“We have to go. Now.” I don’t remember who said it, but it made the reality of the situation hit like a rocket. From where I was lying, I could only see the ceiling and a few heads bobbing around the room. It began to dawn on me that this was worse than just a bad case of the flu.
Everything hurt – the kind of hurt that makes a broken arm seem like a paper cut. Within 36 hours I went from having a blackout to complete paralysis. No one knew what had happened. I couldn’t move anything, but the level of pain was beyond anything I knew existed. All I wanted was to be held and told that everything was going to be okay, but the pain prevented any human contact from lasting more than a few minutes.
I had come to this sliver of land in the Atlantic to serve others. Instead my life came to a not-so-convenient crash on the front steps of the mission house – literally.
So what happened? I found out later that I had a rare autoimmune disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The cause: an overabundance of stress. One bad vaccine, combined with the flu and the added mental fatigue of my father having recently been hospitalized with a broken back – one could say I was stressed.
This year was the 10th anniversary of that summer. As I look back to those days, my clearest memories are actually not of the pain, but of the people. When we made it passed the “is-she-going-to-live” phase, the single goal on everyone’s minds was to get me to walk again. Oddly enough, my greatest fear was not of dying or remaining paralyzed, but being alone.
As I look back on this, I can see that I was never alone through this time. I recently tried to count how many people it took to save my life and get me walking again. I’m now at 25,000 and still counting.
It took 15,000 people giving one unit of blood to provide enough immunoglobulin for my treatment. A network of 2,000+ churches rounded up in a matter of hours to pray. A team of 27 doctors, 54 nurses, and far more hospital staff members covered my case. There was the kind man who drove the speedboat to the island hospital, the women who carried me up the stairs, the hundreds of people who wrote encouraging notes, all of which I still have, and so many others. And of course, there was the greatest nurse on earth, my mother, who literally taught me to walk again.
So why am I telling you this story? Well, it’s been 10 years and I’m still walking. Running, actually. It is all thanks to the 25,000 people who did not leave me alone.
And this is our hope for the women at Amirah.
You see, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a lot like trauma. For her, trauma comes out of nowhere, leaves her mentally and emotionally paralyzed, begging for the pain to go away. Human contact hurts so much, but she is more afraid of being alone in this world than she is of death itself. Suddenly, learning how to walk the road of life is her single greatest goal, and the most difficult challenge she may ever face.
This takes a plethora of individuals committed to helping her restore her life right from where they are. A prayer sent up at 6am each day. A phone call to a neighbor asking for support. An encouraging note written to her program clinicians. Or a Walk in Her Shoes.
On Saturday, October 27, we are inviting you to be part of her journey by walking a 5K wherever you are. You may think that an hour walk on a Saturday isn’t going to do much good, but let me remind you of those 25,000 people who helped me. Each one was just going about their daily routine and paused briefly to do something small that ultimately saved my life. Committing to walk in solidarity with her is a beautiful way that you can take to stand against the wrongs done to her and ensure her that she will never walk alone.
So come out and walk with us. Walk for her. You may never know her story or how your walk impacted her life, but I can guarantee you this: if you walk for her, she will know you did and because of this community, she will never walk alone.
A generous donor is matching all gifts toward Walk In Her Shoes, making your $25 registration turn into $50 for her recovery program. Sign up today at www.amirahnewengland.org/walk-in-her-shoes.