The title of this blog is something my mother said frequently as I was growing up. I didn’t fully appreciate her wisdom until many years later whenever my health was compromised. In fact, as a teenager I remember thinking as she would say this (in my youthful good health), “Well, having my own bedroom or even a car would be way better than just good health.” Now, once again not only do I understand and whole-heartedly concur with her oft-repeated counsel, but so does Lloyd. Another bit of her wisdom dispensed often was that “gratitude is the beginning of humility.” During those same teenage years I also remember questioning that link between gratitude and humility. As with so many bits of sage advice that sometimes only years of living and experience can validate, she was absolutely right on both accounts.
This past month has certainly borne out the wisdom and veracity of mother’s statements. Six weeks ago, Lloyd (aka Elder Harline) was suddenly doubled over in pain while we were working in our office. After a priesthood blessing by our Mission President wherein he admonished him (twice) to seek medical help, we set out to find the BEST hospital in Addis Ababa. We discovered that it was a Korean Hospital (Myunsung Christian Medical) and even though it was the best available it still required the incredibly long delays that seem to be the hallmarks of socialized, government-run health care systems. You must pay first before any procedure which means the first wait is in a long line to pay. Then you must wait with as many as fifty people ahead of you to see a doctor. Then you get in line to pay for lab work, then DO the lab work and then get in line to pay for any further tests. A kind radiologist, Dr. Hong, saw Lloyd leaning against the wall and took charge of matters putting him in a wheelchair and scuttling him from scans to x-rays and even offering his own blessing petitioning for the pain to subside so the tests could be completed. After over eight hours of Lloyd’s cyclical pain a CT Scan confirmed the presence of a traveling kidney stone from the left kidney and a “silent” stone in the right kidney that we hoped would not decide to “speak up.” After two weeks of hoping the stone would pass on its own and many deliberations with the Area Mission doctor in Johannesburg along with other urologists in the USA, it was determined that we should return home to California where the proper machines and procedures were in place to take care of everything.
Just to further complicate matters, three days after Lloyd’s “stone” attack, I woke up with Bell’s Palsy, a facial paralysis affecting one side of the face that cuts off expression due to a viral infection of the nerves in the ear canal. I had this 40 years ago on the opposite side of my face when I was eight months pregnant with our first child, Alison. I could NOT believe this was happening again. At least I wasn’t pregnant this time! And, this time I was able to receive acupuncture which was something no one even knew about “way back then.” It made a world of difference in increasing the blood flow and that, along with the traditional physical therapy, was wonderful.
I did remember that it was critical to begin the seven-day steroid treatment immediately but without the help of Habtu (one of our office employees) I would not have received those meds. He spent a whole day pushing hard to get me in to see a neurologist who could prescribe that. Otherwise, about four precious days would have been wasted as that was the wait for the neurologist at the Korean Hospital. In most cases the facial muscles do eventually all come back and now, six weeks later, I am almost completely “resolved” as they say in the medical world. I am “resolved’ not only regarding my facial movement but am also “resolved” to not have to deal with this ever again, if possible! I do think that anyone who has had Bell’s Palsy on both sides of their face in their life time should be a candidate for a complimentary face lift! Any sort of “lift” would be welcome at my age since gravity is playing havoc with my body!
Lloyd’s kidney stones are now gone and I am clearly on the mend. We are so grateful that we have been able to return to Ethiopia to finish our mission. We have been back for five days now. So, this is where Mother’s admonition to be grateful and her promised reward of increased humility proves to be true not only in all circumstances, but especially in affliction. Both of us are SO very grateful not only for all of the amazing doctors and other health care professionals who helped us heal, but we are also grateful for our children and grandchildren who have loved and cared for us. We stayed with Darren and Cherilyn (our son and his wife) and Cherilyn has to be THE BEST daughter-in-law in the whole world! She is a wonderful cook and she fed and nurtured us daily. And all of our grandchildren made our recovery faster just by being around them. Our daughter Alison, of previous Bell’s Palsy notoriety, came over from Arizona and was a tremendous help! She shopped, organized and filled our suitcases with goodies to take back to Africa. We even got to see her husband, Ted, and all of their children for a wonderful weekend as well.
Another Arizona visitor was my dearest friend, Cheryl Mallory. She came for the weekend and provided her usual loving friendship and support as well as accompanying me to visit Mom’s grave and put flowers there for my good parents (pictured above) who are buried next to each other.
So, here’s just a short list of some of the things we are grateful for both in the U.S. and in Ethiopia:
USA Gratitude List
- Our sweet children and grandchildren as mentioned before.
- Good doctors, state-of-the-art equipment, and a less than eight-hour wait to receive treatment.
- “Palate Pleasures” – We knew we had been deprived when the airline food tasted SO good!
- Costco Access – A completely different experience to now stroll down the aisles and know we could fill the three empty suitcases we brought with us with all kinds of treats to take “home” to Ethiopia. We maxed out the 150 lb. weight limit with things like protein bars, brownie mix, brown sugar, spaghetti mix and PAM.
- Having fast Internet.
- Driving on freeways “free” of pot holes and staying in a designated lane.
- Good pharmacies where you can CALL in a prescription rather than have to visit in person for medication.
- Delicious and abundant food…good friends like “sweet” Mary See!
- Just watching people walking dogs on quiet streets with manicured lawns.
- A facial “disability and disfiguring” endured only temporarily that continues to give me deeper compassion for those disabled and disfigured permanently.
- The love, support and prayers of dear friends and family.
- Finally, it was truly a great blessing to be able to be with John and Glenna Anderson as he is facing his own medical challenges with pancreatic cancer. We learned of this the day we arrived and were so privileged to be at their home as their son-in-law, Jonathan Ord, gave him a priesthood blessing. Both John and Lloyd entered the hospital the same day but Lloyd’s medical journey has ended. John and Glenna now face a much longer journey together and are such an inspiration to us. They have both literally “been there” for us over the past 30 years during many of our own challenges and we love them dearly. SO very grateful we could spend some time with them before heading back to Africa.
Ethiopia Gratitude List
- The love, support, and prayers of our Ethiopian “family” and friends.
- Feeling such love and gratitude for those we serve with here and especially for our three office employees who helped us navigate the medical system here.
- Increased gratitude for learning more about the virtue most missionaries in Africa learn when serving here…..PATIENCE.
- Finally beginning to “see” what “reduce and simplify” really means….and loving it!
- Shedding the encumbrances that too many times accompany over abundance.
- Appreciating so many simple things like electricity for most of the day, clean water most of the time and enough Internet to connect to the world, but NOT enough to stay overly plugged into the world.
- My own rehabilitation as a “political junky” so that I am happily NOT aware of every political discourse, contention or nuance in the current U.S. election year. General awareness via limited news access has been more than adequate and has somewhat convinced me that Ethiopia might be the best place to be on November 8th.
- Finally, speaking of medical issues, both of us are so grateful for and inspired by the faith of such amazing people like Dr. Andrey Klimash and his wife, Elyena. He is a Russian neurosurgeon who is in our local branch. He is here because he has signed a contract with the Russian Red Cross Hospital to work as their neurosurgeon for a year. They assured him that his pay would be more here than in St. Petersburg where he barely made more than a taxi driver. Upon retirement in Russia he can expect to receive only $200 USD per month. He is 42 years old and converted to the church when he was 24 years old. He graduated at the top of his class and has spent the past eighteen years barely making a living for his family. Several years ago he was offered a lucrative position in Germany and was ready to accept the offer when Elder Russell M. Nelson came to St. Petersburg to organize their first stake (2012). Elder Nelson felt strongly that Andrey should be the stake president so Andrey declined the offer in Germany. After his release it looked like the offer to work here in Ethiopia, though nowhere near the Germany offer, could generate more income. However, he has not received a paycheck for the past three months. He is required to operate on any patient, many of whom suffer with HIV, and his only protection is to double glove as the more specialized gloves are not available. He leaves on October 9th for two weeks of specialized training in Northern California (his first time in America) and was recently contacted by an American friend who was in the mission presidency when Andrey was stake president. He told Andrey that he had a dream about him and that he was worried about him so he called. He is going to try to help sponsor Andrey and Elyena in immigrating to the U.S. He will need to do a seven-year residency all over again to qualify to practice but he is willing to do that. Through everything he and Elyena have remained faithful and deeply converted to the gospel. They are such an inspiration to us. Their only daughter, Maria, is currently serving a mission in Russia near the border of Crimea. Andrey and Elyena embody the admonition in Proverbs 3: 5-8 to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear (reverence) the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” I have always liked the imagery of the “health to thy navel” being not only a reference to our physical health but as if it were also a” spiritual umbilical cord” connecting us to the Lord as we remain faithful and true like Andrey and Elyena.
So, Mom’s Rx for a happy life is the right prescription! “If you have your health, you have everything.” She firmly believed that if you lose everything temporally but still have your health you do have everything since you can work and take care of yourself. Add to that our gratitude that our spiritual health is not dependent upon our physical or temporal welfare and we are truly blessed. I now understand that her additional Rx for a happy life requiring large doses of gratitude which lead to the all important cure of increased humility is clearly the right prescription as well. We feel very grateful indeed to be healthy again. And we are especially humbled to be back among our sweet, humble friends here in Ethiopia.