Some have inquired about my health, troubled by the various conditions I have been experiencing. I appreciate the concern of my church family. I want to share some of my journey with you to allay concerns, give details that can guide your prayers, and praise the Lord for His goodness.
In June of 2016 Sue Ann and I were in a car accident; we were rear-ended at an intersection. We could never have imagined what would flow from that event. The most obvious results at first were back and hip pain. With physical therapy, those pains were resolved within several months. Shortly thereafter I began to have a headache. It increased in intensity and in duration. In short order that headache plagued me continuously—24/7/365. I underwent a series of medical evaluations which ruled out a number of diagnoses, finally indicating that this headache was a result of the car accident. At the moment of impact, my body was twisted hard to the left and slightly bent forward in an attempt to look for oncoming traffic. Because of that posture, the soft tissue injury produced long term pain.
I sought various kinds of treatment in order to relieve the pain which, at times, was intense: physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, osteopathic treatments, and different medications. Nothing eliminated the pain. It would ebb and flow in intensity, but it was always there.
Soon I learned that chronic pain produces other problems: physical fatigue, discouragement, difficulty focusing and processing, gaps in short term memory, and emotional fragility.
Meanwhile I had begun to have episodes of debilitating dizziness and nausea. During these episodes I could do nothing other than lay motionless. In between these episodes I experienced lighter dizziness, a sense of being off balance and unsteady. It was at that time that I began being treated at the ear-nose-throat clinic at the University of Iowa. They ruled out motion-induced vertigo and concluded that the cause of my dizziness was the result of surgeries I had had on my left ear in the 1990s. My middle ear had deteriorated over the intervening years. Surgery was considered for a time as a possible remedy. One week before the scheduled surgery, the surgeon advised waiting and watching. As we waited and watched, I saw the surgeon intermittently. We have concluded that periodically undergoing some office procedures on my middle ear may be the way to address the problem for now. However, the surgeon said that the intermittent light dizziness I now experience is likely my “new normal.”
Then, related to my still-continuous headache, I encountered a new set of complications. Some of the medications which had been prescribed for the chronic pain and its related problems brought on some extremely troublesome and difficult side-effects. We did not realize at first that the severe anxiety, panic attacks, high blood pressure, and elevated blood pressure were side effects of the medications. So other medications were prescribed, some which I used and others which I declined.
It was about this time that Sue Ann and I went to Arizona. It was the spring of 2019. God, in a most unusual and obvious way, had opened the door for us to take this trip. I had a flyer on my office desk … one of those pieces of mail that usually goes directly into the waste basket. For some reason I left it there. It was about a retreat for pastors in Arizona, one I had never heard of and which was not related to our denomination. I called for information and discovered that the next session was in a matter of weeks, that there was an opening for another couple, and that a generous partial scholarship had been provided by an anonymous benefactor. At the same time, one of the members of our church offered Sue Ann and me the use of his time share for a week. Where was his time share located? Arizona, some two hours’ drive from the retreat center. When was his week at the resort? Right after the scheduled pastors retreat. We could go right from the conclusion of the retreat to the time share and miss only two days of the time share week. God’s hand in all this was obvious, and gracious.
And that is not all. At the retreat were several other pastoral couples, none of whom we had ever met before. It “just so happened” that one of those pastors talked about some side effects he had once experienced from a certain medication. Later we talked one-on-one, and I learned that what I was experiencing mirrored what he had suffered. Armed with that information I immediately called my pharmacist and later one of my health care providers … from Arizona! Based upon their counsel, I discontinued one of my medications immediately. It took a number of months for that medication to fully leave my system. However, getting off that medication has been very helpful.
Shortly after that my doctor prescribed a different medication for my headache. That, along with expert physical therapy, has greatly reduced the pain level of my headache. In fact, there are now times when the headache is absent. Praise be to God!
Here very recently (the beginning of January) I experienced a “one-two punch” of sickness. The night before I was to return to work after traveling to see family over the holidays, I contracted that nasty gastrointestinal illness. It ran its course and as I began to recover, I got influenza. It knocked me flat. Between those two illnesses I spent much of the past several weeks in bed. Currently I have days in which I feel stronger, and other days when I am fatigued. Hopefully by the time you read this, I will be steadily on the mend.
Thank you so much for your understanding, and for your continued prayer and concern. With what God has done—bringing a great measure of relief from my 3-year long headache, revealing medications which were harming me and revealing medications which are proving helpful, providing effective care through my ENT doctor in Iowa City, and helping me on the road to recovery from influenza—I look forward optimistically. With the Lord’s strength, I am eager to continue serving Him as pastor of Journey Church. Soli deo gloria.