Love conquers all

The power of others love and support

It is interesting now to try and bring back the memories of being in the step down ICU unable to move anything but my head and a couple fingers and toes. Those days and nights were so miserable. Totally dependent on others and not being able to sleep. I never want to experience it again but I want to hold on to the more desperate I felt, the closer I felt to God and allowed myself to be uplifted by others. I have already written about my Doctor friend promising I would get better. My daughter Becca (with her medical background) was next to put things in the proper perspective. She shared with Dottie and our two other children, “this is not good but it could be so much worse. We are in for a long rough stretch but it isn’t a stroke, heart attack or him being diagnosed with some type of long term or terminal illness” It made me think back to when my Dad was at Walter Reed hospital in His last days. Becca (23 then) is the one that made such a great point then as well. “Dad, Papa has had a long well lived life while these young men and women are coming back from war fighting now for their lives. “ From the very beginning, God made His presence known through the amazing and constant care of family, friends, and people I didn’t even know. A few months ago, I sat on my porch and made a list of those who went the extra mile for me and Dottie. I was stunned by how long the list was knowing many folks have to suffer through these types of things alone or with very little support. This was written on the original www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie post and to this day remains so true. “We are grateful for Michael’s prayer warriors and fans around the world and know that you will lift him up and channel your love and positive energy toward Michael, Dottie and all the Guthries.” This is just as true today as it was back at the beginning of this unexpected season of my life. I look forward to sharing specific examples in a future post of how folks leaned in to help move us forward. It has been truly remarkable.

Be careful what you pray/wish for……..

As I advance in age, I have begun to read the obituaries on a daily basis. It is not just about seeing who has passed away, it is also because I want to have the opportunity to comfort friends who has lost a loved one. A few months back, I came across the obituary of UVA professor Walter Hauser http://bit.ly/walterhauserobit. He had been diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome when he was visiting India. I was struck that, after his recovery, he made it his mission to visit anyone at UVA hospital that was admitted with GBS.

I have felt compelled to do the same now that I am slowly but surely recovering and therefore am out an about on a regular basis. I reached out to several people and shared my interest to be of help. I had gotten no response until this past Friday. A friend reached out to me last Friday who had been such a blessing to Dottie and me while I was at UVA. He has followed my recovery via Facebook and now this blog. He asked if I would be willing to come see a patient with GBS at the health care facility where he works. I, of course said yes, but then nervousness and a bit of fear entered into my mind. We set up a time for Monday at 3. I knew this was something I needed and more importantly, wanted to do, but was struck by questions like; “what would it be like to see this person in a bed just like I was a few short months ago? Ridiculous thoughts life, “Am I sure GBS isn’t contagious in some way?” And finally, “would I be the right kind of visitor who could provide some sort of hope for this person in need”

I decided to reach out to my wife and a couple of friends to ask them to pray for me remembering that Matthew 18:20 says, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them” Another friend sent me an awesome verse-Deuteronomy 31:6 which says, ” Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” And finally Psalm 56:3 that reminded me, When I am afraid, I put my trust in you Lord. “

Knowing folks were praying and armed with these biblical promises, I met my friend and we headed up to the patient’s room grateful to have the privilege of helping someone dealing with adversity. She was a young woman that was having a much more difficult time than I ever did. She had been ready to leave rehab and relapsed. My plan was to stay 20 or 30 minutes and was there for an hour and a half. My hope was she could see me after 7 months so that she could see recovery is possible. I now was on the end of the bed saying, “this is tough, you could get worse, but you will get better” A colleague of the person who asked me to come sat in the room while I was there. When I apologized for staying so long her answer was “No. It was super helpful. Thanks for taking the time – she clearly needed to have that conversation.” 

I was sensitive to not over stay because Dottie and I have learned what it means to be visited in the hospital and in rehab. There are good ways of doing it and there are not so good ways. I will give you my own personal thoughts about how to visit and why it is good to do so in a future post.

The doctor was right, it did get worse

After my doctor friend’s visit, I really don’t remember much about that first Saturday. I am guessing it is because we were pretty much in shock. I have always been a pretty healthy person. In fact, this was my 1st overnight stay in the hospital since I had my tonsils out when I was 5 or 6. I woke up Sunday morning (Day 2) not being able to move anything but my head and a couple fingers and toes on my right side. Things had indeed gotten worse. Although my body not working, I don’t remember being scared but that changed when we met with the neurologist for the 1st time. After he did his assessment, his words, “we are gravely concerned” got my attention. He then said “there is a 78% chance you will be on a ventilator w a breathing tube within the next 24 to 48 hours. Tears streamed down my face and like I could do anything about it i said, “that is not going to happen.” I believe the prayers of many people intervened as thankfully, the tide of the effect of Guillain Barre stopped my shoulders and did not impact my respiratory system. Every time the respiratory therapists came in I made sure to pass the suck/blow tests with flying colors. One humorous side note. I had never gotten a flu shot thinking “why allow a virus into my body when I never get sick?” UVA is a teaching hospital so many folks came in to examine me. Everyone asked, “did you have a flu shot?” I thought they were trying to make me feel guilty. Like if I had gotten one, this wouldn’t have happened. It turns out it was the exact opposite. Next time you get your flu shot, read the fine print. It turns out, getting a flu shot can cause the Guillain Barre Syndrome. This crazy, rare, and scary health ordeal had taken its toll. Doctors and nurses were clear. I needed to be strong and patient as this was not going to be a short or easy stay on North wing at UVA. It was time for Dottie and me to start leaning on our faith and the amazing support of friends and family.

My first ambulance ride

Friday, March 1st I fell and couldn’t get up. My legs would not work. In another episode of “Welcome to the stupid family” for some reason Dottie and i did not call 911. In our defense, we had just come back from the ER where we had been told I was dehydrated. It was 10:30 at night so I army crawled using my arms and with my wife’s help we got me on the family room couch. How silly to think that like a plant, we could fill me with water and I would be better in the morning. That did not happen. It was a fitful night. By morning, I couldn’t hold on to a cup and my arms felt weak. I was not getting better. We called a couple neighbors, David Williams and John Greene to come help me get in the car. They got me off the couch but I was 215 ( more on this later) pounds of dead weight. We looked at each other and all came to the same conclusion; time to call an ambulance.

Within minutes, Albemarle EMT’s were at our house, had me strapped on the stretcher, and placed in my VIP spot in their vehicle. The ride to UVA hospital was surreal. Travelling on a familiar route viewed out the back window of the ambulance. Lesson learned. When you arrive in an ambulance, there is no having to wait to be seen. Unlike the 2 1/2 hours we waited the night before, I was wheeled right in and the staff in the ER immediately went to work trying to figure out what was going on with me. Nothing against Martha Jefferson but in a weird way, I was glad I was misdiagnosed the night before. I could tell this was something serious and I felt that being at a teaching hospital was the best place to be. Later that day, that thought was confirmed by a good friend. After some tests, they were pretty sure I had been hit with Guillain Barre Syndrome. Two things were done while in the ER where i questioned my desire to be in a teaching hospital. First, they decided to do a lumbar poke. I was asked if it would be OK if the medical resident did the procedure. Being a team player along with pretty much not being able to move, I acquiesced. The second procedure made me thing twice. The decision was made to do a catheterization procedure, the lead nurse wanted to have the nurse she was training do her first one. I went along with it but my thought was, “people need to learn but couldn’t the experienced nurse please do this one”. All joking aside, I was struck by how calm I was given what was going on with my body. I was so glad Dottie, my rock, was by my side. That has been a recurring thought throughout my recovery.

I was moved to the step down ICU. Two things happened that made me aware that God was present. 1) the first nurse we met as I was wheeled in my room was someone who went to my church. She saw my name and said, “you go to Trinity, don’t you? I remember you from leading worship” 2) my friend who I mentioned earlier, is a doctor and came to visit me with his son. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then everyone left the room including Dottie who went out to say goodbye. My doctor friend came by in by himself and shared 4 things that i will never forget. “1) God loves you. No mater what, cling to that promise. 2) Things are going to get worse. ( he was right) 3) You are in the best place to be treated. 4) You will get better. “

If you have read the 1st three entries, you know he was right.

It started with a cold…..

I rarely get sick for which I have always been grateful but which gave me no concept for what it meant to be really sick. You can support others through their injuries or illnesses but you can never know what if feels like to lose control of your health. Well now I do. If you have read my first two posts, you know that I am now more than 6 months into my recovery from Guillain Barre http://bit.ly/guillainbarreinfo It started with cold which I expected to last its normal couple of days. I didn’t get better so I went to the doctor on 2/25 and was assured I was on the back end of it. Little did I know that this was not the case. I battled through a busy week which included our company’s annual awards celebration which takes a lot of time because the evening to go quite well. Dottie knew something wasn’t right because I came home extremely tired and went right to bed. Friday AM I woke up and realized something wasn’t right. My legs felt heavy and I found it hard to grip even my coffee cup that morning. As the day went by, I wasn’t any better. It felt like my feet were in cans of cement as I tried to get up the steps at the office that afternoon. I called my doc who said 🙂 “at your age” you might want to go to the ER so off I went to a local medical facility with my wife not too far behind. Given it was flu season, the place was a mad house. We say for 2 1/2 hours with masks on our faces waiting to be seen. finally, we got in and they did several tests and gave me an IV. After all was said and done, the ER physician sent me home saying I had a very low viral count and that i was probably a bit dehydrated. He assured me I would even be able to go the UVA basketball game the next day as we had new friends coming up from Williamsburg. How wrong he was….Dottie drove me home and as I got our of the car and took the 1st step into our home, our lives as we had known it was going to change in a significant way thanks to my body losing the first battle caused by Guillain Barre. I fell and found myself saying, “Dottie, I have fallen and i can’t get up……

Because of their Faith, you are healed

The joy of feeling Hopeful not Helpless

Before I head back to the beginning of what has been the biggest challenge of my life, I want to share with you thoughts from a talk a gave yesterday at the Darden School Christian Fellowship. It gave me a chance to express how important the encouragement of others has been in my recovery.

There are times in our life where we may feel helpless but I can tell you that even in those times there is no reason to feel hopeless.

The Bible says hope is believing in things unseen. Six months ago I was in a hospital bed only able to move a couple fingers and toes. I was told by people who knew a lot more than me that I would get better. Almost 3 weeks went by and nothing changed but I hung on to those words “ you will get better” Here is my personal version of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 matter how weak and miserable I was I did not lose heart, though my outer man was in turmoil, I found my inner man being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction produced in me an eternal weight of glory far beyond anything I could comprehend. I am thankful I could learn in my adversity not to look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen (God is with me, I will get better) for the things which are seen are temporal, but the faith and character that were made evident will continue by God’s grace, to make me a better person. 7 months later the promise of me getting better is becoming a reality.

But this today my desire is to encourage you toward as the Bible says, “love and good works.”

You see my hope in getting better was firmly rooted in my faith in God. But the encouragement of others has allowed me to persevere and come back from what is called Guillain Barre Syndrome. If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge UVA sports fan.

UVA basketball coach Tony Bennett says all the time, if you want to go fast, go alone if you want to go far go together. He also quotes from a Ted Talk “If you learn to use it right adversity will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.”I have personally experienced how True this proverb is and the Ted Talk quote.

The Bible has a lot to say about being the one, being kind, and the importance of encouraging one another. I want to quickly focus on one passage which is mentioned in 3 of the 4 gospels. Luke 5:18-25 New International Version (NIV)

18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

Verse 20 is striking. It wasn’t because of the paralyzed man’s faith, it was because of the faith of his friends. I did not immediately stand up. It took a great deal of time but after 56 days in the hospital and rehab, On April 25th I did go home praising God. Not just for my health but for how He showed me what the support of others can do in a person’s life.

What an incredible thing these men did for their friend in need. This is what happened to me. When I needed it most, folks continuously carried me to the One of true Hope.

I will close with a quote from Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa-

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love. God can do things you cannot, you can do things God cannot; together we can do great things.” May it be so for all of us.

One can find Hope even when one feels helpless

A journey toward recovery from Guillain Barre

On March 2nd, my life changed forever. I was admitted to UVA Hospital in Charlottesville, VA and was quickly diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, admitted, and by the next day was in a bed unable to move anything but my head along with a couple fingers and toes. Almost 7 months later, although only about 75% recovered, most people think that I am back to my old self. My hope is this blog will provide Hope and Encouragement to those who face adversity or who are supporting someone in the midst of trials. I am going to start here with where I am now and then take you back through the ordeal that came from GBS.

Here is what I shared at my church on 8/12 which explains the title of this blog.

I was asked to share a little bit about what I have experienced over the last 5 months. If you are interested in a blow by blow report you can visit 

Www.Caringbridge.com/michaelguthrie 

the long story made short is I was diagnosed on March 2nd with Guillain Barre syndrome.  A virus caused my auto immune system to go haywire which destroyed the myelin sheathing around my nerves which caused no interaction with my muscles. This left leaving me essentially unable to move anything but my head for almost three weeks.  I spent 12 days in the hospital and 43 days in a rehab facility. By God’s mercy and with His strength I walked out of rehab two months earlier than expected with the assistance of a cane on 4/25. Since then, I have been getting stronger and although not there yet, I am counting on a full recovery for which I am very thankful.

I am also very grateful for my wife who was and is my rock throughout this ordeal. She was fierce in advocating for me but did so with such a gracious spirit. Folks have asked me how this impacted our marriage. I can honestly say I didn’t think I could love her more or be more thankful. I was wrong. 

I am also thankful for many dear friends, my family and this church family

Philemon 4-7 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I have experienced your love for me and Dottie and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I trust that your partnership with us in our recovery has somehow deepened your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given us great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed our hearts. 

The song do it again says,

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

Hebrews 11:1 says Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I can testify that by standing firm and being encouraged by many of you, the invisible became clearly visible.

I will finish with James 1 and a quote from Tim Keller. James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,”… Tim Keller-“Recount a time in which adversity pushed you toward Jesus, and spend some time today thanking him for working in your life. Thank you Guillain Barre for allowing God to teach me things I may never have learned.

Here is the video from that morning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PG_Xx7t_miY I look forward to sharing the rest of the story from the beginning and throughout the rest of my recovery. May God bless it and use it for His glory!