Ten years ago, this very week, my feet went numb. First my feet, then my ankles and calves. Within a day my hands, arms, legs, and parts of my face felt like they were coming off a massive dose of Novocain. I'll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say that I was panicked. My doctor gave me hefty portions of steroids and we began testing at the University of Utah. My sister Libby wheeled me through the hospital for hours, then days. They drew 37 vials of blood. Took samples of everything imaginable. Pierced my wrist and my ankle with needles and shot electricity through my body. EMGs, EKGs, EEGs, CAT scans and MRIs. Spinal taps and WXYZs. Seven different neurologists finally came to the diagnosis of Guillain Barre Syndrome, a condition where the body's immune system attacks itself, stripping the long strands of nerves of the myelin sheaths coating them. It felt like my flesh was filled with little electric worms, wriggling unceasingly under my skin. I lay paralyzed in my bed for weeks, went months without driving, and finally, ten years later, I am relatively well...except for my feet. The poor nerves must have given out in the regrowth of the sheaths around the nerves farthest from the brain. Some days are better than others. My feet always feel like my elbow feels when I hit my crazy bone. It's not that bad, relatively speaking. I can walk. When I think about the possibilities I am amazed. And so grateful! I can walk! My balance isn't the best, but I can walk! And I can play guitar, and smile, and breathe on my own!
Here's the thing. When they finally gave me my final diagnosis, they handed me three sheets of paper, double columns with single spaced 10 pt type. The papers were filled with the results of all those tests. Probably hundreds of possible diagnoses. I looked at all those maladies that could have killed me and said to myself: WE SHOULD ALL BE DEAD! The number of things that could go wrong...and DON'T, is astounding.
If that's not enough to make you believe there's Someone in charge of all this life stuff, what is?
When I'm having a bad-foot kind of day, I think about my friend Joan, who last her legs to Toxic Shock Syndrome. I wiggle my toes and think to myself, "What Joan wouldn't give to have feet that hurt."