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Lady Pastor: A friend is always there when you're ill

The human body is wondrously perplexing. I've been pondering the mysteries of the body a lot in the last week. My own internal systems had a dysfunction that landed me in the hospital 10 days ago after the Sunday worship services wrapped up.

For a few years now, I've been learning a lot about the part of the blood called platelets. I have an autoimmune disorder (which I prefer to call my "body bonus feature") in which my immune system mistakenly identifies platelets as bad guys and then destroys them. It's unfortunate because platelets are actually really important.

A variety of medical solutions have proven to be helpful along the way. I feel good and strong almost all of the time. I live a normal life. Low platelets aren't something a person can feel. Instead, bruises and a rash of tiny red dots are the main symptoms.

Fast-forward to Oct. 13. My platelets all ran out, and it was frightening.

Ten days, some infusions and a transfusion, and plenty of unfortunate side effects later, and I'm on the mend. Slow and steady. The platelet condition isn't necessarily going anywhere, though. Me and the ol' bonus feature may be partners for life. So I keep seeking a sense of peace amid the questions.

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The scariest part of the past 10 days has been coming face to face with a reality I wanted to avoid. A truth I hesitated to confront. My body acts in unpredictable ways over which I have no control, and it's frustrating beyond description.

Many of you know this feeling well. You know it so well you can taste it, and it tastes bad. Like a giant glass of salty-tear water.

Maybe you're dealing with an acute or long-term diagnosis. Or maybe your partner, parent, or child is facing a series of hurdles so overwhelming, you're not even ready to look yet.

If you're not being personally impacted by illness, you likely work in that industry or know someone who does. We live in a community built around helping people whose bodies act in strange ways. We're immersed in this world.

In this more recent chapter of my platelet adventure, there were a few bright spots. People and a portrait of Jesus on a hospital room wall.

When life gets bonkers, people show up. Friends and family came and visited me. Even when I felt miserable and wanted to sit in the dark with no noise at all, they sat there and held my hand. That's pretty spectacular. Friends called, sent text messages and wrote on my Facebook wall. They prayed and then prayed some more. The medical team was terrific, too. They listened and used their skills in mighty ways.

In the hospital room was a traditional portrait of Jesus. It's the one where he's looking off to the left and there's a warm glow all around his face. Generally I haven't found as much comfort in traditional depictions of Jesus. When I first got into the room, I hardly noticed it. But the meaning of the picture changed for me somewhere around 2 a.m. on the second night there. I wasn't much concerned with the physical portrayal of Jesus anymore. I was just unshakably grateful to have a reminder that he was there. He was there as the IV dripped and the neon green lights of the monitor shined. He was there when I was too scared of the future to fall asleep. He's always there.

Being sick is awful. People deal with so much. I can't even imagine what it's like to walk in your shoes. I haven't the foggiest idea as to why sickness is part of life. But it is. And here we are. Moving one, slow and steady step at a time, admiring the bright spots wherever they show up.

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The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: theladypastor.com .

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