This morning, I accomplished something incredible. And believe it or not, I can argue that I’m more proud, humbled and awoken by this experience than any other athletic achievement I’ve ever endured. So what could this possibly be? A marathon? A triathlon?
Some incredible feat of athletic prowess finally achieved from years of training and dedication? Far from it, actually…
This morning, I woke up, I laced up my running shoes, and I ran two miles. Now for those who often run, this may not seem like much of an accomplishment. After all, my pace was conversational at best and I finished well winded and heavy on the legs.
However, this run wasn’t about a pace, or a time. It wasn’t about a specific regimen or a gear-up for an upcoming race. This run was different. This run was special. But why? Simply enough, two weeks ago, I was told I was lucky to be alive.
It all began, Saturday, Sept. 15. I took my wife out to the lake for our two-year wedding anniversary. We got a boat and took it out on the water, spent the day swimming, fishing, and altogether just enjoying what was left of the summer season.
The weather was beautiful, with a bit of an eastern wind, though it made for a cooling breeze in the boat. We were out for about three hours and my wife finally asked me to head back to the dock because were being eaten alive my mosquitoes. Another fun memory…
The following Tuesday, I began to experience severe headaches. Now, up to this point, I could count on one hand the amount of headaches I’ve had in my life, so this was very odd. However, I sprang for unbridled amounts of caffeine, thinking I could curb the problem myself. Alas, the headaches persisted.
By Thursday, I began to notice a loss of fine motor skills in my right hand. I was unable to grip a pen, I couldn’t use a keyboard and texting a simple response became a huge imposition. In essence, I could still use my hand, though I had to heavily concentrate on the small tasks I would normally take for granted.
By Sunday, the hand had gotten worse. If I had to guess, I had lost approximately 80% of the use of my hand and fingers. I was also beginning to experience nausea and vomiting and by Monday, my fever had escalated to 104° and I was enduring severe dehydration. I was rushed to the emergency room at Mission Hospital and they immediately began to administer a number of tests to try and make sense of it all.
Altogether, it took X-Rays of my chest, neck and stomach, two MRI’s, a brain scan, and a spinal tap to determine the culprit of it all. On Wednesday, September 26, I was diagnosed with a rare form of multiple Meningitis/Encephalitis caused from a mosquito bite (the lake). As a result, foreign bodies were found in my spinal fluid, which had resulted in partial paralysis of my hand, nausea, dehydration, headaches and severe fever.
Fortunately, I had come to the hospital in time to receive the proper treatment for the fever and dehydration that if left untreated, could have been lethal. Unfortunately, my diagnosis had no cure. Upon consulting with a specialist for Infectious Diseases at Mission Hospital, I was told it was something I would just have to wait out. And he anticipated that I would be out for approximately six weeks.
Now, for those of you who have ever spent time in a hospital bed, you know that a hospital is the last place you can ever get any rest. Between nurses waking you up to take vitals, doctors randomly appearing, and the wonderful visitors who come to wish you a quick recovery, it’s literally impossible to rest for more than a few minutes at a time.
However, the three days I spent in that room literally changed my life. I had no idea I knew so many people, those of which were praying and supporting my wife and I during this difficult time. Literally, the love that came through that door, from family, to friends, to pastors and coworkers was humbling in a way I’ll never forget. And after what I’d experienced, I can’t begin to describe the sense of ease I began to feel with all the prayers and kind words that were seemingly raining on me.
At the end of those three days, I was sent home and simply told, again, to wait it out. We arrived home to a mailbox full of cards and flowers at our door, prepared for a long recovery. I (enforced by my wife) laid dormant for the next eleven days, and to my surprise, the feeling in my hand quickly returned. The second day after leaving the hospital, my headaches began to fade.
My appetite returned and I felt no more nausea. And though I continued to take it slow, my wife and I were amazed at the rapid recovery I was making. It was simply uncanny after what we had been told by the doctors.
And now, here I am, two weeks removed from a potentially life threatening diagnosis, running for my life and loving every step of the way. It just goes to show that with people, prayer, and a passion to overcome an obstacle, the miracles that God can work in your life.
At any rate, I hope this story serves as a reminder to all not take life for granted. It really is a blessing that we often don’t appreciate until that very life is threatened. That’s why I’m so thankful for my two-mile run. It truly is my greatest accomplishment.
Aaron Mabry is a former 800m and 1000m State Champion from Pisgah High School. He ran collegiately at East Carolina University where he had the opportunity to compete in Conference USA. Graduated from UNC Charlotte and now married, he’s a Technical Consultant for Systel Business Equipment and Backbone Business Consulting in Asheville.
You can e-mail Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org.