitis A is common in many developing countries and is transmitted by unclean food or water.

The next morning, my alarm awoke me at the usual 5 a.m. I tried to move and get out of bed, but I ached all over and was overcome with weakness and dizziness. By 6 a.m., I felt the same so I called my boss and said I was too ill to come to work today. I knew there was no way that I could survive a busy clinic day.

The terrible weakness, dizziness, and aches continued, so by the third day I went to see my personal physician. He drew blood tests and said my blood pressure was low and to try and drink more fluids. I was thankful my friend from church could drive me to and from the appointment.

These symptoms continued day after day, until a month had passed. After the first week, I had no paid time off remaining since I had only worked for the company a short time. My physician could not determine the cause of my symptoms, so he sent me to a neurologist, chiropractor, and endocrinologist. I became very discouraged and cried out to God for mercy in my weakness.

September 17, 2002

On September 17, my doorbell rang. The postman had me sign for a registered letter from my employer. I sat down on my couch and opened it with trembling hands. “We regret to inform you that due to your prolonged absence, you are no longer employed at this company. You may begin collecting unemployment after you recover from your illness….” Because I had not worked for the company for 12 months, they were under no legal obligation to continue my employment.  The tears flowed as I asked God to help me and teach me all the lessons He had for me. I asked Him to give the doctors wisdom in finding out what was wrong with me, heal my body, and provide my every need.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 43:5

I began reading books by other Christians who went through their time of suffering with victory. Corrie Ten Boom was imprisoned in the concentration camp during World War 2 because she sheltered Jewish people. She suffered from starvation, cold, beatings, and watched her sister die. After Corrie was released due to a clerical error, she wrote a book called “The Hiding Place” and traveled the world telling people that no matter how deep the pit, the love of God was deeper still. She also said,

Faith = Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him!

Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been confined to a wheelchair because of a diving accident when she was a teen, wrote, “People with disabilities are God’s best visual aids to demonstrate who He really is. His power shows up best in weakness. They persevere. They love, live, trust, and obey Him. Eventually the world says, “How great their God must be to inspire this kind of loyalty!”

September 30, 2002

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Psalm 25:4

God encouraged me with this verse.

“Your weakness will be your strength if you accept it with a lowly heart. Trusting in God is a simple resting in God’s love, as a baby lies in its mother’s arms. The point of trusting God is not to do great things that you can feel good about, but to trust God from a place of deep weakness. Nearly all God’s jewels are crystallized tears. All I ask is that you rest in faith with a teachable spirit.” Fenelon

“Lord, give to me a quiet heart that does not ask to understand but confidently steps forward in the darkness guided by Thy hand. Mercifully, God does not leave us to choose our own curriculum. Let the Lord of the Universe do the worrying! Wide soaring gives wide seeing! Keep looking down from your heavenly position.” – Elisabeth Elliot (widow of Jim Elliot who was martyred in Ecuador)

“Godliness with contentment is great gain…. Having food and raiment (clothing) let us be therewith content.” I Timothy 6:6-8

Reflection

And so began the most difficult time in my nursing career and in my health. After many tests, my endocrinologist finally determined that I had developed adrenal insufficiency from the Hepatitis A vaccine. The adrenal glands control all the hormones in your body. If a person does not produce enough of their own natural steroid, they experience low blood pressure, severe weakness, and dizziness – all my symptoms. I had to take a low dose of steroids for the next six years. How I thanked God that I finally had an answer!

I called Dr. A., my former coworker at the psychiatric hospital who also conducted vaccine research. He confirmed that in very rare instances, vaccines can effect the adrenal glands like this.

After much prayer, I decided to sell my dream house that I had built a few years previously. By God’s grace, I made enough profit on the sale of the house to pay cash for a small condominium where I lived for the next four years. It was a huge financial relief to be rid of a mortgage and a good lesson to hold everything with an open hand to God. My real home is in heaven above with Him for all eternity! After six months, I recovered enough strength to seek employment part-time. Next post, I will tell you how God wonderfully provided again.

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Will God Provide?

October, 2001

Dr. T., my manager, called me into his office. “Pam, I’m afraid I have some bad news for all of us. The parent hospital has decided to close this campus in the next few months because they are losing so much money at this facility. Next month, they will decrease our hours to 20 hours per week. They have offered us positions at the parent hospital on the psychiatric unit, but we will need to be on call at night and weekends. Let me know what you decide to do. I think I’ll be looking for another job closer to my home.”

This news took me by surprise. I knew the hospital was struggling, but I didn’t know it was this dire. Three years ago, I built my dream house because Dr. T. told me my job was totally secure. I so enjoy living here because it is close to church and work and I host guests frequently. But I will not be able to pay my monthly bills on half my salary. I think this is a good time to leave psychiatry since I don’t want to work weekends and night shift again.

When I arrived home, I opened my Bible and asked God to show me the next step and to provide for me. Certainly God, who created the universe, can supply my every need. This is my time to trust Him and see His provision.

God calmed my heart as I read Matthew 6:25-34, “Therefore, I say unto you, Be NOT anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food and the body than raiment?…For your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be, therefore, NOT anxious about tomorrow; for tomorrow will be anxious for the things of itself. “

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the PEACE of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus…. But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7, 19

God encouraged me with Philippians 4:19

Dear Lord, You know all about this situation and my finances. Show me the next step. I’m trusting You to provide my every need. Use me for Your glory and honor. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

December, 2001

I have had a desire to teach nurses again in some way, so I applied to teach at a Christian college 1000 miles away. I visited the campus for ten days  to observe the classes, speak with the nursing professors, meet with the Dean, attend several different churches, and look at a few houses to buy. The Dean said they would love to have me join the faculty.

I returned home and asked God to show me His will. If I joined the faculty, I would not have time to keep working as a Nurse Practitioner and would eventually lose my NP license. Because it took me so many years to become a Nurse Practitioner, the Lord did not give me peace about giving it up. So I wrote the Dean and declined their offer.

I applied to a home care agency and was hired as a RN to do psychiatric home visits after I finish my four hours daily at the psychiatric hospital. I drive to the worst parts of the city, enter smoke filled apartments with blaring TV, assess the patient, and fill his locked med box for the week. Some of the patients are quite unstable mentally, so I ask God for protection as I quickly work. The agency said I can leave a patient’s home at any time if I do not feel safe. I always keep myself between the patient and the door and keep my cell phone in my pocket. How I thank the Lord daily for His protection! I continue to look for a full-time job as I know this is not the right job for me long term, but I thank God for His provision in the interim.

May, 2002

I interviewed for a job as a Nurse Practitioner to run the employee clinic of a large insurance company. The manager grilled me on how I would handle emergency situations. She said I answered all the emergency questions correctly and offered me the job. The pay is more than I made at the psychiatric hospital, but I’m a little hesitant about the 45 minute commute. I will need to leave my house daily at 6:30 a.m. to arrive in time. But since this is the only NP position God has opened, I accepted the offer.

August, 2002

I was trained at the downtown office by an experienced NP, and then was sent to the suburbs to run a busy clinic alone for 4000 employees.  I have a receptionist, but no medical assistant to help me with vital signs or electrocardiograms (ECGs). The supervising MD comes to the office once a week to review my notes. He is also available by phone whenever I have an emergency.

I am amazed at all I am expected to do. For every new employee, I do an ergonomic assessment of their desk, chair, phone, and computer to make sure it is in proper alignment for them to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive use injuries. The majority of the employees work in a cubicle and are on the computer and phone eight hours daily. We also hold health fairs for the employees periodically where we check their blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose.

And then there are the daily clinics. Sometimes I have a line of 15 employees out the door waiting to see me. They come to work so sick because they don’t want to use any of their sick time or waste time going to their own doctor. If a Vice President comes in, they get to go to the front of the line. In the four months that I have been here, I have had to call the ambulance about a dozen times for emergencies ranging from chest pain and asthma attacks to hemorrhaging.

I also draw routine labs for patients who bring a prescription from their regular doctor, give vaccinations, and run and interpret ECGs. Since I did not need to read ECGs in my other job, sometimes I need to fax them to my supervising MD to have him confirm the interpretation. But if I don’t have time and it is an emergency, I just call the ambulance. “When in doubt, send them out” is what my boss told me.

Every morning I ask the Lord for wisdom in every decision and a quiet heart in the midst of whatever emergency situation walks through the door. I don’t enjoy the stress of this job. I have never worked in the emergency department or intensive care unit. Some days, this feels a little too much like that.

Reflection

How I thank God for carrying me through that challenging period of job changes and providing so wonderfully for me. Little did I know that an even more difficult trial lay ahead of me where I learned to trust Him in the midst of utter weakness.