Flares, Flowers and a Big Pile of Manure

I had a flare-up this week. Before you ask, everything is OK, but at one point it was so bad it landed me in hospital. 

Flares can be scary. Chronic illness is painful enough, but when your symptoms flare from smouldering into flame, or when terrifying symptoms strike out of nowhere, it can bring your life to a standstill. As happened to me this week. 

When terrifying symptoms strike out of nowhere, it can bring your life to a standstill.

It struck at work. (Always embarrassing.) I developed heart symptoms quite rapidly. I went from functional to a shaking, weeping mess in a matter of minutes. I had to cancel meetings and plans, including an after-work get-together, and focus on the crisis at hand. But even that was tough; I lost the ability to concentrate. 

This particular flare was not the worst I have ever had (thank you Jesus) but the symptoms were bad enough to be worrying. I didn’t know what to do. I was shaking too badly to drive, but I also didn’t know if it was severe enough to warrant calling an ambulance.

In the end I called my doctor. He recommended going straight to hospital.

My doctor recommended going straight to hospital.

OK, so I had a plan. Go to hospital. But how? My best bet was to get a lift to the hospital if possible. Fortunately, I work about five minutes away from the hospital, so it was a matter of seeing if anyone could give me a lift.

I approached my team in the open-plan office and said, ‘Uh, I need to go to hospital. Can anyone give me a lift? If not, it’s OK, I can call an ambulance.’ To my relief, a colleague put up their hand to take me. I thanked them, accompanied by promises to buy them cake on my return to work. 

At the hospital, they saw me pretty quickly and made sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. (I mean, I thought I wasn’t, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.) Then I sat in the waiting room to, well, wait. 

During that killing-time period, I was contacted out of the blue by a couple of friends, with invites and updates about a couple of projects I was involved in. I was thrilled (in a pain-ridden, can’t-think-clearly kind of way). Not only did they give my heart a lift, they gave me a worthy distraction from the all-consuming flare! 

They gave my heart a lift, and a worthy distraction from the all-consuming flare.

The doctors were thorough and took good care of me. After about five hours, the pain and other symptoms began to ease. The tests came back normal, so the doctors were happy to discharge me. I was relieved to be going home and even more thankful that nothing sinister was going on. It was just a weird ‘flare’. 

The doctor did mention a concern about my medication, which got me thinking about patterns of flares in the past and the trigger for this particular flare. It gave me an idea about a potential cause. I’m going to investigate further, but one good thing about this weeks’ flare is it might have provided a clue. 

As I recover from this weeks’ big pile of manure, I am grateful for three things arising out of it like an assemblage of flowers: 

  • God is kind. Those friends reached out to me with no idea of what was going on. I didn’t even know I needed them until I heard from them. You might think that a coincidence, but I don’t think those sorts of timely kindnesses are merely coincidental. I think God is kind and he likes to care for us.
  • People are kind. Everyone, from the nurses and doctors to the colleague who drove me to hospital, showed me kindness when I needed it most. It’s good to know I can depend on others when it really matters.
  • I have a clue. Whereas in the past these kinds of flares have been inconclusive, I now have a potential lead. Who knows where it will lead, but it gives me hope it might lead somewhere. 

God is kind; people are kind; and now I have a clue.

These three gratitudes in no way compensate for what I went through. I would rather not be living with chronic illness at all, thank you very much. But since I am living with it, it makes sense to recognise the good things growing out of the manure, and to stop and smell them (the flowers, not the manure). 

Do you live with chronic illness? How do you manage flares? Has anything good grown out of them? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

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