“Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God.”
– Thornton Wilder
Almost 18 years ago, I was born at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. I entered this world already fighting a battle, as I was diagnosed with multiple serious health conditions. With a congenital heart condition, a TE fistula, collapsing lungs, and a clubbed hand, my first few years with major operations and long hospital visits would be far from typical.
But that was 18 years ago. I haven’t let any of my medical issues stop me from being a normal high school student or enjoying my life. I’ll be a senior next school year, and before I know it I’ll be heading off to college. I haven’t let my medical file define who I am.
And yet, in a way, doesn’t it somewhat define me? My past and my experiences are what have made me the person I am today. I’ve become stronger through all my operations and through the challenges that God has thrown my way. And I’m not a normal high school student. I’ve experienced challenges many others are oblivious to. The superficial drama that rules the halls of any high school means absolutely nothing to me when I’m able to understand what some people are going through in this world. My experiences have shaped how I view the world. Yet, my experiences have also made it difficult for me to trust in God and love the person He made me to be. My mom has always told me that everything I’ve been through is part of God’s plan – that He will use all of my battles for something amazing in my life. And I know my mom is right, but at times it’s so hard to believe.
When I’m lying in a hospital bed, saying goodbye to my mom as I’m rolled into the operating room, overwhelmed with fear, it’s hard to believe that God is with me.
When I can’t run, hike, or do everything my sister can do because of my heart condition, it’s hard to believe that God is helping me.
When I hate looking at myself in the mirror with all of the scars that decorate my chest and my back, it’s hard to believe that God is looking out for me.
Or when kids stare at me or when they ask “What’s wrong with your arm?” it’s hard to believe that God knew what He was doing when He made me.
A few weeks ago, I had to fly back to the children’s hospital in St. Louis to have all of these major medical tests. Since I haven’t had any issues in a while, it’s become pretty rare when I have to visit a hospital or a doctor. Most of the time, I just want to forget about all of my issues and pretend that I’m normal. But these tests were mandatory, so for a week I had to listen to doctors discuss everything that’s wrong with me. No fun.
Most of the trip was completely miserable. Yet there was a moment that forced to me truly open my eyes. I remember I was sitting in a waiting room with my mom, ready to be called back for an x-ray. Usually X-rays aren’t that bad – they don’t hurt and there isn’t a doctor poking and prodding you like you’re a species in a petri dish. But it had been a long day, and I was absolutely sick of being stuck in the hospital. Sitting there in the waiting room and freezing in a hospital gown that was way too big for me, I was consumed with hatred for who I was. I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. It was as if I was just this science experiment – I didn’t feel human. And worst of all, I felt so alone. I felt completely abandoned by God. If He really cared about me, how could He put me through this? Why is it fair that I’m stuck in a hospital, feeling naked in this hospital gown and strange skin, while my sister and others are living a normal teenage life? I sat there with tears silently streaming down my face.
I was eventually called back to the x-ray room. As the technician was rearranging all of the equipment, he casually told me, “I think you are the first person today who has been able to walk.” Was I stupid or what?! God was obviously screaming at me to wake up and realize everything I’ve been blessed with in my life – wake up and see that I’m not alone and that I’ve been given so much. So many people have it so much worse, so why should I be complaining? I’m not fighting for my life, all the medical care I could ever possibly need is available to me, I have an amazing family – I am so fortunate! There are people who don’t even have a home or a stable, caring family. There are some who are so sick that they can’t even go to school. Some don’t even know if they’ll stay alive to see the sun rise one more day. Yeah, I have challenges, and I don’t have it as easy as some. But I do have it easier than many.