After what I call the pirates–the mosquito-borne virus that precipitated my husband’s case of West Nile Neurological Disease–invaded his body, assaulting his brain with encephalitis and paralyzing him in three limbs, our lives changed dramatically.
After a month in our local hospital, fighting for his life at first, doctors transferred Rick to a rehab centre two hours from our home. There his brain continued its slow road to recovery, and there he began in-depth therapy to relearn all his basic mobility skills.
Most patients, we knew, improve faster if a family member remains with them to help and encourage along the way. The centre had a hostel attached for relatives of the patients. For the duration of his five-month stay I made that my home.
Any room with a view of the sky is a room with a view as far as I’m concerned. My room had that, and more. It had a tree. A HUGE maple that filled my window and touched that sky. It also had a view of a courtyard playground which featured as its main attraction, a play-structure. A play structure built like a ship, complete with portholes, a ship’s wheel, a telescope–and a black flag that unfurled in the wind like an ominous specter.
“God,” I prayed, “I’ve always appreciated your sense of humor, but did you have to let the pirates park their ship right outside my window?”
I didn’t spend much time there. I slept in that room. I showered in that room. I wrote in that room until I flopped exhausted over the keyboard. But I spent most of my days at Rick’s side, helping where I could as God and the therapists put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Almost three years later, the pirates haven’t totally dis-boarded. We’ve lost much–a way of life, among other things. But though he hasn’t regained enough health to return to consistent work, Rick is walking, usually with a walker, and able to enjoy life again.
We’ve gained plenty too. We now live an edited life with a great many changes–plenty of them very good.
We’ve learned much about pirates on our journey down West Nile. How to fight them, how to make friends with them, even how to discover the hidden treasure they bring. Three things have proved monumental in finding our way about in our new normal.
In the rehab centre’s physiotherapy room hung three words, linked vertically with chains. Each word was deeply carved–and would become as deeply etched into both our souls: Faith. Hope. Therapy.
Like a musical motif, the reminder to keep faith, hold onto hope, and employ therapy, repeated itself many times after we first saw that sign. The motif is ongoing–and it has kept our little boat afloat, even in pirate-infested waters.
Why? Because faith, hope, and therapy are not just words. They’re crucial weapons in the business of pirate-fighting.
In the first few days after my husband was admitted to hospital, as I read from the book of Psalms in the Bible, one verse seemed to stand out from the rest–a prayer that God would strengthen hands for battle and fingers for war. At that point I expected to take a healthy husband back home in a week or two. I recall wondering why those verses, but felt I should pray that way, anyway.
I know why now. Our almost three year journey has been a long series of battles. We have needed extra measures of strength every step of the way.
If your life has been flipped upside down by pirates of whatever stripe, remember those words. In a battle one needs strong, reliable weapons. Don’t refuse therapy, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Never stop hoping. Most important of all, clutch onto faith.
Kathleen Gibson is a Canadian author and newspaper columnist whose work has been published in global print and online media. Through articles, interviews and her book, West Nile Diary–One Couple’s Triumph Over a Deadly Disease, she and her husband, Rick, have raised the level of West Nile Disease awareness across North America. Together, they point others to the beautiful strength that comes from cultivating a solid faith in God. Kathleen’s latest book is Practice by Practice, The Art of Everyday Faith. More info at http://www.kathleengibson.ca
You’ve just read article two in the E-Zine series: West Nile Neurological Disease–Fighting Life’s Pirates. Read the complete story of our West Nile journey in West Nile Diary, One Couple’s Triumph Over a Deadly Disease available on Amazon.
P.S. Wear repellant.
copyright 2010, by Kathleen Gibson. If you copy, copy right, and for non-profit use only. Please include author credit, and a link to my website, below.