Life Has New Meaning

And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 NLT

This photo is a testimony by itself. “How does it feel to be working again,” my son asked. “I’m so grateful to be here,” I replied.

The last time I served, I had a seizure. It happened in the middle of me talking to someone. Imagine talking, losing your train of thought, stuttering when you normally don’t, mouth twisting, then suddenly not being able to breathe.

Sidebar: [My husband sends pictures to my mom in love when we are volunteering. He just so happened to walk into the hallway moments before the seizure to take pictures per usual. He saw my face through the camera lens and walked towards me. Because, I could not speak I just looked at him, with fear in my eyes and tried to make my way to him, before collapsing in his arms].

I thought I was having a stroke because of my mouth twisting. Then, I thought I was dying because I could not breathe. LOL. I can laugh at how dramatic I am now that it’s over. I remember saying, “Jesus help me,” in my mind. At that moment, my husband grabbed my face and calmly said to himself I was having a stroke when I didn’t respond to him. He called for help and immediately began praying. I became unconscious and started having convulsions. It’s great to know that when I can’t pray, there are people around me who will.

The next thing I remember is being confused about what happened. Apparently, I was laughing hysterically during questioning. I was incoherent and unable to provide any information. I did not even know that I was on the stretcher. It did not register that the paramedics were there for me until they started wheeling me out of the church.

That day, my church was having a partner celebration to thank members for their contributions and highlighted all that the ministry had accomplished to date. I was excited about sharing my testimony that evening. So, with me having a seizure right before the celebration began, I could not understand why God allowed it to happen.

Let me be very clear: GOD DOES NOT CAUSE SICKNESS.

I spent the following week searching myself. Did this mean I was not supposed to speak? Then, I started worrying about a  mysterious, underlying medical problem since I never had a seizure before. I was faced with constant flashbacks of the experience. It was extremely traumatic. To make matters worse, a week later, I had another seizure while sleeping.

This week, I realized that it was all spiritual. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NLT

The enemy did not want me to speak. Duh! I’m always talking about how great God is and all that He has done for my family. My husband has called me the testimony queen for years. I thought my faith was solid, but it actually hit a plateau. I got comfortable.

I was confused after the seizure. I experienced brain fog and short term memory loss. It was difficult to formulate my words. It also caused the inability to focus or think clearly. Confusion is a side effect of the medication I was prescribed after having the second seizure. After prayer and mediation, it became very clear what was going on.

God is not the author of confusion.

Earlier last week I wrote in my journal about being chosen, since I am considered a rainbow baby. I reminded myself that I just have to weather the storm to reach the promise. Sunday, morning during Bible class,  I wrote how God changes you before changing your circumstance. Both CHOSEN and CHANGED were mentioned during the sermon! This was instant confirmation for me.

Earplugs for my MRI Brain Scan

I had an MRI Brain Scan today. This was the last test I needed to have for my doctors to come up with a prognosis. All of the tests I’ve had so far, have been normal *insert praise dance.* The machine is narrow and loud. If you are not claustrophobic, you probably will be with this one. I know I was.

The technician gave me a panic button in case it became too much for me and earplugs for the noise. Not a coincidence that I was feeling anxious on that table. There was a cage-like helmet over my head that takes the pictures. I thought about the helmet of salvation. I began to drown out the noise of the enemy, the lies, the taunting. I tried singing but could barely remember lyrics to my favorite songs. I recited several verses then I prayed the rest of the time. The entire procedure was 18 minutes, but the lesson I learned will last a lifetime.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Phillippians 4:8 NLT

I do not know how much time I have to live, but I do know that I do not want to die with all of my dreams, gifts and unwritten books inside of me.

I don’t know what you are going through, but I pray that you have the mind of Christ and remain faithful no matter what. YOU have all power over the enemy. Find your purpose and stay focused on things that matter. Life is short.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I planned to testify about my journey with lupus. Then, this happened.

Cherish Each Day

I made a lot of plans for Labor Day weekend to close out the summer. The first set of plans were cancelled due to Hurricane Hermine. My back up plans were cancelled after I suddenly fell ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. I would like to walk you through my thoughts and revelations while I was literally fighting for my life. 

I work in the Emergency Room and it’s nothing like I thought it would be. I’m learning that I get way too attached to my patients. Not Izzie from Grey’s Anatomy attached, but more like Miranda Bailey-tough shell, soft heart-attached. It has taken a toll on my body to say the least.
On Friday, September 2nd, I was assigned one-to-one observation for a patient that arrived with a knife. He was checking in for mental health reasons, but he’s a veteran which tells me he’s also a trained killer. You may think I’m being pessimistic, but I think it’s being realistic. My stress level was through the roof. It was the second time I had to care for a patient with a weapon. While I was not in any immediate danger, the thought of that possibility frightened me. He told the triage nurse that he was suicidal and homicidal. Police were contacted, but had not arrived yet. What if he was not honest when staff asked him about weapons? The first time I had a patient check in with weapons was a month ago. He came in with a loaded gun, extra magazine of ammunition, knife, nun-chucks and who knows what else.
I’d been having severe migraines since August 20th and chest discomfort 9/1-9/2, but I kept pushing. I would tell myself things to refute the truth. Things such as…..Oh, it’s just really bad acid reflux/gerd from that Chinese Food-you know better than to eat that garbage! Maybe the headache is sinus pressure. Or from my glasses. Or from the filtration system in the hospital.
I came up with every excuse under the sun about what I was feeling. When I got home Friday night, I expressed to my husband how excited I was to be off work for a three day weekend. I vented about my rough week as usual. I had become accustomed to that routine. On a regular workday, I am mentally drained, but when I know I’m off the next day, it seems I run on adrenaline. Hubby just looked at me and bodly said, “I don’t know why you’re still there. I’ve been waiting for you to leave, but you must know what you are doing. I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Saturday night, September 3rd, I felt short of breath every time I walked in addition to the chest discomfort. We made a quick run to Target to get a birthday gift for my daughter’s friend. By the time I left the store, I didn’t feel right. We got to the friend’s home and when I tried to get out of the car just to say hello, I felt dizzy. I was so delirious I told my husband I would just stay in the car but he saw my face and took me home right away. Then, I began to have palpitations. I decided it was time to seek medical care. Grabbed a blanket, some footies and opted against extra clothing or my phone charger.  I figured I would be in and out. I wondered if I was a hypochondriac and considered not going. However, this feeling was weird. It did not quite feel like a heart attack, but I couldn’t say that it wasn’t my heart.
On the way out of the door, I told my husband to let our son know that we would be right back. For a split second, I thought to myself that I should go tell him. Then, I remembered that I had already told him that I love him before he went to his room. I stood on my porch staring into the dark, praying that I would see the light of day. I had no idea what was going on with my body. We finally got on the road and two miles into our trip was stopped by a long line of cars waiting for a train to go by. Imagine having chest pain, shortness of breath and being delayed on your way to get help. I started crying lol.
I went to urgent care, because I’ve had similar episodes of chest discomfort before and was told it was “just anxiety.” {insert side eye here} When I arrived, medical personnel hooked me up to the monitor and so the story begins.

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Knocked smooth out after that Morphine injection lol

My heart rate was in the 40s and systolic blood pressure was upwards of 130. My baseline (normal) vital signs are as follows: Pulse Rate-low 60s, Systolic Blood Pressure-no more than 110. This means that my heart rate was significantly lower than what it’s supposed to be and my BP was elevated. The doctor kept stressing that active people such as marathoners are known to have a low resting heart rate. Nah. I’m not that active. This wasn’t normal for me. I told the doctor of my 2012 Lupus diagnosis and was subsequently transferred to the hospital for admission.
While riding in the ambulance, I felt like I was having a panic attack. I made the paramedic sit beside me and talk to me; I felt alone and scared. (Hubby trailed the ambulance but I couldn’t see anything from inside). I arrived at the hospital and was briefed on my status. My intake doctor basically said that he wanted to redo labs because my liver enzymes were elevated. That normally happens if you have hepatitis, suffered a recent heart attack, or have some other kind of liver disease. I knew that hepatitis was ruled out and my Troponin test (helpful in identifying an active heart attack) was negative. My crazy behind was in the hospital looking up my lab results from my phone smh.

It was a very long night and since we got to the hospital at 3am, I was exhausted. As soon as I finally dozed off, the nurse runs into my room and wakes me up. She asks if I’m okay while putting a nasal cannula on my face. Once again, I’m scared, because… Just because. Why do I need oxygen?! Note: You cannot be a control freak and trust God at the same time.Apparently, my heart rate dropped into the 30s while I was sleeping. Now, I’m legit having a panic attack. Here’s the thing. I’m Advance Cardiac Life Support certified and the first thing I thought of was, “OMG that’s grounds to begin life saving interventions.” With eyes WIIIIIDE open, I sat up in my bed and suddenly was no longer sleepy. “Nope, not today. I aint going to sleep and not waking up. Not yet. I’m not ready. I have way too much to do.” My husband and I prayed together and specifically asked God to lead the doctors. To keep His hands on me and heal my body.

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Bedside reading in the hospital

 

The daytime doctor arrived early Sunday afternoon and discussed her plan of action. I felt peace in the fact that she was beyond brilliant. Plus, I understood medical terminology, so that eased my anxiety. She was an internal medicine doctor, well studied in widespread diseases and knew exactly how to treat my medical condition. For starters, she confirmed that my symptoms were in fact a lupus flare with labs instead of making assumptions. Most doctors look at me and because I’m young, healthy, fit and have no risk factors, they take shortcuts. *It is imperative that you advocate for your own health.

She started me on round the clock anti-inflammatory medication followed by steroids. I received two injections IN MY STOMACH to prevent blood clots. I drank a cocktail that had Lidocaine in it. Felt like my throat was closing and I was being choked whenever I swallowed. I can’t forget that the urgent care nurse gave me Morphine and I straight up lost it. That was the craziest interaction I’ve ever had after receiving a medication. My entire body felt like it was being paralyzed, my head became flushed and hot. My vision became blurred and speech slurred. It was a legit Twilight Zone feeling. Again, I had absolutely no control and had to trust God. Wholeheartedly. I began to feel better and my family kept me in good cheer. However, the funsnatcher Patient Care Tech would come in to do another set of vital signs and the realization repeatedly set in that my heart rate remained too low-in the 40s.
My faith went through so many highs and lows. Each time I saw those numbers I would sink into fear. At one point, I just sat on the bed and cried. I tried to hide the tears and even turned away from my children because I just couldn’t understand it. The whole time, my husband kept reminding me to remain faithful. Whenever I lost hope, he was right there encouraging me, never leaving my side.

 Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding.
 
I had to stop looking at the vital signs machine, throw away all of the information I had learned in my eight year tenure in the medical field and trust God. It. Was. Hard.
 I had to believe that I would be okay even though I did not feel okay. I placed my hands on my chest and prayed. I have power to lay hands on myself for healing, but what happens when you have to wait? What happens when your deliverance is delayed? I would soon find out :-).
I finally started making phone calls to family to let them know what was going on. I did not want anyone to worry, and I certainly did not want to call them until I had knowledge of my diagnosis. I had the biggest, most powerful circle of prayer. I knew I was loved, but jeese. The outpour of love I received was so very special. I am a firm believer of giving people flowers while they are still here. I know for a fact, prayer is what kept my heart going–slow as it was, it was still going nonetheless. Before doctors could determine what medication to give me all we had was prayer. When my body was not responding to medications we stood on prayer. I had people praying for me that I don’t even know. I had people praying for me that swore off church and religion. People prayed for me that thought they did not know how to pray. I prepared to face another day in the hospital and awaited results.
Monday morning, I got up and began posting inspirational pictures, replying to text messages and just surfing the web. Hubby asks if I read my bible, yet. I replied, “My plans aren’t good ones this time and I have to make myself read out of obligation. I like when I thirst for the word and can’t stop reading. I asked you last night to send me some of yours or give me recommendations.” He remained silent but that gave me the chance to correct my stance. Here I was bed-ridden and complaining about my reading plan not being captivating enough to hold my attention. Like, was I really in the position to pick and choose when I would read? Especially, when I normally read first thing in the morning. Ummmm, find a new plan. Duh! So, I started a few new plans, but the first one I read was soooooooo good tears of joy began streaming. I was much more confident that I would be okay and God would restore my health. Here’s an excerpt: “I am the beginning, my love. I am your beginning. There is nowhere else you need to look. There is nothing else you need to chase. I speak to your heart-in whispers. This moment now, my dear. This moment now. Each breath a testament to my life in you. I am right here, in the middle, child. You are held, and I can’t ever let you go. Let me show you what it is for us to do together. I have good plans for your life. Cling to me. I am steadfast. Cling to me. I give you words. Cling to me-a life of prayer, each thought and action in accordance with my spirit in you. You are not alone.” So, I did just that. I decided to let go of fear and cling to God. Tightly.
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Preparing to go home, by faith.
After reading and journaling, I washed up and let my hair down. I prepared to go home by faith, although I had not been given medical clearance yet. Hubby kept saying we would be discharged because he already made it up in his mind when he picked up our children and packed two outfits for me.”We aren’t staying a third day, you are in the tail end of this.” Me: I know, but my heart rate is still low. Him: You will be okay, you’re going home today. He was constantly reminding me to get my weight up and exercise visionary faith. Every time staff came in with unwelcoming news, he immediately rebuked it.
By evening, my doctor asked how I was feeling and orders for the Pulmonary team to measure my heart rate and oxygen while walking. For the first time since Saturday, my heart rate shot up to 75 beats per minute. I kind of stood there in shock and disbelief. When it finally hit me, I’m like OMG let me take a picture! The rest of the evening, my heart rate gradually improved, so I started packing. When I got official notice that I would be discharged I just repeatedly thanked God.
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I did not know if I would leave that hospital alive. That’s how bad I felt and how bad the reality of my situation was. Lupus had attacked my heart, lungs and liver. Guess what triggered the flare? Stress. I know that this is a lengthy post, but I really felt the need to share every detail. I hope that my story helps someone. I pray that you listen to your body and do not allow chasing dreams, or money or anything else get in the way of what’s really important. Most importantly, I hope that whatever it is you have been putting off or procrastinating to do, you decide to DO IT NOW. Once I realized my life was at stake, I immediately thought about all the things I had not done, yet.
 
Live each day like it’s your last. Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

Lastly, about two weeks ago, I decided to make a purchase from the Women of Faith nonprofit tshirt campaign I started to raise funds for homeless women. When I got home, my shirt was in the mailbox.  It’s the first official sell, too! The very thing I created to help someone else, turned out to be a blessing to me. The same goes for my pulse oximeter/pulse rate monitor. (A long time ago, I had a patient that presented with a collapsed lung, but all of the pulse oximeters I could find at work were broken. So, I purchased my own to never be in that situation again.) My husband was able to monitor me throughout the night while I slept. Furthermore, the same selfless care I give my patients was returned to me. I had thee best team at Atlanta Piedmont Hospital. 
 
This past Sunday, I was praying that I would live to see another day. My birthday is this upcoming Sunday–I’m about to have an epic celebration! Let’s not even talk about the praise dance I’m about to do in church haha. The best gift God could have given me was another day and an increase in faith. I will never ever ever ever ever take another moment or person for granted! As I struggled to breathe, it became so much more clear to me, that each breath really is a blessing. I’m still here.
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By faith, I am healed <3
This year my birthday is super special, because I almost did not make it. You wanna give me a gift? Help me to pay it forward for another woman. So, for a limited time, I am offering the Women of Faith tshirts at a reduced price.
Enjoy 15% off by following this link:

All my love,
Ciara