On Wednesday of last week, I thought I was having allergy problems. My sinuses would not quit draining, which is quite embarrassing when sitting in an Extended Cabinet meeting! On Thursday, it moved into my chest, and a cough started. Medications seemed to keep it under control at the start of the morning, but it didn’t last for long. I was pretty sure at this point I was dealing with a cold, and not allergies. Of course, Thursday was an Appointive Cabinet day! The Appointive Cabinet was very kind in encouraging me to go home early (I thought I heard disinfectant spraying right after I left the room!).
I was very grateful to miss Phoenix’s rush-hour (rush most of the day?) traffic on my way home. This shortened my trip by about an hour. In my weakened condition, I’m not sure I could have handled stop-and-go traffic. The whole trip home one thought kept going through my mind. Do you know what it was? It was: “This is so much better than a kidney stent!”
Last year around this time I had a kidney stent for over one hundred days in a row. I knew in advance the surgeon was going to insert the kidney stent. He explained why the kidney stent was necessary to keep me out of pain (and out of the hospital!) as pieces of my massive staghorn kidney stone exited my kidney after laser surgery. What he didn’t prepare me for was how miserable I was going to be. The sensations from the stent were constantly screaming for attention. All the time I felt like I needed to urinate, and when I really had to go, there was no additional warning. To add to the fun, my kidney stent adventure coincided with Charge Conference season. This meant I had a lot of driving, and a lot of meetings.
The ironic part is more sympathy came from my five-day cold than my one hundred days with the kidney stent. Why is this? I think it’s because I couldn’t hide the symptoms of my cold. I was obviously sick. Sometimes it’s easy to see when someone is struggling. With the kidney stent, there were no obvious outward symptoms. I didn’t look sick (although I did receive comments saying I was extremely pale), even though I had four procedures in four months to go along with my kidney stent. I tried not to publicly whine (yes, my poor wife had to hear all about it).
I’ve been thinking about people who deal with chronic conditions every day of their lives. Some conditions can be easily seen, while other chronic conditions are invisible to the casual observer. Most of the people I know with chronic conditions do their best not to broadcast how hard it is. I knew my kidney stone/kidney stent trauma would come to an end in the relatively near future. Many people with chronic conditions don’t know if there will be an end to their challenges. These are some of the strongest, and bravest, people I know.
I wonder how our world would change if all of us became slow to judge, and quick to understand, when it comes to other people? We might never know how complicated their life is, or how heavy the burdens they carry. My hope is God will position us to make their burdens lighter, and not heavier.
Your brother on the journey, Mark