Empty Christmas

By the time I am sitting here in front of my computer trying to come up with a Christmas reflection, I would have been sick for three weeks to the day. I do not know what the cause is. All I know is that my body started becoming progressively worse during a 5-day IT Fair that was held between November 30th to December 4th. During the last day, I certainly felt that something was going really wrong inside my body, and then the next day, I finally collapsed and couldn’t go to work. At that time, I had no idea that the illness has gotten so serious that I have to be treated for a fairly long time.

The pain started in the middle of my stomach. When it gets worse, the pain would get all the way to the back. During the most painful moments, I could hardly stand up and walk from my bed. I had to bend and curl my body forward to soak up and endure the pain. I could hardly get any sleep. Sometimes even the painkillers would not work, leaving me to writhe in agony every night in my bed. In a span of only 10 days, I went to three doctors, yet none of them could heal me. Finally, on Sunday morning (Dec 16th) I could no longer endure the pain, and my family had to admit me to the Emergency Room (UGD) in the Siloam Hospital.

The doctor gave me some shots of pain reliever and stomach medicine, which seems to work, so I was finally able to relax myself a little and get a little sleep right then. I was then advised to undergo a USG screening to make sure everything was okay. The USG brought forth a shocking result, my spleen has already swollen up to twice the normal size, without any clear indication to what was the cause. The doctor wanted me to be admitted to the hospital and do some more tests, but in two days (Dec 18th) I have already planned to go to Penang, Malaysia for a medical check-up, so I turned down the request and went home with some medicines that the doctor prescribed.

My fear was that I would not be strong enough to endure the 3-hour flight from Surabaya to Penang, but fortunately, the prescribed medicine worked well enough to relieve my pain, thus I was able to enjoy the flight and even slept a lot in the plane. I arrived quite late in the hospital, around 3 pm and went directly to the admission counter to see what must be done. I was then referred to the doctor, an internist, who checked me up and prescribed a lot of tests to be taken for the next day. After finishing all preparations for the next day, I went to bed early at my lodging, a YMCA hostel just right in front of the hospital. It felt awkward to sleep at 9 pm, as I usually sleep around 12 am, but I had to do it. I had to fast before the tests and I couldn’t risk being hungry at late hours because I didn’t sleep early.

The next day began early for me. I was already present at the hospital by 8 am. Changed my clothes to a hospital robe and was given a wristband with my name tag on it. Blood tests and urine tests were done quickly, but the CT Scan was a lesson of patience and pain management for me. They gave me an injection by an IV in my wrist, then told me to wait 30 minutes until the drug has circulated in my system. The scan itself were a lot of pain, as during the scan they had to insert another drug by means of my IV. And you can REALLY feel it when the medicine is flowing in through that IV. My wrist hurts and my body starts to warm up, as if I was drinking some wine. After all the procedures were done, I was admitted to a hospital room while waiting for the results to come.

Around 4 pm, the doctor said that my tests were normal and he wanted to do an endoscopy test for the next day. I agreed. The night was spent in a lot of pain and agony. The medication I brought from Surabaya has ran out (including the painkillers) and so the pain kicks in again in my stomach and my back. The doctor didn’t prescribe any medicines for me yet, so the nurses didn’t know what they could give to me. Finally, after about 30 minutes or so of rolling around and writhing in pain, a nurse decided to give me a shot of painkiller that calmed me down and eased my pain. I was fortunate to be able to sleep that night, considering all that had happened to me that day.

The next day proved to be a disaster. I told the doctor beforehand that I had to be at the airport by 12 pm as my return flight to Surabaya was scheduled at 2 pm and the doctor agreed to do the endoscopy test by 7 am so everything could be finished quickly. But I waited and waited until finally the test was to be done on me BY 9 AM! The procedure went smoothly and I was put to sleep for this test, and by the time I wake up it was already 10:30 am. By the time I was cleared up and sent back to my room, it was already 11 am, not enough time to finish everything. I still have to wait for another patient before the internist could see me, and then the internist sent me to another doctor, a gastro-internist specialist, where I had to wait for ANOTHER patient. By the time I finished talking to the gastro-internist, it was already 12 pm, and I still had to pay for the hospital bills and wait for my medicines to be dispensed.

Things got worse from here. The doctor only gave me the results for the endoscopy test, so while I waited for the clearance to leave hospital (I had to wait for the papers because I wanted the entire medical check-up to be covered by my insurance), my mom was running around asking for the test results. In the end, I didn’t get my blood test, urine test and CT scan results as the hospital hasn’t prepared those results to be taken away. In that rush, my mom left her credit card at the hospital and we only realized that halfway to the airport, so we had to return to the hospital and pick up that credit card. By the time we arrived at the airport, it was already some minutes past 2 pm. The gates have already closed and the plane has gone for the take-off already.

In that state of panic, anger and confusion, we tried desperately to look for another flight to Surabaya, but we could find none. AirAsia only has three flights per week to Surabaya, so we had to wait two days before the next scheduled flight if we wanted an AirAsia flight. Finally, we decided to first fly to Kuala Lumpur and then look for a flight to Surabaya from there. Before the flight, I decided to take the prescribed medicine from the hospital, thinking that it will help me endure the flight. Little did I know it would make it worse. The doctor had warned me the medicine could cause slight discomfort, nausea and disorientation, but what I felt was a major nausea and discomfort. It was a strong medication, maybe my body couldn’t adapt to it yet because it was my first intake of the medicine.

So I spent about an hour in the plane with a lot of discomfort. When the plane finally reached Kuala Lumpur, the first thing I did was to look for some food to ease my nausea. Fortunately, after eating some nice, delicious noodles, the discomfort subsided somewhat. We then went to the AirAsia counter and found a flight to Surabaya. By this time, I’ve already spent a lot of money. I lost my flight tickets from Penang to Surabaya (no refunds) and the tickets for Penang – KL – Surabaya weren’t cheap either. I couldn’t blame and ask the hospital to pay for these bills but the only thing on my mind that night was “no matter what, I have to be home and sleep in my own bed tonight”. I finally arrived at my home in Surabaya around midnight, thankful that after all I went through, I can still be in my own bed at the end of the day…

The next day, I found out that the medicine is causing nauseas and stomach pains everytime I take it, so I could not go anywhere until I finished the course of the medicine. I started taking the medicine on December 20th, so the medication will only be finished on December 27th. Days went by and finally the Christmas Day arrived. I had already planned to go to church with my fiancee, but the night before the Christmas Day, my pain intensified. In the morning, I forced myself to get up from bed, eat some breakfast and get then to the bathroom to prepare myself. The Christmas service was to be held on 10 am and my girlfriend arrived at my house to pick me up by 9:30 am. By then, my body still haven’t regained enough strength to go to the church. I waited until 10 am and my body still didn’t want to cooperate, so in the end I decided to take a rest and not go to the Christmas service.

So that’s it. In the end, it was an empty Christmas for me this year. It was not only because I was sick and couldn’t come to the service. It was merely a culmination of things that have occured throughout this year. Lost in the busyness of work and life, I started losing faith by the middle of the year. I started backing away from ministries, from cell groups, from prayer and worship sessions, heck, even from regular services in the end. I felt that even if I COULD come to the Christmas service, nothing would have changed, or maybe, not much. My journey and pilgrimage started around six months ago, and to this day, it would seem that the end is not coming near yet…

Hopefully, I will find the answers of my questions in 2013. I do not wish to return to my pre-pilgrimage days, with a faith that is only fleeting. If later I should choose to follow in His steps and commandments again, then I must do so with a newfound conviction, a stronger faith than ever before, willing to tackle the hard questions in life and not just blindly following and eating what is prepared on the table for me, without knowing whether the teaching is right or wrong. It will not be an easy task, but I am prepared for it. Come what may, 2013, and may it bring me to a place higher than ever before, closer than ever before to where You belong.