For four and a half years I struggled spiritually and emotionally. Everything seemed to be slowly falling apart. Then last August my body quickly shut down unexpectedly.
I was wake surfing at the river one weekend and by Thursday I was taken by ambulance to Kadlec ICU with a diagnosis of Guillain-Barre — a rare disease in which my immune system was attacking my nerves.
I rapidly got worse and was given a tracheotomy and ventilated because I couldn’t breathe on my own. Then pneumonia set in and my temperature rose to 105 degrees. My hemoglobin dropped dangerously low and I was given a blood transfusion. I was put in an induced coma so my body could rest. No one knew if I would survive, and my family asked for me to be anointed.
After spending two weeks at Kadlec, I was sent to an Intensive Care Hospital in Post Falls. When I woke up and realized that I was on a ventilator and completely paralyzed except for my eyelids, I felt panic. I was living my worst nightmare. But I knew that I had to accept it and be strong.
The first time they unhooked me from the ventilator to try breathing on my own, my heart rate dropped and I flat-lined. Everything went black. When I woke up nurses were bagging my trache. I immediately knew what had just happened. I had died. But I wasn’t afraid because I knew that God was taking care of me.
Horrific pain was a daily ordeal as my nerves regenerated and I often prayed for God to heal me. As my body slowly regained movement, I had to learn how to do many things all over again, like eating. My first bite of food was vanilla ice cream. It was like tasting it for the first time.
The day I left Post Falls for Craig Hospital in Denver, the long hallway was lined with staff people who I loved. As I passed by on a stretcher, they started clapping and had tears streaming down their faces, and so did I.
It broke my heart over and over again to say good-bye to my precious boys three days prior, and I had cried for hours.
I flew to Denver and started my rehab journey. I had a tough start with medication issues, which led to extreme depression, anxiety, panic attacks, weight loss, and nerve problems. During that time I hit rock-bottom. The only thing I could do was to look up. I prayed and I read. I was desperate. God gave me peace during that dark time. He saved me, and I got my drive back after a few days.
My biggest moment came when I started taking steps and walking. To be upright felt more than good! I got stronger quickly and progressed so fast that my doctors were amazed! They had told me that I would be there for two-three months. I stayed for four weeks and one day.
On Thanksgiving Eve I walked out of Craig Hospital. I got onto a commercial airplane, flew home by myself, and walked off the plane with a cane in my hometown of Walla Walla, where I was greeted by at least 50 people!
Some say that I did in four months what most people do in a year. I felt that God was with me the entire time. He was there speaking to me and my heart was open to Him.
This experience has changed my life, and I wouldn’t change anything that happened. Who gets to watch their body be completely paralyzed and then watch it come back to life? I got to, and it was an amazing thing to experience. It made me a stronger, more determined person than I could have ever been. I found myself. God saved me for a reason and I know that He has a plan for me. No one is perfect and I will still fail, but God’s grace gives me another chance at this life.
—Written by Kristen Ensminger Craik
Originally published at storyharvest.org