04 February 2014

The Refining Power of Humility

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6
        What is humility? According to Merriam-Webster.com, it is “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people”. In essence, humility is the exact opposite of pride, which according to Merriam-Webster.com, is “a deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired”. To me, the difference between humility and pride can be seen in the ability to accept oneself fully as God’s perfect creation, not having to prove oneself through outward actions or appearance: someone who is ok to just “be”. It is the ability to care more about what God thinks about you and how you represent Him rather than superficial things such as outward appearance and personal achievements. Humility is mainly concerned with “what would God think” whereas pride focuses on “what would people think”. In my opinion, humility is one of the hardest lessons to learn since it implies such brutal self-denial and the afflictive stripping of pride: the core of a fallen and hopelessly sinful human-being; this requires completely ridding oneself of what is comfortable, familiar and innate in order to pursue something so unnatural and seemingly absurd. One must be crazy, in my opinion, to ask God to teach them humility, but it is essential to Christianity and in essence, aren’t all Christians a little “crazy” in the world’s eyes? According to Proverbs 11:2, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”.

        Today just may have earned its status as the most humbling and/or embarrassing day, of which there have been many, of my life. God’s plans are not my own—that is for sure—but yet when I simply let go of my pride & selfish desires, His plans become oh so beautiful and absolutely perfect! As some of you may know, I’ve recently been struggling with a severe case of rectal prolapse, which is extremely rare for someone of my age; although the professionals have told me it’s most likely not due to my history of anorexia, I still wonder if it didn’t play a part; although I may never know if this sudden emergency came about due to the lack of food and peristalsis in my colon which in turn led to muscle weakness or possibly due to laxative abuse weakening my pelvic floor, I am convinced it at least played a part. Despite how it came about, however, I was informed by several doctors, surgeons, and specialists that it was severe enough to require surgery; in fact, that surgery was the only option since it’d become so advanced. I won’t go into the details just yet about how I found out about this condition, since it is such a long story, but I will, however, tell you about my crazy day—when I once again tiptoed on death’s unexpected horizon.

        In order to ensure there were no other problems going on inside of me, the surgeon recommended I have a colonoscopy done to allow for detailed internal visualization. For those of you who don’t know, a colonoscopy entails inserting a small camera through the anus and into the colon to look for any abnormalities such as polyps (abnormal masses/growths); in order for clear visualization to be possible, however, the colon must be completely rid of all wastes (did you know that the colon is as long as we are tall and that for every foot of colon we can store around 5-10 pounds of waste; so, with me being a little over five feet tall, this means I had to get rid of 25-50 lbs of feces—had my colon been completely full) which is accomplished through a strict (and brutal, I must add) preparation regime the day prior to the procedure. This prep involved taking 7 laxatives, a full bottle of magnesium citrate and fleet enema as well as maintaining a clear liquid diet until midnight, with no food or drink the day of the procedure. Since my body is still malnourished, this preparation literally sent it over the edge, as my body couldn’t handle the  excessive vomiting and diarrhea resulting from the large amount of laxatives and dehydration.

        This morning, as I awoke to an overwhelmingly nauseous stomach and uncontrollable bowels, I finished the prep and quickly got ready for what would become the adventure of a lifetime. With my stubborn spirit and prideful attitude, I refused to be wheeled to my destination in a wheelchair but rather insisted on walking the entire way, despite the fact I could barely move without being overtaken with an overwhelming sense of nausea and lightheadedness (of which I of course kept to myself) since I’d had nothing to eat for over 24 hours and had lost excessive amounts of fluid and electrolytes due to vomiting and diarrhea. As I was exiting the elevator, my mom noticed me suddenly stop and grab hold of the elevator’s edge and say, “I’m going to pass out”, so she quickly ran to catch me before I hit the ground, as my legs crumbled beneath me. For the next five minutes or so I completely lost consciousness, as a doctor frantically tried to keep me awake while a nurse ran for a wheelchair; they then (although I don’t recall ever being in a wheelchair or even entering the ER) set me in the wheelchair, with my mom holding my head to keep it from falling, and literally ran me through several hallways into the Emergency Room. During the frantic rush, my mom, while holding onto my limp head, distraughtly asked if I was still breathing since she says I resembled a deceased person in a casket, and told the doctors and nurse that I was anorexic; they immediately stopped--dropping everything--to take my pulse in order to ensure I was in fact still alive, ensuring my heart hadn't ceased to beat. As soon as we reached an empty room, I was transferred to a bed, my clothing stripped and an EKG performed to ensure my heart was beating normally; I finally regained consciousness as the EKG was being performed and looked around to see where on earth I’d ended up, since I last recalled being on an elevator. As I was gaining consciousness, with light fading from dark to light and sounds disappearing/reappearing, I began to convulsively “dry heave” and they immediately held a barf bag up to my mouth, even though there was nothing left to come out. The EKG came back normal and then an IV was immediately inserted into my arm to allow for rapid hydration into my severely dehydrated and shriveled cells; several tubes of blood were then taken to monitor my electrolytes and then immediately sent to the lab for STAT evaluation. Once the room calmed down a little and I was able to begin to relax, I noticed an intense pressure in my abdomen and immediately recognized it as the onset of uncontrollable diarrhea, but fought to hold it in while the doctor asked me questions; as soon as he left, I sheepishly asked the nurse for a bed pan, which I must say was one of the most humbling experiences of my life; with working in the Intensive Care Unit as a nurse tech, I’ve assisted countless patients to use the bed pan and can now fully understand the utter embarrassment and shame accompanying its presence. I believe it’s true that no one can understand or empathize with someone in the way that one can had they also been through it; personal experience is such a gift (although it may not seem like it) not just to the individual but to countless others who’ve also struggled with the same thing.

        After a full bag of IV fluid had been administered into my veins at a rapid pace and Zofran (an anti-nausea med) had pretty well diminished my nausea/vomiting, I was wheeled to endoscopy where my colonoscopy was to be performed, since we’d contacted the surgeon to explain what’d happened and then decided to go ahead with the procedure so I wouldn’t have to go through the prep again. After a multitude of papers were signed, I was wheeled into the procedure room; here they allowed me to watch the entire procedure and ask questions rather than being anesthetized and put to sleep, which would be dangerous due to my low weight. I was able to visualize my colon, which was as clean as a whistle due to all the prep work, and after what seemed like five minutes, the surgeon informed me we were done and that everything looked great. Shortly after finishing the procedure, I was allowed to be discharged. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of care I’d received and truly felt understood and worthwhile, which has been a rare occurrence with my past medical history. I had fun conversing with the nurses and asking them questions, reminding me of why I am still wholeheartedly pursuing a career in nursing; I’m so grateful for every experience I’ve been given, no matter how painful, because I know they will ultimately mold me into the best nurse I can be: full of compassion and most of all, understanding, since experience is the greatest teacher. Humility is not a fun lesson to learn, but in the end the benefits far outweigh the negatives!