Healing Through Medicine and Prayer

(An article for the January 1994 Deep Cove Crier)
All my dreams seemed to be coming true. I had graduated in Social Work at U.B.C. before finishing my Masters at V.S.T. I was happily married to Janice, a gifted musician and wonderful listener. I was in the first year of a full-time job that was very fulfilling and challenging. On top of that, Janice and I were thrilled to be expecting our first child. The time seemed right to begin our family, as life had never seemed so stable and secure. Then, out of the blue, I was struck down in December 1980 by a rare viral throat condition, called Spasmodic Dysphonia. I had always enjoyed public speaking. suddenly every second or third word would be choked off as I spoke.

Medical Merry-Go-Round
Over the next 18 months, I went to 10 different medical specialists, receiving 10 different diagnoses. Virtually all the diagnoses contradicted each other, and none of the suggested treatments actually cured my voice problem. Some of the specialists led me to believe that if I followed their treatment, my voice would return in a month or so. I felt very disappointed, as treatment after treatment failed to produce the desired results. To quote Mildred Young, a cured spastic dysphonic and wife of the California Attorney General, "The whole speech loss experience is just terribly traumatic. People always say it was particularly so in my case because everything I did involved speech. But I think that it would be the case for anyone . . . it's ego destroying, just dreadfully ego destroying. People with spasmodic dysphonia do one of two things: they are either terribly, terribly stubborn and keep seeking help . . . or if they don't have a very supportive situation at home, they blame themselves, and retreat and disappear."

Going For Broke
Eventually the Medical Specialists decided that if I didn't leave my place of work and take up full-time speech therapy, my voice would never return. So I submitted my resignation, and went on sick leave. I found this decision to be very painful and embarrassing. Everything I had done in life had always been successful. Now I felt like a failure. I felt afraid that my voice might never come back. What would I do then? With the birth of our new baby, I felt concerned about my inability to to provide financially for our new family. To my surprise, I discovered that I only qualified for six weeks of sick benefits, as our organization had no long-term disability insurance. As well, I did not qualify for U.I.C. as I was unable to speak and was taking full time speech therapy. I decided to put my financial fears into the hands of my Higher Power, Jesus Christ. The amazing thing was that all the needs of my family were met each month over a 12 month period.

Never, Never Give Up
Since I couldn't speak, I wasn't able to preach and lead worship. I began to wonder occasionally: "Am I really called to the Ministry, if I can't preach?" On a retreat, up at the Mission Abbey, God spoke to me and said, "I have called you. I have saved you. I have forgiven you. I am healing you. Go forth in my name." In my moments of despair, I clung to that promise. One of my doctors came to the personal conclusion that I would never preach again. but I knew in my heart of hearts that God was going to heal my voice. My wife Janice was a great support to me during that very dark period, because she never stopped believing in me, and standing with me. When a person goes through prolonged illness, you discover very quickly who are your fair-weather friends.

A Modern-day Medical Miracle
Finally, when things looked their darkest, I met Dr. Murray Morrison, Otolaryngologist at V.G.H. In a few short minutes, he totally over-turned the theories of the last nine specialists. Dr. Morrison explained that I had a physical (neurogenic) condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia, caused by a rare viral throat infection. This condition, he said, happened to about one in five million people (in contrast to stuttering, which happens to one in 200 people) To me, it felt like winning the lottery in reverse. Dr Morrison said that my problem could be solved by throat surgery, which he had already successfully done with two other patients. He told me that doctors had known about Spasmodic Dysphonia for over a hundred years, but there had only been a "cure" for the last eight years. Dr. Herbert Dedo in California had discovered, almost by accident, that cutting the left laryngeal nerve of the left vocal chord would stop the over adduction of the vocal chords, and restore the person's voice.

I was excited about this surgery, but also somewhat cautious. I knew that surgery was not always successful, and the operation, if unsuccessful, might make you worse. But after reaching a dead-end  with speech therapy, I went to the U.B.C. Medical Library and spent several days there researching my options. To confirm the effectiveness of the surgery, I phoned a lawyer in Oregon, who had been successfully operated on. His voice was so impressive that I rushed back to Dr. Murray Morrison to ask for the surgery. The board of specialists at Vancouver General Hospital were split down the middle about whether to let me have the surgery. Finally they agreed to let Dr. Morrison proceed.

Things Go Better with . . . Prayer
On May 16, 1982, my bags were packed when suddenly my operation was "bumped" for another week. My heart sank. Fortunately Reverend Ernie Eldridge and my local church (St. Matthias) decided to surround me with healing prayer for 24 hours while I was in hospital. On May 25, 1982 I was operated on at V.G.H. As I woke up, I opened my mouth to see if I could speak. Amazingly my voice had returned, and I went back to preaching that Sunday, after 18 months of being without my voice. I felt so thankful and joyful that I imagined that I would never grumble or worry again about anything. Every time I speak to a Deep Cove/Seymour resident about Jesus, I am reminded what a miracle it is that I am speaking at all! It has now been almost 12 years since God healed me through medicine and prayer. Once I was visiting a lady with cancer. She said to me: "You wouldn't understand. You are too young , and you haven't had cancer." As I told her of my 18 month struggle with Spasmodic Dysphonia, she smiled at me and said: "You do understand, after all."

My prayer this January is for all Deep Cove/Seymour residents suffering from illness, that Jesus may pour his Healing Grace into them through the agents of Medicine and Prayer

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon's Anglican Church

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