20 Jun Jean & Suzy | Modern Miracle Engagement Session
On the 29th of May I had the absolute pleasure of having Jean and Suzy in front of my camera for their gorgeous engagement session at the beautiful Ivory Manor Boutique Hotel in Pretoria. The staff at Ivory Manor couldn’t have been any more professional and on top of the ball. They treated me with a tour around the whole Manor that included a look at all their stylishly decorated bedrooms & bathrooms, and WOW is all that I can say. After the session was done and the sun has set, Jean, Suzy and I moved to the dining room area and enjoyed a lovely snack Ivory Manor had prepared for us.
While snacking, Jean, Suzy and I started talking about the past year and what a wonderful journey it has been for them. Just a little more than a year ago, on the 30th of March 2015, this man, Jean was completely blind and paralyzed from the waist down. There is just no way that I could put Jean’s words into a shorter version then his own. You have to read Jean’s testimony to understand the magnitude of the miracle that this man has received.
“A Modern Medical Miracle” – Jean’s Testimony of God’s Healing Power and Goodness under their beautiful blog post.
This gorgeous couple and their love for each other and our Heavenly Father are just so addictive. I am truly blessed and humble to be apart of their special day.
Thank you, Ivory Manor Boutique Hotel for making us feel so welcome.
“A Modern Medical Miracle” – My Testimony of God’s Healing Power and Goodness
On 15 December 2013 I started having headaches and dizziness. I thought initially it was hay fever or something like that, but it persisted and continued to get worse.
After being sent home with “stress headaches” (one of my symptoms were that I was unable to urinate, so I’m not too sure how the doctors concluded that it was stress headaches) from four different emergency wards over the next week, I eventually got hold of a Neurologist that my mother knew; Dr Wiebren Duim—a remarkable man of God whom I have the utmost respect and gratitude for.
At this stage (23 December 2013) I had been unable to urinate for three days and in immense pain and discomfort, and my vision started being affected. I was admitted to hospital and spent Christmas and New Year in hospital without a final diagnosis of what exactly was causing this.
On the 31st of January 2014, I was eventually, after a number of tests and scans and various admissions to hospital, diagnosed with Neuromyelitis Optica, or Devic’s disease (www.devic.org.uk). Essentially, this disease causes your immune system to attack your optic nerves and spinal column.
My particular case proved to be very aggressive and in 2014 I would continue to spend a total of 78 nights in hospital receiving multiple operations and different treatment options. Because the illness is relatively new, treatment options are still rather experimental and patient responses seem to differ from one regimen to the next.
The attacks were generally quickly contained and treatment had me back looking healthy within two weeks; apart from the occasions where I had treatment complications and infections in my heart and/or chest cavity.
The eleventh attack, in the first 15 months, that started on 12 March 2015 was different though… At first I thought it was something else…some sort of infection as my immune system was compromised by the medication I had been on at the time. I was admitted to hospital on the 18th of March 2015. And by the 30th of March, only twelve days later, I was completely blind and paralyzed from the waist down. I could not even move my toes or see changes in light – not a thing. I experienced an intense burning sensation whenever I was touched and was in immense pain.
On the 1st of April I commenced with Rituximab, a type of chemotherapy treatment that completely destroys the body’s B cells that forms part of your immune system. Thus, it effectively eliminates your immune system completely.
On the 5th of April, my brother was reading my messages from my phone to me, and one message from a friend who was clearly emotional prompted me to ask him to phone her for me. While speaking to her I tried to comfort her by showing her that I’m okay and my life was
no longer in danger. I then explained my symptoms to her and she asked while crying “Is jy verlam?” (Are you paralyzed?). And then reality hit me for the first time… I was paralysed and blind!!
I asked Dr Duim, the next day to please explain to me what my giant looked like – I needed to know in order to fight him. He then proceeded to tell me that, medically speaking, he could not tell me whether I would ever walk again. And that, if I would walk again, it would probably not be within SIX MONTHS.
The next few days were obviously very emotional and difficult… On the night of the 7th of April I cracked as laid in my hospital bed crying. (A nurse, sister Ruda, came and sat next to me holding my hand and consoling me – I honestly believe there’s a special place in heaven for nurses). I was desperate. It felt like I was breathing but dead…
Before she left to tend to another patient, sr Ruda assisted in putting my earphones from my iPad in my ears which enabled me to listen to music. There were more than 10 000 songs on my iPad and then, two songs ‘randomly’ played back to back where I felt God speaking to me through them. The songs were ‘Go the Distance’ by Michael Bolton and ‘Courageous’ by Casting Crowns. I decided then and there that: FAILURE WAS NOT AN OPTION! AND WHATEVER THE DISTANCE I WILL GO IT!
I then continued to pray to God; I asked Him to provide me an opportunity to mean something to someone the next day; be it another patient, a nurse, a therapist, a doctor, hospital staff, a visitor, anyone. I just wanted a sense of purpose again.
The next morning I got an opportunity to mean something to a fellow patient and three other individuals… In the state that I was in, I was still given an opportunity to mean something to them and speak into their lives. That same day, the afternoon of the 8th of April, my toes moved for the first time during my therapy session!! Incoherent, but there was movement.
From there on my recovery was truly remarkable. Though I still had to start by learning to sit again… It is inexplicable and almost impossible to describe how it feels to lose the ability to balance and correct completely – even while seated. At this stage the prognosis was still bleak. My brother had to learn to give me a shower and my parents were advised to make their home wheelchair friendly, which they did, as they were told that I would need to move in with them again and needed 24 hour care.
However, God had other plans… I took my first step, using parallel bars for assistance, on the 12th of April with a friend there in attendance, cheering me on in support. Four days later I walked approximately ten metres with a walker. And on the 18th I took my first shower independently.
Then, being stable enough to focus on my rehabilitation, I was transferred to Meulmed Rehab facility. Here my recovery continued to be miraculous and on the 28th of April I got out of my wheelchair for the last time! I was able to walk using a walker and/or two crutches. Movement was wobbly and somewhat uncoordinated, but I could move independently. The doctors at Meulmed then decided, in order to minimise the infection risk in hospital, that I should be discharged and only come in every second day to do my rehabilitation sessions.
Thus I was discharged from Meulmed on Friday, 1 May 2015. The doctors advised further that I should, for my first weekend out, do something as normal and challenging as possible in order to identify in which areas of recovery I still needed most work to become completely independent again.
When a group of my friends heard this, they immediately arranged a trip for a few of us to a farm in Ellisras. I went directly from the hospital with my father to Pick ‘n Pay, bought groceries, and left with the friends to the farm. It was very uncomfortable, but the sense of freedom was completely overwhelming.
I still struggled on that first night, to the extent that I fell on my way to the bathroom and a friend needed to assist me in getting up. But then on day two on the farm, the group wanted to go for a game drive. At that stage, I was still unable to urinate on my own and needed to self-catheterise in order to void my bladder. I asked the group to excuse me while I did this and they sat on the game viewer waiting for me before we left.
When I had finished I needed to walk (still with both crutches in hand) to the game viewer; which meant covering approximately 30 metres of lawn. Half way across the lawn I suddenly heard a voice saying “Lig jou krukke Jean” (Lift your crutches Jean)… Dazed and confused I stood there on the grass; looking around to see who or what had made the sound. Again I heard the same voice saying: “Lig jou krukke Jean”. I looked over at the game viewer and the friends were chatting and were clearly oblivious to what was happening and what I was hearing. Then I heard the voice for a third time saying: “Lig jou krukke Jean”. This time I responded… I lifted my crutches and gave my first three unsupported steps! I dropped one of the crutches and used to other only to stabilise and correct me as I walked when I lost my balance.
The rehab continued upon return from the farm and I had nothing to report in terms of great areas of concern regarding my independence. Thus, the construction done to make my parents’ house wheelchair friendly was not necessary. The seat in the shower does however now make for a great place to rest the shower gel and shampoo – but serves no other purpose.
I notified Dr Duim that I had been discharged and he requested that I come to see him as soon as possible for a check-up. The consultation took nearly an hour and at the end we sat at Dr Duim’s desk where he was scribbling notes on a piece of paper. I remember finding the lack of communication in those few moments strange as he did not say anything for, what felt like, a few minutes. And we were close by that time, which made the behaviour seem even stranger. Then he smiled and said: “Medical Science kan nie doen wat hier gebeur het nie! Ek kan dit net beskryf as ‘n wonderwerk” (Medical science cannot do what was done here! I can only describe this as a miracle).
A few days later, on the 21st of May, my brother’s beautiful daughter, Anna, was born. Her birth felt like another miracle. And though she was born three weeks prematurely, the timing of her birth could not have been more God-ordained. This enabled me to spend quite a lot of time with her during my rehabilitation that was probably the best therapy I could ever have asked for.
I told my physiotherapist shortly after Anna’s birth that, by the 30th of June, I will have played a round of golf and completed a 5 km run… She responded that she was very happy that I was so positive, but added that I should be realistic and not be too disappointed and despondent if I do not make it.
To everyone’s surprise, I insisted on returning to work on the 15th of June. There were many challenges, but I believed that exposing myself to normal life would get me back to normal sooner. And I still believe I was right.
On 20 June I played my first round of golf. Not very well, but I played and enjoyed every second with some of my best friends cheering me on and capturing my first stroke on video. A week later I played a second round. And then, on Tuesday the 30th of June 2015, I went to the Virgin Active in Rustenburg, determined to do the 5kms I had committed to do. I had to do it on a treadmill in order to have something to grab onto if I fell. Little more than 37 minutes later I did it.
The blessings – in all facets of my life – started becoming abundantly and exceedingly clear! Not only was I getting stronger, fitter and more mobile; picking up all 18 kilograms I had lost, But I started getting acknowledged at work like never before and I met (after having given up on love, at least for the time being, just a few months before) the most incredible lady, Suzete da Silva, that accepted me and chose me in spite of all the challenges. When it came to my prayer list for a wife, she literally ticks every box that I ever prayed for, and has amazing characteristics and beauty that I never even prayed for…
In October, Dr Duim wrote a motivation letter to Discovery for a follow up dose of Rituximab. The letter was addressed to Discovery and I was merely copied in the mail. The first paragraph of the letter contained only four words; it said: “A modern medical miracle”.
I am now back to my original weight. I have regained, I guess, about 80% of my vision in my left eye and 95-98% in the right. I walk, run and jump seamlessly and, apart from a couple of minor ailments, would appear to anyone else as very healthy. More than that, I am now engaged to be married to the woman of my dreams and prayers – Suzy!
I don’t take my next words lightly and have given them much consideration before even uttering them the first time. But if God was to come to me today and tell me that He would take me back to early March last year and I could go through this time without the trial, I would honestly say ‘Give me the trail again’. God has done an amazing work in me through this – I experienced Him as I have never done before! And for that I will be forever grateful and always attempt live to His glory!
I did nothing special – it was ALL GOD!
On 9 December 2015 I went for another MRI scan after a very minor attack brought on, I believe by too many stimulants (caffeine) in Red Bull and Coffee. Dr Duim, instead of waiting to the next morning when he would have seen me anyway, phoned me excitedly to give me the results of the MRI that evening. The scan showed that ALL the lesions in my brain are gone! After my previous scan in April, I joked that my brain, when I was eventually able to see the scans, looked a little like a Tiger’s skin as a result of all the lesions on them. Dr Duim
continued that even most of the lesions on my spinal column were healed as well. He ended the conversation be referring to the healing as “Miracle type stuff”…
Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)
1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and He turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
3 He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.