‘You haven’t had a stroke – you are having one and we don’t know when it will stop. There is usually a window of opportunity but that passed at about twelve noon.’
It was by now late afternoon and a challenging day was reaching its crescendo. At around 6am I’d discovered half of my face immobile. I couldn’t talk and my husband Rupert rushed me to A&E. After much testing, the doctors had now reached their decision and were calling an ambulance to get me to Canterbury, where a specialist stroke team would be waiting.
Back to the crowded waiting room and separate seats a long way apart. I decided to update the people near me – they had some idea of what was going on already. ‘I have a faith and I know where I’m going but I really want to be around for my family,’ I said. Then, to my amazement, in walked Paulette, one of my oldest friends from uni days and vicar of St Alphege Church, Seasalter. It was a frightening time and I was so relieved to see her. We hugged and she prayed for me, while many around us looked visibly moved.
A few hours later I was on my way in the ambulance and already feeling encouraged. ‘You’re lucky they’ve accepted you,’ Barnaby the paramedic told me. ‘They don’t accept everyone. They must think there’s something they can do for you.’
The next morning I was reassured by medics that they had ways of helping me. It was considered unusual for someone my age with low blood pressure, apparently fit and healthy with no inclination to drink, and it was concluded my migraines provide the risk factor. Hours later and a clot was found on my brain. I was given a clot-busting injection, followed by a few more over the next few days, courtesy of my husband, and will be on blood thinners forevermore.
All I can say is that it’s been an astonishing time. I’ve felt so incredibly blessed that I’m regularly on the brink of tears. I have known God alongside me, giving me the strength to cope, that ‘peace that passes all understanding’ as I’ve been strapped into the back of an ambulance and driven at high speed, taken into MRI tunnels and CT scanners, met with doctors on my own outside of visiting hours. I’ve known the reality of having a friend with me at all times, closer than a brother, who I can talk to when there is strange machinery all around me. The words running through my head at the daunting moments were all about him – ‘For this I have Jesus’, ‘You reign above it all’, and ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’ (Matthew 10:29-31).
I am just so grateful to be alive, and though I am very tired, I’m feeling so very blessed. We’ve experienced such love and support, from family, friends, two amazing church congregations, all my Adult Education students, who I count as friends too – the list goes on. Everyone has rallied and I am convinced the challenging moments in hospital were so easy, especially on that second day when many people knew, because I was being carried on their prayers. They asked and God answered. So if you have been a part of that, thank you! I can’t even begin to tell you of the difference you have made. Yes, it was dismal to start with, and I barely slept on that first night, but there was definitely a shift in my spirit that wasn’t of my own making as I settled into my bed on the stroke ward. I realized this must be what Paul is talking about when he mentions ‘the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’.
This is what’s so awesome about being a Christian. Not that he gives us a trouble-free life, but that he’s alongside us at every moment. As we approach Christmas and think about Emmanuel, God with us, ‘fullness of God in helpless babe’, we are dwelling on a glorious truth. It’s incredible that he saw it through to completion, sharing our humanity on every level, from infant to a fully comprehending saviour. That, after returning from the dead, he left us with his very presence, so that life – and death – are conquerable with him.
One day he will call me home, as he will us all. Because I love my family so and I have plenty to get on with, I hope it will be a long time from here. But I’m not fearful. I’ve come to appreciate something of how incredible his love is for each of us, way beyond anything we can give. He’s not demanding or accusing, but utterly devoted to us and wanting to befriend us. It’s the season for a bit of wonder, so let’s allow ourselves to dwell on this, and begin to talk to him, if we haven’t already. He’s for us and on our side. He didn’t design us to go it alone, and whatever life throws at us, he’ll gladly share it with us.
Absolute tidings of comfort and joy!
In Christ Alone, (last stanza):
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
 Philippians 4:6-7
 Song by Graham Kendrick, 1994
Song by Paul McClure, 2020
 2 Corinthians 13:14 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.