Health Scares and Wiener Dogs


Samwise Gilbert with his Colts blanket.

By SHARON K. GILBERT
July 30, 2008

EVERY DAY is a gift from the Lord. I’ve always believed this, and tried to live my life that way, but recently the concept was driven home in an unexpected way. Some of you may know that I’ve been taking medication for about eleven years for a condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. The disorder is an autoimmune disease that causes one’s own body to mistakenly identify native tissue as the enemy. Consequently, my own immune system has been attacking my thyroid, slowly rendering it useless. I’ve been on very high doses of medication to maintain ‘normal’ body metabolism, but as anyone with Hashimoto’s can tell you, levothyroxin is no substitute for a functioning thyroid. You gain weight and lose energy, regardless. Metabolic processes never seem to normalize as promised–at least mine didn’t. My body temperature remained around 97 degrees at all times, I always had a lingering fatigue, and I’d suffer through annoying periods of ‘brain fog’ and achiness (which may or may not be related to my fibromyalgia–more on that later). The poor old thyroid simply didn’t work.

Until now.

Last Thursday, everything changed. Shortly after Derek returned to work (he comes home for lunch every day–wonderful!), my heart began to skip beats. This is a very strange feeling that I can only describe as like having fluttering in your upper chest. I experienced no pain, just the keen sense of feeling my heart skip beats, then pause, then stop.

Yes, you read that correctly, my heart stopped. Now, since I am writing this post, it’s obvious that it started again. But for about thirty seconds, I had no heartbeat and no pulse, and I was standing in our living room thinking about what must inevitably come next. It’s a strange experience to breathe, hear, feel, and see despite having no discernible heartbeat. Our new dog (more on that later, too!) seemed to know I was in trouble, and he remained very close while I checked for a pulse (after spending 1.5 years in medical training and many years in healthcare, I can find a pulse in a snap). All this time–it felt like a very long time–I could only think how I wanted to say one last goodbye to Derek and let him know I didn’t mind walking through the ‘door’ to meet our Savior. I prayed that the Lord would allow me to see him again, just to have one last moment if possible.

As a writer, I use words every day, but the English language is lacking when it comes to adequate descriptives for what I experienced. I honestly felt as if angels surrounded me, and my shoulders and upper arms warmed considerably as if someone were behind me embracing me gently. I felt light and wonderful–although without a heartbeat. I remember pounding on my own chest, trying to start the beating, and then my vision started to dim, and I could feel my body ‘winding down’. Again, none of this frightened me–I did not feel alone–I wasn’t alone.

The Lord answered my prayers, and my heart suddenly began beating again. After taking a moment to assess what had happened, I called Derek and asked him to come home. I hated scaring him, but the Lord had given me the chance to tell him how I felt and that he needn’t worry if I suddenly ‘walked through the eternal door’; that I would simply be on the other side of a door everyone will have to navigate one day, either through the death of our mortal bodies or through instantaneous translation when Christ comes for His bride.

Of course, we called my doctor for instructions on what to do next, which meant waiting until he returned the call (about fifteen minutes later). During our wait, Derek and I sat on our front porch and talked about life, the Lord, and the peace true believers have knowing ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’. Yes, the event scared him a little, but he understood Christ is our ultimate destination, and there’s no guarantee that he and I will arrive there simultaneously.

You know, as close as Derek and I are, this talk only deepened our love for each other and the joy in our marriage. Once the doctor called back, he instructed us to go immediately to the ER, where my heart checked out as very sound, but the blood work showed something very interesting–here’s why I started out talking about my thyroid. The lab results indicated that I had way too much thyroid hormone in my system–enough to cause major metabolic problems including erratic heartbeats. A quick follow-up a few days later with my doctor shows that my thyroid disease is apparently in remission (my August visit to the endocrinologist is meant to confirm this). I’m completely off the medication now, and I feel better than I have in years.

And I’m taking daily walks–literally and figuratively. Literally, I’m skirting around town with our wonderful new family member, Samwise (Sammy) Gilbert. Sammy is a six-year-old dachshund whom we had rescued just days before my heart ‘stopped’. He picked us out as his new mom and dad, when we visited his former foster family (who had rescued him after his ‘mom’ of six years passed away). We found Sammy’s story online at an international message board–and to our surprise, he lived just a few blocks from us! We believe the Lord brought us together for a reason–maybe to get me walking!

Praise God! I now have the same kind of energy I used to have, and I no longer ache when I move (a constant issue that led to my diagnosis seven years ago of fibromyalgia–I’m praying that’s gone too!). And I’m losing weight–woo hoo! I’ll credit Sammy for that one. Twice daily walks around Shelbyville are a joy with this little dog. Everywhere we go, people want to pet him, and kids even a block away cry out ‘hey, look at the wiener dog!’. Sam loves the attention. And we love Sam.

Figuratively, I’ve also been walking–through God’s word. I find myself wanting all the more to understand what God wants His church to know about what’s about to happen in the world. I’m poring over prophecy, and diving into commentaries, and all the while praying for insights. My plan is–Lord willing–to write a nonfiction book explaining what I see coming. No, I’m not a prophet, merely an observer. One thing I am certain of: Christ’s return is close, extremely close. There’s a door that’s about to open in heaven; but only those who believe in Christ will walk through.

So, there’s my story. Last Thursday’s ‘heart-stopping’ moment stands as pivotal in my life. Eternity is but a breath away, but most of us take no heed of it. If your heart stopped today, what door would you pass through? The door marked ‘heaven’? Can you know for sure? Yes, you can. Everyone knows the verse in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But have you acted on it? Simply knowing the verse won’t give you an admission ticket to heaven. You must ackowledge your need for a redeemer, turn from your sin (repent), and accept Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice — believe in Him as your personal Savior. Romans 10:9 says “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Pretty simple, isn’t it? But don’t put it off. There’s no guarantee that you have tomorrow, or even this afternoon. This road must eventually end at a destination. Choose Life now. Before it’s too late.