My apologies for my absence last week, Reader; it was partly expected because my second oldest friend got married on Saturday and I was going to be immersed in that as one of her bridesmaids, but also unexpected as the Wednesday prior I had an emergency appendectomy.
There’s nothing quite like surgery to turn your world around. Even now, a week and a half later, my movements are slow, my midsection aches when I sneeze, my energy level is in the realm of drugged sloth. But I went to the wedding, and I’ve been at work since Monday, and the miracles of modern science are pushing me forward.
How frightfully mortal we are, Reader! I am not fond of being reminded that I am limited to the abilities of this physical shell, far less when those limitations are more severe than usual. I’m under strict orders not to lift more than ten pounds for the next five weeks—how can I keep to that in a world that needs me to move candelabras and reams of paper and stacks of binders? And I’m supposed to be sleeping as much as possible—of course, when I have deadlines coming up that I’m already slipping on because of having been out of work for 2 1/2 days. Take more time off work, I’m told, when people don’t realize that I’ve only been at this job four months, I don’t have the time accrued yet, time off means not getting paid right when I need to be prepared for large medical bills.
I’m actually incredibly grateful for the speed at which I’m healing, incredibly grateful for the things I’ve been able to do even in the face of surgery, incredibly grateful for the miracles of Mr. Great-Heart, Interpreter, and Watchful, who shepherded me through the trip to the ER and then the recovery afterward. Their presence and time were gifts in ways too deep to explain to you, to explain to myself. I am truly blessed to have friends like them.
This sort of thing, though, prompts quite a reflection. On the one hand, I have been forced to really see my own mud-man origins, this flesh and blood contraption that is somehow “me,” the miraculous workings of all of these squishy bits that I cannot see (and do not wish to). And to live in this century! My surgery was laparoscopic, meaning that through three small incisions surgeons were able to essentially vacuum out my appendix. I have a body that tells me (not clearly, but then I’m not that great at listening) when something is terribly wrong, and then works its hardest to knit itself back together after being poked, prodded, sliced apart, and scooped out. It’s terribly impressive how the body bounces back after the most intense violations of its natural order. I went home from the hospital the next day and was in a wedding ceremony two days later. Granted, they had to have a chair for me because I couldn’t stand for the whole of it, but still. I was there. (And very glad to have been able to go, it was so good to be able to support my friend.)
Yet on the other hand, I have the little frustrations of healing—today is the first day since the surgery that I’ve been able to put on pants that don’t have an elastic waistband, and that’s only because they’re rather loose—and also the bigger frustrations of a society that does not rest. I will be the first to admit I’m rather a workaholic, but even I see something wrong with a system that speaks of recovery and demands activity. I see something wrong with a system that leaves the sick in fear of not being able to afford being well. I have to work so I don’t lose this job, and I can’t lose this job because it has really good health insurance, and I need the health insurance so I can pay the hospital for all the things involved in being sick, and when I get sick it makes it hard to work.
What are we doing? What are we as a people, a country, a community, individuals doing? Do we not hear the muffled gasps of those who get up as their bodies fall because they cannot afford, in so many ways, to do otherwise?
I am fortunate to have the insurance I do, and I truly appreciate what the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare“) is trying to do in extending that fortune. I only went to the hospital for the hole in my eardrum and the ache in my stomach because I knew my insurance would alleviate the cost. Had I not had that insurance—as I haven’t the last four years—I would not have gone. I could perhaps have lost my hearing entirely. My appendix would have ruptured, which is fatal if untreated. What then? How many of the walking wounded are that way because, in our first-world countries who pride ourselves on being able to send scraps to the orphans in Less Fortunate Places, we deny them the ability to seek care? How do we as people of faith—no matter which one—face ourselves and say we are doing a fine job of protecting the weak when we look at someone with a “pre-existing condition” and say that he or she is not worthy of our money or expertise? We bar our doctors in with programs and lawsuits and paperwork to fell the Amazon, we characterize each other as patients, as bar codes, and we say that we are a nation to follow?
No. I cannot believe that this kind of system is one nation anywhere near God. I don’t say this to call for a return to faith healing, or a downfall of society to That Dreaded Socialism (which is hardly understood by those who fear it, anyway), but I stand on my little soapbox in the Great Big Internet and lean on my I.V, tower to say this is not acceptable. We are not hearing the God Who demands that we live as though we see each other as people, as beloved children, as beings who have the pre-existing condition of life given abundantly.
A week and a half ago two angels stood by me as my body was sliced apart and glued back together. May God give me the strength to stand by the others who live through pains of all sorts because they feel they cannot depend on the system and the people who hold the abilities to heal them—at least, physically speaking.
“Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered.” … For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.” (Ezekiel 34:4-5, 11, NASB)