The Case of a Christian Who was Wronged

An analysis of sin, our fallen world, and Biblical truth is critical to understanding what to do when things go wrong in the life of a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. We are all human and will make mistakes, some with dire consequences in our own life or the lives of others. Such philosophical gymnastics is not my strong suit but heeding the discernment of the Holy Spirit is mine for sure. And the Lord’s leading was clear recently. When faced with a recent dilemma of how to handle a potential case of medical malpractice, I turned to the ears of a Christian friend, God’s Word, writers smarter than me, journaling and prayer. Here’s the life-changing story.

A thyroid condition very likely was mismanaged for twenty-nine years of my adult life.

There were at least five Medical Doctors involved in the management of my thyroid condition over the course of my adult life. The Doctor completing a routine physical for my first job out of college made the diagnosis of hypothyroidism when he palpated nodules on my thyroid. I was a young woman, horrified and scared! I was told (in those days of the Merck Manual and before the internet) that thyroid nodules were relatively common, benign, and needed to be treated with medication. After all, hypothyroidism runs in my family! The drugs that each Doctor gave me changed over the years but the basic treatment plan never did: suppress the thyroid with synthetic hormones and “monitor” the nodules. This process was difficult at times when they switched me to more natural preparations or when a Doc suspected that there was an interaction going on between female hormone and thyroid hormone levels. However, nothing would be as “difficult” as the daily convulsive episodes that very likely were related to this issue decades after the original diagnosis.

Enter here 8 years of a serious illness portrayed by dozens of disabling symptoms, the worst of which was seizures every single day that began late that first year. At times they were so violent that screams erupted from deep within me often followed an inability to breathe and sometimes passing out in bed shortly thereafter. The head-banging and severity of high-velocity, involuntary movements created significant orthopedic injuries, taking me in-and-out of various manual therapies because (of course) I could not tolerate pain medication. My activities of daily living were strained and altered beyond belief; any noxious sensory stimuli, the time of day, and seemingly unrelated triggers set off the episodes often for hours per day. I awakened with them and a headache, body aches every day. I fell asleep with them. I tried to live around them as best I could after hours of recovery. I was up all night after the worst episodes and when trying to avoid them. 5:00 a.m. found me crashing into bed only to serve my 30-60 minutes of penance before passing out into fitful sleep. It was a living hell.

Only by the grace of God did I survive this time in my life. Sometimes I would have to wait for hours before my limbs would work right to drag myself to the bathroom. Other days if these waking seizures occurred when my gracious husband was home, he had to carry me to the bathroom, feed me, or drive me to the emergency room. Our life was hell much of the time and it tested our marriage in every way possible. Steve never knew what state he would find me in when he returned home from work . . .

Significant testing, research, treatments, expense, extreme avoidance strategies, travel to one specialist or another, sleep deprivation, and more characterized those eight years always hoping for some level of recovery. I didn’t only try CBD oil but SIX BRANDS of pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil at two different stages of this illness. One summer I plastered a hallway wall with dozens of sheets of paper including: a daily calendar, symptom and extensive treatment record, functional medicine charts, genetic testing results, and anything else I could think in a search for trends or clues. I was largely bed-bound in 2015 and spent 2016 receiving IV infusions of antibiotics through costly home health nursing care. Treatments would ease my worst symptom for a limited time then stop working with exception of oral Prednisone. The only problem with using steroids is that they are contraindicated in osteoporosis (which came along as part of this journey as well). I had to reserve PRN Prednisone for only the worst episodes each month because my primary Doctor would not order it more frequently.

Three years ago, a Naturopathic Physician came the closest to finding the “root cause” of the serious illness when he tested for and diagnosed an autoimmune thyroid condition. Bio-homeopathic injections (among other treatments) brought most of the labs within normal range but there was no appreciable change in my symptoms. I continued the injections just the same at a considerable out-of-pocket expense. Eventually I learned to give myself the injection, saving me an additional $20 per shot. It was pretty incredible that I was able to administer the subcutaneous medication when needle sticks of any kind generally triggered violent convulsive episodes! Somehow I got it done.

So this year when I finally made it to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and after pleading with the neurologists to let me see one of their endocrinologists, a friendly, Indian Doctor NAILED IT. I didn’t have an autoimmune disease. He said I was on too much thyroid medication! I have hyperthyroidism not hypothyroidism. A quick review of the literature found that it is hyperthyroidism that coincides with multi-nodule goiters in addition to half a dozen of the other symptoms that I was experiencing. The treatment is vastly different from anything I had ever been prescribed for 29 years! He immediately cut my medication in half while I waited for the new prescription to arrive in the mail. And within days, over six symptoms began to improve with the most significant being reduced convulsive episodes. It is now 4 weeks later and the trend continues. I have had several days free of seizures and dozens with barely a little zip of a tic!

The change in my life is nothing short of shocking. I discuss the other findings from my work-up at the Mayo Clinic HERE and the beginning of this entire saga HERE. There are videos of the episodes HERE with my hope to share my faith in Christ Who alone has helped Steve and I endure the worst of days. I would have died without Him! This blog came about to help me cope with this serious illness. The Lord carried me to hundreds of appointments over the years, helped me make dinner or my husband’s lunch when my head was pounding, or even walked with me to simply open up the back door to let out our pup out each day with thousands of seizures going on and on.

Then this week I wondered what I should do about the oversight, even incompetency of those five Doctors whom I trusted but gave me the wrong diagnosis and the wrong treatment? Maybe the “best practice” for the management of multi-nodule goiter and hypothyroidism have changed since they went to medical school/over the past few decades or maybe it’s just that they forgot the basic standards of care? Why didn’t they refer me to an endocrinologist for more comprehensive care? A second opinion? I never thought to ask to see a specialist as they all made it seem that ordering and reading the lab results were routine parts of my diagnosis. I researched my condition extensively but never even thought to search out an endocrine diagnosis that they did not give me. Repeat thyroid scans and testing were ordered somewhat irregularly and only tiny changes were ever made to compounded prescriptions because I was so “sensitive.” No one ever questioned the original diagnosis, why my lab values never stabilized and continued to worsen this past year, or why I could not tolerate medication changes. I needed a completely new treatment plan.

Each of my current two Doctors asked about the findings of my consults at Mayo Clinic. Both of them minimized the change in diagnosis! They minimized the need for a drastic reduction in medication, a potential complete change in treatment plan, and the impact of hyperthyroidism on the hellish illness that eluded both of them. Neither apologized nor assumed any responsibility for missing the mark. So as my mind has become clearer, my thoughts have turned to the topic of medical malpractice. After all both of them were negligent. As I considered this I became increasingly angry, hurt, betrayed, hot! A Christian friend suggested that I spend some time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom; it didn’t take long to find 1 Corinthians 6 and multiple Christian writers discouraging the believer from lawsuits against fellow believers. Yes, both Doctors profess to be Christians. But what about their professional accountability? What about what happened to me? How do I ever see them for a medical visit again? Wow, Lord, settle my soul . . .

I’ll share here a part of what I found to be the best advice and perspective for persons who are believers that considering a medical malpractice intervention. It comes from James Druckenbrod in the November 1991 issue of The Linacre Quarterly (a publication of the Catholic Medical Association and the denomination from which I found the most extensive writing on the topic of the Christian response to medical malpractice).


. . . from a Christian ethical perspective, it becomes apparent that something basic is wrong with a society that so easily, and more frequently, can blame its “helping” professions for errors, and receive restitution in unlike kind (money rather than health or life). Either the “helping” medical profession falls short of its professed ethics to heal the sick, or society falls short of its understanding of what healing in modern times is all about. Or as this paper will suggest, both groups fall short of the gospel imperative of charity that becomes the way that the Christian communities display the vision of the Kingdom of God to a modern, pluralistic, and secular society. An underlying thesis is that medical malpractice has resulted from the secularization of the vocation of medicine. In the process of secularization, the basic social unit of the doctor-patient relationship, the spiritual union of God, doctor, and patient has been severely disrupted. The doctor as well as the patient and society have all contributed to this disruption by each taking their own advantage of the changes. A possible solution to medical malpractice for the Christian patients and doctors can be found in a return to gospel imperatives of trust in God, and obedience to God’s commandments.

I could fill many pages with all of the secular and Christian angles on the topic of medical malpractice with regards to what happened to me. And yet somehow through the past 8 years I always knew two things that: 1) someday the Lord would allow me to heal and 2) there was purpose and meaning in even the worst days of my suffering. It would not be wasted! Today I am going to choose to go with the mandate of 1 Corinthians 6 and the concept suggested above of charity; I will decline a medical malpractice lawsuit or taking my issue before “the church” in favor of lying it all at the throne of grace of my Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the Great Physician after all!

I do intend to approach each Doctor again about my care then write each of them a short letter on the matter. These actions will require much prayer and preparation. In the meantime, I still need their care in other areas of my health. But they aren’t touching my thyroid! For now I will reserve endocrinology issues for the Specialist at the Mayo Clinic who is helping to turn my life around. I just don’t trust anyone else with the new diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. Gentle Reader, perhaps you understand and agree? JJ

As you consider Holy Yoga: Part 1

Holy Yoga, pose, woman, mat, Christian, blog, evaluate, discernment

As an occupational therapist trained in therapeutic exercise and as someone who taught aerobic exercise in clinical settings years ago, I have always watched the trending in the health and fitness industry.  I recently explored various fitness certification opportunities as part of my continuing education requirements as an OT, including those oriented toward low impact dance and yoga.  ROM Dance  was part of my repertoire years ago when working in mental health settings.  Match these interests with keeping a close eye on the alternative health industry that came on the heels of the New Age movement of the 1990s.  Early on I decided to match all of these observations against the available clinical research and especially the truth of Biblical scripture as guiding lights.

So is there a back-story?  Yes, there’s more!  I am seeking a gentle, supportive movement  practice, ideally consistent with my Christian faith, to aid in my recovery from serious illness.  The trauma of this serious illness has left me with several medical complications, deconditioning, weakness, physical limitations, and an altered body awareness that I believe can get better.  I had been exploring and pursuing some possibilities in the world of dance, exercise, massage, and traditional occupational and physical therapies when along came Holy Yoga:  a “community of believers on mission to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the modality of yoga.”

In a few blog posts, I will explore Holy Yoga and come to a personal decision about whether or not I will pursue it at this time.  I started my research at the Holy Yoga website then jumped right into some challenging viewpoints but not from the Christian or even medical communities.  Instead I listened to a lengthy YouTube video of Hindu philosopher, Rajiv Malhotra’s, interview of Holy Yoga Founder Brook Boon.  Talk about what the political world calls “opposition research!”  Below is the feedback I posted after viewing the interview.  My next steps will be to research the response of the Christian community and probably attend a class locally.

Here’s Part 1.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Nice job Brooke Boon!  I might clarify to Mr. Malhotra that Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is God:  the God of the Bible and NOT a manifestation of God.  Each person of the Trinity is one God, 3 persons.  Liken this to the fact that I am one human being but a wife, sister, and daughter or 3 person-alities.  Not an exact analogy but it can help understand that the one true God is a clear, Biblical distinction from the plethora of Hindu gods that are dead, powerless manifestations of their “god.”  But more on that theology is a discussion for another time.

Further, I really wish Mr. Malhotra would have had the decency to give Ms. Boon his interview questions beforehand, especially if he intended to debate the nuances of Hinduism and Islam in contrast to Christianity.  He said the interview was to be a “dialogue” however his theological questioning and word choices indicated otherwise.  His agenda to discredit Holy Yoga was polite yet clear.  For example, he said at the end of the video that Hindus must “be aware” and essentially wake up to what Christians were doing with Holy Yoga; he also claimed that Holy Yoga’s purpose was to evangelize.  Seems like evangelism may come with the Foundation’s outreach to victims of sex trafficking but wasn’t this an interview about the story, benefits and beliefs of Holy Yoga classes not the Foundation?  Might want to differentiate the two sir.

It was important for me as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who is exploring Holy Yoga, to view this interview.  I saw clearly how someone who is not a Christian cannot fully understand the tenants of the Christian faith from, for example, literal translations of scripture.  These literal interpretations weaken Mr. Malhotra’s subtle challenges, arguments, and warnings about Holy Yoga.  Specifically, his references to “the law” were not about Roman law as he claimed but God’s law given to Moses (as documented in the God-inspired Old Testament) to help guide the nation of Israel.  The Mosaic law helped define right and wrong to a lost people, lost society, and provide guidance as to how to live.  It also instructed them on how to relate to God and atone for sins or wrongdoing.  This law was later replaced with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and New Testament teachings from Christ and His disciples.  Persons of various “religious affiliations” or “denominations” outside of Christianity seem to like to focus on “the law” concept instead of Christ’s concept of grace because they are used to the structure and constraints of rituals . . . as if it is the rituals themselves that make them somehow right or wrong:  better people or worse yet, right before their definition of God.  And their definition does not match that of the single God of the whole Bible.  Christians who are born-again believers are free to express themselves with various traditions, cultural garb, etc. (and even try on the dressings of others) but never look to them for salvation.  Cultural traditions/trappings have no inherent power.  Only faith in Jesus Christ alone can save:  bring us eternally into a right relationship with The One True God and eternal life.  It’s simple really:

John 3:16 New International Version (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Of course we want to share our faith with others as our joy and calling as believers in Jesus Christ.  (Matthew 28:19-20).    Looks like a lot of fun to me, to find an established method of breathing an exercise while praising God!  Wish they didn’t use the Hindu words though, as it will be confusing to many who think that Holy Yoga is completely Bible-based.  There are gray areas for sure.  Holy Yoga borrows many traditions of Hinduism.  I hope that the classes clarify this for participants.  But is that enough to avoid it?  Or not find a way to enjoy its benefits?  Perhaps the earthly “gurus” of Hindu yoga could view the adaptation of the breathing and exercises of their yoga traditions as more of a compliment than a threat.  Such is the nature of humanity to not want their invention changed.  I am sure that the major drug companies don’t like competitors making generic copies of their drugs either!  But hey, children often imitate the characteristics of their parents and hopefully a lot of times this is a good thingy!  Imitation can be an expression of flattery, friendship, even love.

Because of the prevailing pull of the world on Jesus’ own disciples and their need to overcome it, Christ petitioned for divine intercession to keep his disciples “not of the world” by being sanctified through the word of God, which is truth (see John 17:16–17 below*).  Believers must guard our hearts in all pursuits with the truth of Scripture, spiritual armor (Ephesians 6), prayer, heeding the conviction/discernment of the Holy Spirit.  Mr. Malhotra quoted the apostle Paul extensively in his post-interview analysis.  Perhaps the apostle Paul just wanted to be friendly as he adopted some behaviors and garb of the people groups he was trying to reach out to with the hope found in Jesus Christ?  Surely we can understand this today.  Don’t we bring a gift a friend would like to his or her birthday party even if it is not our own favorite hobby, taste, brand, or preference?  Or let a co-worker listen to a CD of our music in hopes he or she will enjoy it and share it with others?  Let’s be clear, however, that the  lovely cultural trappings or activities that make life sweet are never equal to the incredible gift of salvation that comes from belief in Jesus Christ.

Please look beyond the rituals, the cultural trappings, the methods of exercise and breathing, the physical stuff of this world as you evaluate the practice of Holy Yoga.  Each believer in Jesus Christ must decide for him or herself, how to apply the real substance of the Bible (and of life for the believer) is the Word and the truth it professes to our daily lives.  Explore Holy Yoga with knowledgeable believers.  Pray about it.  Examine the world view of your particular instructor too.  And if everything checks out o.k., enjoy a really cool exercise/meditation class in the meantime.

JJ

*John 17:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

When there are no words

“Look up.  Look waaaaaay up,” were the words of The Friendly Giant in 1986.  This American children’s television host invited the viewer into his miniature living room where he pulled out a chair just for you by the fireplace.  Then an image of his fake leather boots appeared 10x the scale of the scene on the television as he invited little Sissy or young Bobby to follow the camera up to the smiling eyes waiting to tell a story, waiting to introduce you to a host of characters.  Rusty the Rooster was a silly-looking puppet yet their banter held my attention all the same.  Even though by 1986 I was not a kiddo anymore!

We often look up to see the wonder beyond us:  gazing at the twinkling stars so visible in the crisp Fall air or maybe oooing and ahhhing at the bright ornaments adorning the department store Christmas trees already on display before Thanksgiving.  There is something magical about a beautiful sight just beyond our gaze, just above our smaller human frame.  When that object is but ordinary the wonder may be less yet the opportunity to reflect may be just as profound too.

The ceiling above my bed of sickness holds much thought these days.  On a Monday I might see a simple popcorn ceiling in the same building contractor’s white paint of every home built that very year.  A few days later it may be the seam tape of the electrical lines painted to match the composite panel lining the roof of an aluminum travel trailer.  Two months ago it was a bright blue shade sail floating softly up, gently down above my patio chair when the weather was still sunny and warm.  Such simple forms that served to give me pause from the mayhem of the hours that dragged on before . . .

shade sail patio summer 2015

Times like these are best spent dwelling in the presence of the Lord.  No words fill my mind in those kind of moments.  The tears are already spent; the energy almost completely drained away.  Such is the aftermath of uncontrollable seizure attacks that plague my weakened frame day after night after day for hours without end.  The pattern continues despite new anti-microbial treatments, tests, consultations, prayer, tears, strategies new and old.  New pains come and find a way to stay.  There is nothing left to say.  There is nothing left to do but to dwell, I guess.

Even love can be like this I suppose when it hurts so bad and you still can’t seem to shake the pain away.  All you do is focus on the form that you knew or still know that stands in front of you when only a blank slate emptied of your future together remains.  Turn to the left, turn to the right, stand up, sit down, and unlike the cheer song at the football games in 1986, there is no fight!  Fight!  FIGHT!  when love goes away for good.  Oh how I long for the familiarity of the pains I had known long ago.  It would be so much easier to handle than the emptiness of my heart this night.  Yup.  The joy is gone!  Gone!  GONE!

So what’s a middle-aged gal to do in the middle of the night and there is nothing to look up to anymore?  When I have written more words from every angle that my heart can imagine and no new inspiration comes to fill the page, gosh, what will I do?  Not much, really.  Just wait I guess.  Tomorrow is a new day and it will be here before you know it.  Maybe something good will happen, eh?

In the meantime, won’t you hang in there with me?  Here, I have pulled up a chair for you too Gentle Reader.  The Friendly Giant is now known as Immanuel and has a special story to help us end this little time together.  It’s a great read for a bedtime story at any time of the day, I promise.

I do hope you enjoy it.  JJ

Psalm 121