Never Give Up

04/07/2017 .
Karen Bleacher and Sharon Philips  .  Volunteer Storytellers

‘Never give up — no matter how life feels,’ I thought to myself. At age 40, a stroke left me unable to understand speech, speak, read, drive, or care for my daughter. Then, to make things worse, I lost my marriage and my home.

I had grown up and was baptized in the church. Nevertheless, I married a non-Christian and fell away from my faith. I had even stopped praying. But God wasn’t ready to give up on me.

My marriage wasn’t the best but I still wanted a baby. I ended up needing an in vitro pregnancy, which included taking hormones. But I was able to get the child I wanted. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the hormones I needed to take for in vitro were eroding my health and increasing my risk for a stroke.

My husband was emotionally abusive toward me. Having a child only made things worse. With a newborn in the house, I didn’t expect much sleep. But my strained relationship with my husband gave me a lot of stress. I was sleeping less and less — my body was beyond exhaustion.

I began having intense headaches, followed by arm numbness. One night I noticed that I couldn’t hold on to a cup. I told my husband that something wasn’t right. To his credit, he took me to the emergency room around midnight. I sat there all night before I finally saw a doctor. By then I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. An MRI revealed that my Carotid artery had split. I had just had a stroke.

While in the ICU, I picked up a deadly infection. A patient across the hall had just picked up the same infection and died. My mind was clouded with fear. I had no church family for support, I felt very alone and afraid. My stroke had left me speechless, I couldn’t communicate to anyone. I didn’t want to be disabled, I just wanted to be with my child again.

Somebody came by from a local church and played worship music and prayed with me. I saw a bright white light. In that moment, I apologized to God that my life had excluded him for so long. I told him if he allowed me to live and raise my daughter that I would serve him the rest of my life.

Even though I had been raised in a Christian home, this was the first time I felt I had Jesus in my heart. I couldn’t communicate with others so I began praying a lot and decided to trust God with my life.

After being released from the hospital, I was in rehabilitation for ten months. I had to relearn how to speak, drive a car, and care for my own child again. I was also told that I might be disabled for the rest of my life and I would likely experience seizures. However, I was able to make a full recovery and have never experienced any seizures. My rehabilitation was a complete miracle — God had healed me.

By this time my marriage had completely fallen apart. I was fortunate to be back on my feet to deal with the court and put my home up for sale. I had no job, but there always seemed to be just enough money to sustain me until our house sold.

Eventually, I found work as a recruiter, a job I had done in the past. I was promoted and began training new recruiters. But I felt that wasn’t what God had planned for my life.

A short while later, I met another man — a Christian man. We soon married and I realized what a healthy relationship should look like. While I felt I was in the wrong career, he encouraged me to go back to school and earn my Master’s Degree in PPS School Psychology. I felt a strong calling to help special needs children in schools. Even with all I had gone through, I maintained a 4.0 grade-point average, wrote papers and interviewed with academic department heads. By May of next year, nine years after my stroke, I will be an official school psychologist for Capo Valley Unified School District.

The words to a favorite worship song repeated in my head throughout my recovery; ‘God is my rock, my shield and my protector.’ This strengthened me when I felt weak and hopeless. While driving in the car, I always put on Saddleback Worship music. The worship calmed me and helped maintain a positive frame of mind.

God has a way of turning something bad into something good. I went from being nearly paralyzed and divorced to where I am now, on the verge of a new career and happily married again. If you feel like you’re struggling, start by looking for something to be thankful for, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Focus on the good, on the plans and purpose God has for you — and never give up!