As I alluded to in my previous post I spent a week in Rapid City and the surrounding area as part of a mandatory, week-long, missions trip. But I suppose I should back up a bit and tell you about the journey before the journey.
Back on the first of the year I was diagnosed with a heart condition that is extremely rare for a 25 year old called Atrial Fibrillation. The mantra for every doctor I saw about it from then on was, “You’re a little young to be having this problem.” While I was grateful for their insight there is something I should have made known to all of them.
I’m a rare animal.
It’s not just the clothing, the taste in music, the knowledge, the interests and everything that you can see me do and enjoy. I have knees that are reaching arthritis due to a congenital calcification of connective tissue in my ankle bones. It’s a perfect illustration of how sin works because that little calcification decreased movement in my ankles which collapsed the arches in my feet which then, in turn, weakened the tendons that held my kneecaps in place which has now moved into causing hip and back pain. In short, I’m a mess. Oddly enough, the two orthopedists I saw both told me I was too young to be having knee problems the way I do as well.
I’m too young to feel like I’m getting old.
But back to the story before the journey. Since the first of the year I’ve been in the ER twice. No one was quite sure what was triggering the issue. It had seemed to calm down between the two visits so when it came time to sign up for a trip I didn’t even think of health implications. I didn’t sign up right away because none of the trips seem to grab me and tell me I should go. However, the same day the sign up sheets came out the Dean of Women announced a trip she was heading up that was going to Rapid City, SD to help a military family and do some work at a children’s home that housed wards of the state. It was like God was waiving neon-colored flags telling me directly that I needed to sign up for this trip.
I almost ran to the sign-up sheets and I was one of the first to sign up. I know more than one family that had been split up due to deployment and, because of my parents, I am pretty familiar with the workings of the foster care system. The trip quite literally had my name on it at that point.
Then my heart gave out on me again.
I woke up to a feeling much like a very dysfunctional drum solo in my chest. A. Fib is an interesting condition in that it won’t kill you outright, it just feels obnoxiously weird. So, when I hit the ER the second time and told them what was up they didn’t even waste time with the nurse interview. They wheeled me over to a bed and hooked me up to a every monitor they could think of. And there I sat wondering just what I had done to myself to deserve any of this. Not in a self-pity kind of way. Actually, historically that was probably the calmest I had been during a medical issue. Again I heard the line, “You’re a little young for this”.
I’m a little young for a lot of things.
That is when the greatest obstacle came. The doctors wanted me to take it easy and rest. So, I missed that day of work. But the implications of what they wanted from me was a little more far reaching than I would have liked. I started thinking about the future a bit and realized that this could disrupt my ability to go do what I felt I was told I needed to do this whole time. I took what measures I needed to. I talked to the Dean of Students, I talked to the trip leader and told her what was going on. There was talk about going on other trips or limiting the amount of hard labor that I would be able to do. It was really busting me up inside because part of me wanted to back out. I kept pushing to see what had to be done.
I scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist who was fantastic. She was definitely a midwesterner from the Dakotas, Michigan or Minnesota because she had that quasi-Canadian tinge to her speech. She was really sweet and really knowledgeable. So, when I told her what I was going to be doing in a few weeks she didn’t seem all that concerned. She did tell me that since I didn’t present with any of the risk factors normally seen in patients who present with A. Fib I, once again, have fallen into a small percentage of the US population who has this problem for no apparent reason and it was most likely genetic. When I asked her what I should do about my trip to Rapid City she flat out just said,
“Go on your trip”
A verse came to mind shortly thereafter and it sort of became a reminder of the actual purpose of the trip and almost a call in itself: Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26 ESV) I knew going into this trip there was a very serious reality that I may end up in the hospital again. But I also knew that if God had told me this was the trip, for whatever reason it may be, I needed to shut up, listen up and go.
I am too old to ignore such things anymore. So it was with great joy that I walked into the office of the Dean of Women and I told her I’d be going.
But that’s just the beginning of the story.