By S M Chen, submitted May 20, 2015 Laura was born and raised in San Francisco. Unlike many residents and visitors, she disliked it there. The hilly terrain, which she had to walk from home to school and back again, and damp cold, which never relented, were but two things she would later consider, from the vantage point of hindsight, disadvantages. Her childhood was not a particularly happy one.
Many winters she’d catch cold, and sometimes the cold would linger for many weeks, turning from an upper respiratory infection into bronchitis. While not exactly a sickly child, she was petite and not of robust constitution. One year she was given a prolonged course of some kind of pill, which may have been an antimicrobial drug, but it wasn’t for TB.
As a young woman she moved south, where she preferred the warmer, drier climate. For a number of decades, her health seemed fairly good. She was vivacious, loved to dance, and enjoyed her job.
Then, one day, about four years ago, in mid-life, it happened. She had a sudden urge to cough, and, when she did, blood came up.
It wasn’t a huge amount, but it was enough—maybe a couple tablespoons full—to alarm her. This happened again, sporadically, over ensuing time.
She sought medical attention.
Her chest X-ray showed an abnormality in a portion of her right lung. A CT scan confirmed the abnormality and demonstrated bronchiectasis, a condition in which diseased bronchi are abnormally dilated.
A pulmonologist performed bronchoscopy. Bronchial washings demonstrated presence of a bacterial infection, for which an antibiotic was prescribed.
But Laura couldn’t tolerate the drug, and discontinued it.
She decided to try alternative medicine, and visited an herbalist, who prescribed a concoction that may or may not have helped. If it did, it was but temporary.
She continued to have sporadic hemoptysis of varying amounts. In between bouts, she felt fairly well other than being a bit winded, as if she couldn’t get enough air. This resulted in some limitation of physical activity, though her health otherwise seemed okay.
About a year ago, again without any warning or prodrome, she coughed up a considerable amount of blood—maybe a couple ounces.
She was a member of a large HMO, whose physicians she liked and trusted. At the medical facility, some MDs in training told her there was a chance she could exanguinate or asphyxiate on her own blood. This did not fall on deaf ears.
Her pulmonologist tried to reassure her, and initially refused Laura’s request for a referral to a pulmonary surgeon.
Laura was nothing if not persistent, in this as well as other matters. She insisted on being referred. “He’s not going to agree to operate on you,” her pulmonologist said. “I know that.”
“Let me see him anyway,” said Laura.
Finally, reluctantly, the pulmonologist agreed, shaking her head on the way out.
The surgeon said that surgery to remove the diseased part of her lung would be potentially curative, but also fraught with some risk and, as the pulmonologist had predicted, did not advise or urge surgery. In fact, he told Laura that most patients he operated on had worse symptoms. He essentially told Laura to wait until she got worse.
This was unacceptable to Laura. She told him she wasn’t leaving until he agreed to perform the surgery. If she died during surgery, that was meant to be. She didn’t intend to live as she had, with the constant worry that, next time, the hemoptysis might be fatal (a possibility that the surgeon acknowledged).
He glanced at the clock in the room. “I’ve got other patients waiting,” he said.
“All you have to do is schedule the surgery,” Laura said. “Then I’ll go.”
Realizing her resolve, he acquiesced.
It was not an easy surgery. Rather than one large incision, Laura had a number of small incisions. Her recovery, while prolonged and at times painful and uncomfortable, was quicker than that of many patients because of her healthy lifestyle and otherwise good health.
She considers herself finally cured.
A long time ago another woman, with a different chronic (twelve-year) bleeding problem, in a similar persistent frame of mind, sought healing by touching the garment of Jesus (Matt. 9:20).
Her persistence and faith were rewarded. Instantly, unlike the case with Laura. But that was a different time, place, and circumstance.
The adage: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” continues to be apt to this day.
It is well to remember one of the things Ben Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”