As a kid I was a marked man. Every year... EVERY YEAR ... I had multiple bouts with the evil scourge called Strep Throat. For me it was a right of passage. If I hadn't had strep for a while it must not be winter yet. The doctor kept threatening to take my tonsils out but, ever the weanie, I prayed him out of his lunatic ravings that would have put me under the knife. (Today I'm 57 years old and I've still never had surgery. Don't you tell me that prayer doesn't work!) One year the bacteria was sweeping through our elementary school. The administration announced that every student would be given a strep test. I dutifully waited in line for my time to open up and say "AHHHHH!" Most kids gagged when they jammed the Q-Tip down their throat. I was use to it, frequently asking if they didn't want to recheck me, going a little deeper down my esophagus. I tell you, I would have made a heck of a sword swallower. The next day the intercom system screeched out the names of those who had the offending germ and should report to the office immediately. You got it. My name was called. I nearly danced in to the principals office and reported, "You screwed up. I don't have a sore throat!" He glowered down from his perch behind his desk and reported, "You, Mr. Woods, are the one who started all of this mess. YOU are the CARRIER!"
After I completed my anti-biotic drenched time off I came back to class far less cocky and far more humble.
And now about every 5 years or so I still get strep. It's no fun. I don't know about your version of strep my mine makes the walls appear to move (high fever), makes me feel like throwing up, mimics what it must be like to have a flame thrower turned loose on your throat, and actually, makes me less aware of what I'm saying and doing. Yes, really. I get a bit loopy.
This year I begrudgingly took my wife-mandated flu shot and lo and behold, I did not get sick. Usually if I take a flu shot it's an iron clad promise that I will most certainly fall to some strain of the virus before spring. This year has been perfect. PERFECT. I was congratulating myself. Patting myself on the back. It's nice to win one.
Tuesday morning happened. I woke up with a scratchy throat. It grabbed my attention because my daughter Kelli and her husband Joe were both in a life and death struggle with confirmed strep. (Okay, that was probably a bit sensationalistic. But they were sick.) I was actually on the road driving to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital to visit a very ill new born when the battle in my brain started. (You really shouldn't go. You might be sick. This could be the onset of strep. Oh, stop it. Don't be a weenie. It's just sinus drainage. You just want a free day off. Wait just a second, bub. For you this is just a big "maybe I'm getting a bug." For this child ... it's life and death.) I listened to that last voice, turned around, and went home. I called the child's dad and he was greatly pleased that I was not risking his sons life with my bacteria coated messiah complex. So. I sat on the couch. All day. ALL DAY. It didn't seem like a biggie until about 7PM. And then OH-MY-GOSH. My body just quit functioning. I was trying to keep up with phone calls concerning one of my deacon's who had been rushed to the hospital with a heart attack but I wasn't thinking straight. By 9PM I was in bed and not at all sleepy. The rest of the night was a thick memory of blanket on/blanket off/shaking hard enough to mix a gallon of paint/sweat soaked pillow cases/Sprite/where's that sweat shirt/I think it's time for meds/hey the sun is coming up/i didn't die/I DIDN'T DIE! (Thanks, Joe, for reminding me that strep throat is not just cause for euthanasia.)
And now here I sit. It's noon on day two. My strep events generally take 4 to 5 days. My brain is semi-working again so maybe this will be an abbreviated version. But as I talked to God this morning something floated to the top of my crusty brain....
I felt so good all winter. I've taken 2 trips and all have been great. Not even a head ache. And, to my shame, I had barely even noticed. As I sit here my back is reminding my front how lucky it is not to have an aching spine. My head is better but it's still sloshy enough to be dangerous if it had to address a crowd. I have to really concentrate on my phone conversations and I still find myself saying things that just aren't pertinent to the subject. My ears sound like that noise you are left with as you reach cruising altitude on a jet. All "whistley." (I claim copyright on the word "whistley!") So I'm still wonky. But this is a GOOD thing! Because as I come out of it I will work to make certain that the predominate condition of my heart will be thankfulness for an *almost* perfect winter. And I never would have done that had I stayed well.
Lord, you make the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. You cause famine and drought as it pleases you, and yes, God fearing farmers sometimes go bankrupt. All good gifts come down from our Father above. And so I accept this little battle with Strep Throat as being from you. Thank you for giving it to me. I will learn from it. And right now I will say "thank you, Father." Thank you for every day of health and strength you have (and will) give me. YOU are the best!