Marie has worked in the church office for a number of years and you'll know her for her quick smile, welcoming personality, and deep love of people. She had to face a huge Goliath in 2013 when her health was threatened in a terrifying way.
The following is her story, copied directly from her own notes...
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I am not a speaker nor have I had professional training to speak to you tonight, but what I do have is God’s prompting to share my adventure. I have been through a lot in my life and know that there is much more to come, but this situation specifically has reminded me of the many blessings that we receive from God through his children, like me and you.
It was December 6th, 2013 that I returned home after 2 ½ months of being away from my family and friends, so let’s start at the beginning…
The night of September 22nd was a typical evening, a regular get the kids settled and geared up for Monday morning school routine. I had a knot in my right shoulder blade - which is not a normal occurrence for me but I had heard other people describe this so I took a couple of Advil and off to bed I went.
On the morning of September 23rd, I woke up to a dull pain in the same location as the night before; within 1 hour and 15 minutes the pain had intensified to an almost unbearable level. I had a shower – no luck. Sat in a straight back arm chair- no relief. And then I stood up to try and walk it off- that’s when I lost all feeling and mobility from my chest down, toppling into our coach. After a bit of debate, Cory, my husband, called 911 and minutes later the ambulance attendants arrived. After a few routine questions they decided I needed to go into the emerg department. I was gracefully (not really) taken out of my home and transported to the Hanover Hospital, where I was met with a fellow HMC doctor who happen to be on duty that morning.
I was rolled into a waiting room, where I stayed until the Dr and staff determined what the next step was. During that time I remember friends and co workers coming in and out to see how I was and what was going on. They all had concerned and scared faces, but also offered loving and caring words to Cory and I. The decision was made and I was then transported down to London’s Victoria Hospital. I went alone….
My husband went to talk to our 3 children who had went to school, so he went to make arrangements for them and get things for me as we both had no idea what was going to happen. He then left Hanover and made the trip down to the emerg room in London to join me in the waiting game there to see what their next steps for me would be. In our time in the emerg area - which ended up being a total of 12 hours - I went in for a cat scan, and then an MRI. That was the test that proved what they needed to get the ball rolling.
The spinal surgeon had been reviewing the tests I had been taking since I had arrived and the MRI findings peaked his interest. We were told by the intern that the MRI had shown a mass of sorts that concerned the surgeon enough that he would be going in for a closer look. Yes, that meant surgery in the morning.
Just to be told there is a mass and oh by the way, you're having surgery was not that comforting…but away we went to be admitted for the night and to await surgery the next morning. We headed to the 9th floor and were met by the welcoming nurse team of what seemed like 10 nurses ready to get me comfortable for the evening. Within minutes though of arriving in the room one nurse came in and said that I was needed right away in the OR. There was no waiting for the morning, the surgery was happening NOW.
This was a blessing for sure - a quick short turn around (although it was technically 3ish in the morning anyway so I guess that could have been considered the next morning).
I came through the surgery. They were able to remove a blood clot. I did need a couple of blood transfusions but all was well. I was back getting settled in my room by 10:30am that morning. My husband, pastor and friend were there awaiting my arrival, and was I glad to see them!
As I settled in and tried to get comfortable my nurse came in, who was high energy, smiling, full of happiness and hope, a male nurse with faith like a mustard seed, HUGE. He said "hi, do you believe in a faith?" I answered yes. “Do you believe in God?” he was quick to ask. I answered “yes” and that sealed the deal. He went on to assure me of God’s love and caring and that everything would be just fine! I was shocked and comforted at the same time, I didn’t think speaking so bluntly about faith was okay in a public hospital setting. Well God proved me wrong didn’t he!?
I saw many nurses come and go and he made an appearance a couple times but his fellow male co-worker, also a nurse that had me on his rounds, and well, I think you know what I am going to say... You're right! His first question to me was, “do you have faith?” I chuckled and talked about my faith and his and my church and church family. What a great conversation in the wee morning when they have to check on you and do their duties but filling my spiritual tank as well. God was consistent in reminding me that his children were all around me even though I was away from my home and everything familiar.
I was told and they explained that I had had a blood clot that had formed in the area around my right shoulder blade and had been pushing/squishing my spinal cord which cause the paralysis from my chest down. The surgeon explained that after much investigation there is no reason this happened to me, and his hope or phrase that he left me with was “lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice”.
So, moving forward they had workers come in and try to get me to move my legs and also get me to sit up with and without help. Not an easy accomplishment…I spent a week and a half with the staff at Victoria and was able to sit on the side of the bed with two people helping for a very short amount of time, as well as wiggle my right big toes sporadically. I received visits, cards, gifts, prayers and many calls from friends and family.
Then I was told, “you’re going back to your home hospital…” you see that normally would have been thrilling news but during my stay it was explained that because of my injury the best place for me to start my recovery was a facility right across the road, I mean literally across the road from Victoria. Emotions ran high as they told me that I not only was I heading home but I was going within the hour. God knew what I needed though…He had a plan…I just didn’t know it yet.
Off I went rolling out of the 9th floor and heading back to the Hanover Hospital on October 4th. I arrived into the Hanover emerg entrance late into the evening and was taken to the 2nd floor to get admitted and settled in. A familiar face greeted me as the nurse doing my information taking was the mother of my son’s schoolmate. Emotions still were on high alert, I was scared, confused, and angry.
As I tried to settle into a hospital that I was not convinced was the place I was supposed to be in, I was flooded with love, visits, spoiled with treats, I was serenaded, received physio off the clock, flowers, smiles, hugs, encouragement and I was even brought pumpkin pie. My family was being taken care of in ways that were overwhelming at times. This was a time of thankfulness beyond understanding for Cory and I. It was so difficult for us to accept the outpouring of love, financially and with words and cards. What I realized as I pouted, and complained is that God knew what I needed, and I was focused on what I wanted. He won. He brought all of these blessings to my family and especially me, as He knew that my love tank needed to overflow before my next part of my recovery journey.
October 21st marked an early but exciting morning for me. This was the morning I was finally heading to London and was going to be admitted to the spinal cord rehab centre at Parkwood. So, as I rolled out of the Hanover Hospital, I said goodbye to a second set of nurses that play a large part in my recovery up to that point. I left being able to sit up at the side of the bed unassisted for a couple of minutes, able to raise my leg for seconds, wiggle my legs and softly stomp my foot.
I was once again met with a nurse that was to become my primary nurse and she was a woman of faith that would be present throughout my stay and encouraging daily. Being in a hospital setting was not something that I had experienced until this, so roommates scared me a little. I had had a couple in Hanover and I had survived but the princess in me was hoping for a private room to myself…no such luck. Now, my roommate was still to arrive a few days after I had settled in but I prayed daily that God would help me through and bring the right person to continue on my recovery with. I shared my concerns as the nurses and I were getting to know each other, and they reassured me that I had nothing to worry about, my roommate was an absolutely wonderful person, and an amazing lady. Her name was PENNY.
She arrived in rough shape but as a few days went by I realized that the reason I had to be in Hanover so long, put on the waiting list for Parkwood was to be placed in the right order to have Penny as my roommate. What a plan the Lord had, and if I would have had my way I would have had a completely different situation.
Now back to Penny, what an inspirational person! She lived up to every comment the nurses and staff spoke about her. She was a person who has been in her wheelchair for 50 years and counting, and had helped out on the very floor of Parkwood that we were living on, in a supportive role to those residents who were in the rehab program. Do you know what that meant…I had my very own support person 24-7. Her wisdom was beyond my understanding about my situation and all the things that come with it medically and mentally. Her family embraced me whenever they were there to visit - they sat and chatted with me just like I was one of them. What a blessing!
She let me know the day I was leaving that I brought a few things to her as well: my visible faith, the love and caring of my church family and a caring for her and her family. I was able to talk through her faith, which was very minimal because of her past…she loved hearing about my church family back in Hanover, and the care that was being extended to Cory and the kids.
As my recovery progressed, I was consistently called and encouraged or sent cards and emails to keep that strength up and the motivation to keep pushing through.
My stay at Parkwood was as comfortable as could be expected. I mean I was still in a hospital and being asked about things that I wouldn’t have conversations about normally but how that changes when you are in that arena for 6 weeks removed from the world. I had two appointments every day which before I got there I thought, no no I need more, I want to get moving and fast, well…the body doesn’t quite work that way and learning to walk again, stand again, even lift yourself up from laying to sitting is HARD. I did have consistent thoughts of babies and how we are so quick to encourage them to sit up and stand without being able to remember just how much energy that takes. One word: exhausting!
My day to day routine was filled with the work of exercise - oh, side note: we chose to call any exercise, “activities” cause I was more apt to want to do them and bless their hearts they did change the word just for me! Oh I was a complainer! Good gracious! But they still loved and cared for me anyway.
As my time neared the end of my 6 week stay at Parkwood I was told that my house would need a few things to make it a safe transition for me to be able to return home. I had a weekend leave, which allowed me to returned home to Hanover and Penny was able to lend her portable ramps so that I could get into my home. But the realization was a few weeks later when I was to be released I was not going to have those portable ramps…what were we going to do?…We prayed…and the blessing of a few great men showed up on a rainy December day and constructed a full functioning, legally angled entrance way and ramp that would allow me to comfortably enter my home without worry. A blessing? You bet! It is still there today as a reminder of not only how far I have come and what I have been through but the generosity of God’s people once again.
There were many milestones that I had as I moved forward in my adventure there, the most important as I look back was my very first step. There was a trial run step that was pretty disastrous, meaning my brain said walk and my leg said “nope”. On November 27th I stood up in the parallel bars and with someone in front of me I held on tight and took a very memorable first step that led to many many more. I had a realistic goal for my stay at Parkwood, which was to stand and walk with a walker, I didn’t quite walk out of Parkwood with a walker but the few days before I left I was lapping the physio gym with one.
When I returned home December 6th I entered the house on that wonderfully built ramp, and was met by Cory and the kids who were smiling ear to ear, my wonderful friend Cindy, and my mom who had flown up from Nova Scotia to help out the family my first week home.
My progress continued to move forward and I set another goal for myself once I was settled in and decided that by spring I was going to walk out of my house as unassisted as possible. Well that beautiful spring day came and I did exactly that!
This has been my adventure, there are many other adventures off the main story, but, that is for another time. My hope is as I stand in front of you that God will stir and remind you of the many blessings you have personally received and even those that you yourself have given to others. If it weren’t for God’s children listening to the promptings of God throughout my adventure it would have been so much harder to get through.
Special thanks to Marie for allowing us to share her incredible story!