These last 2 weeks have been the hardest weeks of my life. Nothing can prepare you for the shock of one minute having a fit, healthy husband, and then within days being sat by his bedside watching him fight for his life.
We returned to the UK from Kenya just a few weeks ago and then traveled straight over to the US for a few weeks of church meetings and to do a fundraising dinner for our work in Kenya (We need to raise almost £250,000 for all the additional building projects for our children’s home and school). Unbeknownst to us, Matthew had been bitten by a mosquito carrying the most fatal strain of malaria, but symptoms don’t appear until a few weeks later. We had preached in a couple of churches in Kentucky and Ohio and then flew down to Alabama. Matthew began complaining of flu like symptoms, so I had been giving him Tylenol and telling him to “Man-up”. I’d like to think I am normally a little more compassionate, but I presumed Matthew just had the common cold and thought he was being way too melodramatic! On Thursday 2nd October, Matthew went to the doctors and was surprised to be transferred to the ER. His blood platelets (which clots your blood together) should be in the 90,000’s and Matthews had dropped to 19,000. Not only did this show that he was fighting some severe type of infection, it almost meant that his levels had dropped so low that the doctor was concerned he could start bleeding internally or bleeding on the brain etc. This was quite a shock considering I thought he just had a cold! The ER confirmed he had malaria and a fatal type at that.
Things went from bad to worse. Rushed to ICU, Matthew suddenly started to rapidly deteriorate. His kidneys went into shock, his liver stopped functioning, his heart became enlarged from all the fluid surrounding it, and his lungs began to fill with fluid also. Severe malaria is if your red blood cells contain 5% of the malaria parasite in them. On Friday the 3rd Matthew’s had 20% of the parasites in his blood – this is dangerously high. Then by Saturday 4th October they rose to 50% despite having more than 36 hours worth of IV antibiotics in his system. This was the day I thought I had lost my husband!
Everything circulated through my head- how could I raise our little boy without a daddy? How would I tell his family? How would I continue One By One without him? How could I afford the mortgage without him? How could I simply do life without him? I began to go into shock, almost vomiting and falling to the chair. I had taken our health for granted. I guess because we are young and healthy and because I know God has so much planned for our lives, in some naive way I thought that meant we were invincible to sickness and disease.
Only three years before we were stood at the end of our little baby boy’s bed, being told he might not make it. Now here I am stood at the end of my husband’s bed being told he might not make it. The fear was that because the Malaria had grown so rapidly in his blood, despite being on two different types of strong antibiotics, that he had a strain of Malaria that was drug resistant. This was the darkest day of my life so far. I had never realised how much strength I had from being together with Matthew, that even when our baby appeared to be dying, we had each other to pray together. If I had a bad day, he kept me strong, and when he had a bad day, I helped to keep him strong. Together in our faith in Christ, we were able to hold each other up and believe for our baby together. This time I felt so alone, I had a couple of incredible friends around me, and close contact with family back home via Skype, but still I felt so alone. Medicine wasn’t helping and my only hope was in Jesus.
Day after day we were hearing negative report after negative report and I remember saying to God, ‘Please let my tears do the praying as I have nothing left within me’. There was even a time when the medical staff thought Matthew might have Ebola, and so his blood had to be sent off to the CDC (Centre for Disease Control). This meant I couldn’t even touch Matthew or kiss his face. I had to wear protective clothing, face shields and all sorts to go see him. Praise God he was negative for Ebola, but he was still desperately ill and fighting for his life from the Malaria.
Facebook was an incredible encouragement with hundreds of people contacting us saying they were praying for us, and family and friends reading bible scriptures over us. We even had a few close pastor friends, Cleddie Keith, Bruce Wagner and Ken Gott come into the ICU and pray for him, which meant the world to us. Never have I seen the body of Christ be so beautiful as how you all were these past two weeks to me. You helped to raise our hands up when we felt too weak. We cannot thank you all enough.
But nothing can beat the Holy Spirit Himself. I remember the day I finally felt the presence of God and felt His peace come upon me. It truly is the peace that passes all understanding. Medically everything was so bleak and it appeared naturally to be getting worse as organ after organ was starting to fail in Matthew. But suddenly a renewed hope, peace and strength began to fill my heart. Jesus was with me and that meant I could get through anything and better still, that Matthew could get through anything.
As I write this blog we are still sat in the ICU. Matthew is so weak, his lungs and kidneys are still not functioning, but I know our God is in control. I believe God has an incredible plan for One By One and for all the children we are working with in Kenya and Sri Lanka, and I believe Matthew is still a critical part of this plan. I know God has so much more to still accomplish through lives that are laid down and surrendered to Him.
I have learnt a few things from this past week. Firstly, just how much I love my husband and how two people really do become one flesh! But even more importantly, I have discovered how faithful God is to His promises. He truly does give us a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), He truly is our strength and shield (Psalm 28:7-8) , and He truly does bless those who consider the poor – He sustains them on their sickbed and restores them to full health (Psalm 41:1-3).
If you’re going through a difficult season and feel all alone, put your hope in Jesus, He truly is all you need. Things don’t always go the way we want them to go, but when we lay our lives down and love God with all that we are, He truly does work ALL things together for good!
Matthew is not yet healed and still has a long recovery journey to go so please continue to keep him in your prayers. We honestly have felt the prayers of the saints through this difficult time. Your prayers are making a huge difference so please don’t quit praying!