The Toxic Haunting

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handsMeeting with friends for dinner recently, we diners were treated to Halloween decorations. The restaurant had "cobwebs" over all the light fixtures, meant to bring the spirit of the holiday to our dining experience.

I have always associated the Christian history of Halloween—which is a contraction of "All Hallows Eve"—with All Saints Day, when we remember men and women who have in many cases given their lives rather than deny Christ. It has been a Christian feast for nearly 1300 years, and because I make that association, I have never had a problem with the fun, safe side of Halloween anymore than I do with Santa at Christmas.

Last weekend, we took our granddaughters to pumpkin farm set up with lots of family fun activities for the kids. I was reminded once again of how thankful I am for the blessing of good health that allows me to enjoy all this with my family. Now on the other side, I can look back with gratitude, but five years ago I was going through a scary time—one that included a downright terrifying experience.

I have written in the past after my live kidney transplant in 2004, I was placed on an immune suppression drug that overly suppressed my body. One very serious virus attacked my new kidney, and they tried with IV antiviral drugs for several months to save the transplant. Eventually, however, the only solution seemed to be to remove it, which would put me back at square one. I would have to return to dialysis and hope and pray that I could be fortunate enough to be given another transplant.

My doctor, who I trust, said that since this virus was confined to the transplant, things could wait a few months, until I had the chance for another donor.

After the doctor left my room, the full force of what I was facing again hit my husband and me, very hard. Ed left to get something to eat, and when he returned, he brought the DVD for the movie Hitch. It was a comedy we hadn't seen, but really I wasn't in the mood. My dear husband knew exactly what we both needed to get our minds off things, though, and a few minutes into the movie we were both laughing. In fact, a nurse walking down the hallway came in to see what all the laughter was about. I was in a single room, so we didn't think that we were bothering anyone. We apologized, but she said it was no problem—that in her job, it was nice to hear laughter for a change.

When the movie was over, my mind went back to my situation, but the movie—and the chance to laugh—had given me an opportunity to take a step back and gain some perspective. I took a deep breath and silently prayed, "Jesus I trust in you." It was a very simple prayer, but in all honesty not so easy to say. To pray that prayer means that I had to let go completely, and trust Him, whatever that meant. I acknowledged the reality that all I had before me were questions, but no real control.

It reminded me of a story I heard once of a man who fell off a cliff, and was hanging onto a branch. He calls out for help, and Jesus shows up at the top of the cliff. He cries out, "Help me Lord!" Jesus smiles and says, "Do you trust me?"

The man replies, "Yes, Lord, I trust you!"

Jesus says, "Let go."

The man pauses for a second, then yells, "Anyone else up there?"

Things did not magically get better. I just kept sending up that little prayer of trust. After several months, another friend offered to be tested as a donor, and when it looked like it was going to work out, doctors decided they could risk removing my infected kidney a few months prior to the surgery.

That was the good news, but it was also when things really became frightening. Even though the infected kidney wasn't working very well, when they removed it, I had no kidney function at all.

I found dialysis to be even more difficult the second time around; it was enough to keep me alive, but not as efficient at blood-cleansing as the kidney. I went through a truly terrifying experience of not having any connection with my body, or anyone else's. I had to touch the bed with my hand, or a table, to ground myself. The only way I can explain this is if you have ever been on the Disney ride, The Haunted House, where voices come at you out of thin air, but nothing about this was fun or entertaining.

This is difficult to explain; as I write this, I am uncomfortable. You might wonder if this isn't how things always are for me, as a blind person, but it isn't. In this experience, it was as if others (and even I) were only disembodied voices, floating in space.