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Use the Health You Have


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I saw this posted on another website.  I am not especially religious, but I found it to be inspiring and maybe you will too.


‘Use the Health You Have’ by Linda Williams


It happened in the dentist’s office two weeks before I was to be married. I had gone in to have a wisdom tooth pulled. “You don’t want a toothache on our honeymoon!” David had urged me.


“All done!” the dentist said, bringing the chair upright. “All done,” he repeated when I didn’t get up.


I couldn’t move. I was hurried to a hospital, where doctors attributed the strange paralysis to the anesthetic used by the dentist. Very slowly, movement returned. I remained in the hospital for a month, and it was six months before I could return to nursing school.


David still wanted to get married right away, but I insisted on waiting. What if it hadn’t been the anesthetic? How could I ask David to take on a sick wife? We were young; I was twenty, he was twenty-three. We could afford to wait. I completed nurse’s training and got a hospital job. The paralysis did not recur. There were a few unrelated things – or so I thought. Days when my vision blurred. Sometimes at the end of my shift my left foot would start to drag. “You’re just working too hard,” David would say.


Three years after our original wedding date, we were married. The following year Jenifer was born; two years later, Trisha. Was the string of complications – dizziness, kidney infections, ulcers – pregnancy-related, as the obstetrician assured me?


Wanting to raise our family in the country, we bought a secondhand mobile home on fifteen acres in Washington State. I worked the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift at Bess Kaiser Hospital in Portland, Oregon, thirty miles away, leaving when David got home from his work repairing welding equipment.


Making my rounds, I began to notice that my whole left side often lagged behind the right. David and I always got up at 5:00 a.m. to pray together before he left for work; daily now we asked for healing. I started losing weight so rapidly that the hospital shifted me to part-time work and put me through a battery of tests without arriving at a diagnosis.


Six years after the wedding I was down from 130 to only seventy-five pounds, and doctors insisted on putting me in the hospital. Two days after being admitted I woke up in the hospital room to discover I could not lift my head, legs, arms or hands. As in the dentist’s chair ten years earlier, there was no response. By week’s end catheters and feeding tubes were keeping me alive. Around me the room darkened. Finally, I knew when it was daytime only by asking the nurse. Then, as the paralysis spread to my throat, I could not even do this. Finally, a specialist confirmed I had multiple sclerosis.


As a nurse I was all too familiar with this disease, which progressively destroys the nerves. I was thirty years old and I realized I might be dying. After two months in the hospital, I was to be released to a nursing home. Blind, mute, paralyzed, I would require total care. David held my unresponsive hand as the doctor named several institutions. “You can look at them, Mr. Williams, and let me know.” “I don’t need to look at them.” That was David’s voice. “Linda is coming home.”


And over the doctor’s protests, home I went. I was sure that at six and four, Jenifer and Trisha would be terrified by the forest of tubes. But I heard only excitement in their voices: “Mommy’s home!” Mommy? What kind of mother could I be as I waited for death in that little mobile home? Attended by nurses the insurance paid for, I lay week after week, unable to move or see or speak, wanting the end to come quickly.


Worse, God, who had always been so close, now seemed a million miles away. I knew God could heal because I had watched Him do it for patients I had prayed for. But when I prayed about my own health, there was no answer.


You have health. Use it.


 I had . . . what? Where had such a ludicrous thought come from? Certainly not from me. I was sick. Helpless. Why, the only part of my body I could move was a single finger on my right hand!


Then move that finger.


There in the dark, I moved that one finger. A mere quiver, but I moved it. Next day, and the next, and the one after that, I took my mind off all I could not do and focused it on that responsive muscle. Physically it was a movement of centimeters, but in my understanding, a journey of light-years. Instead of bombarding Heaven for healing, I was to concentrate on the health I had.


Hearing, for example! I could hear the wind in the firs, the chatter of the girls as they dressed their dolls. Thought! I could reason. I could pray – thanking God for husbands, for children, for Himself.  


What could a single finger do? Gesture a greeting when I heard footsteps in the room! One day as I “waved” at David this way, a second finger trembled into motion. A week later I coaxed a few croaking sounds from my throat. Soon afterward I saw one blur of brown and another of yellow beside the bed. The darker was Jenny’s brunette curls, the yellow one, blonde Trisha.


As my sight improved and more muscles responded in my right hand and arm, I discovered an amazing range of activity within inches of me. Jenny and Trish developed an uncanny ability to make sense of my garbled speech. With the girls translating, I communicated an idea to David. Would he wedge pillows behind me until I was sitting up? Would he put my sewing machine on the bed table? And now, would he tuck the foot treadle beneath my right arm?


So it was that the girls and I began making their spring wardrobes. They cut the fabric and guided it through the machine, but I was the one who used the bit of motion I had to start and stop the needle. Doctors cautioned that such temporary reversals were not unusual with MS. A patient could improve, but sooner or later the disease might reassert itself.


I had stopped focusing on the disease, however, simply enjoying each gift of health. Like the time when, strapped in a wheelchair, I was first wheeled out of the bedroom. Like teaching the girls to cook. (They pushed me into the kitchen, and together we baked bread, and made soups and pies.) David built a ramp beside the front steps so that I could be wheeled outside. When growing season came, he mounted a foam-rubber pad on a board with wheels, narrow enough to be pulled between rows of beans and carrots. Lying face down I dug my fingers into the damp soil.


Use the health you have, God kept telling me, and how many uses there were for each regained ability!


Much as I had improved, it was obvious that I couldn’t go back to nursing, not in a wheelchair. But there were so many things I could do. Parenting, for example – teaching, encouraging, loving. When we learned that our church supported an orphanage in Guatemala, we asked to be considered as an adoptive family, and two years later four-year-old Sarah became ours.


Caring for a small child used every ounce of health I had.  And the more health I used, the more seemed to come. To continue the stretching, as Sara grew older, I enrolled in foster care classes offered by the state social agency, and proudly heard our home declared “ideally suited for nurturing children.”


But MS was advancing again. Breathing was often a struggle, even with oxygen. Time after time I was admitted to the hospital pronounced terminal, but survived to return home once more. To use the health I had was hard, as the pain in my abdomen became constant. A postsurgical patient is given ten milligrams of morphine; ten years after the diagnosis of MS I was receiving four hundred milligrams a day. When even this was not enough, in August two years later, surgeons proposed severing my spinal cord. That would mean I’d never walk again – but of course I couldn’t anyway. Another option was partial removal of my digestive tract.  As it was eleven years since I’d taken food by mouth, this too would make no difference.


My reason for refusing both procedures must have seemed ridiculous; the conviction that God was still saying …


You have health. Use it.


A few months later after surgeons’ radical proposals, our first foster child was placed with us. With my mounting handicaps I would never have attempted it alone, but our three girls were so eager that we went ahead.


Already a veteran of twelve foster homes at age three, Brandon was a silent child who never smiled. It was a joy to see him soon turning into a lively, laughing little boy who could never get enough hugs. One day I was wheeling about the kitchen getting Brandon’s lunch when I heard an unfamiliar sound: the growling of my own stomach. I stopped, peanut butter jar in hand. Was it time to attempt some food by mouth? That day I sipped a teaspoon of watermelon juice, and the next day a swallow of carrot juice.


Slowly I progressed to solid food, reveling in the forgotten sensation of taste. And strength began returning to my legs. One day David walked in from work to find me sitting on the couch. He looked from me to the empty wheelchair where he’d placed me that morning. “How . . ? Who . . . ?


Eating. Walking. Driving a car. Coming off morphine. Addition after addition to my inventory of health. As my healing has progressed, more “problem” children have been entrusted to us: Autistic. Retarded. Deaf. The evaluations that accompany each child are accurate, just not important. Unique, lovable, brave – there is so much more to say about these children. I have discovered, you see, that it’s not what’s wrong with us that counts, but what’s right.


That’s what I told the neurologist recently when he showed me the results of my latest tests. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “I see nothing but health here.” “I know,” I told him. “I’ve seen nothing but health too, for a long, long time.”


Started .25 mg. clonazapam Oct. 2016

Started 10 mg. Celexa Dec. 2016

Started 10 mg. amitriptyline January 2017

Also took 60 mg. Dexilant Oct. 2016 through April 2017, successfully tapered off

Stopped Celexa successfully Oct. 2017

Fast taper of amitriptyline Dec. 2017, had major WD symptoms and reinstated at 10 mg. Jan. 2018

Slow amitryptyline taper started Mar. 2019, reduced from 10 mg. to 2.6 mg. currently

Also still taking .25 mg. clonazapam daily in late evening

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This was very moving thank you for sharing it.

I am not a medical professional and nothing I say is a medical opinion or meant to be medical advice, please seek a competent and trusted medical professional to consult for all medical decisions.


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