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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pain And The Atonement

by Apparent Parent (bio)

Pain is much more real after an emergency helicopter evac.
And somehow that pain taught me a spiritual lesson.
"On a scale of 1 to 10," the nurses asked me every time they ever saw me.

"A dull 4," I'd usually answer. "Maybe a 5."

Little did I know they were secretly trying to make me cross that 10 threshold. Throughout my hospital stay, I had avoided pain medication. When I shattered my kneecap in the mountains, I refused morphine they offered to stream into my blood to make the pain go away while I unexpectedly camped because it was too dark for the rescue helicopter to fly out with us after it brought in rescue rangers. Not the chipmunk kind - the khaki kind. Heck, I even refused Advil.

You see, I'm of the school of thought that feels most medicines mess with your system more than they help it. I'm not saying it's an accredited university or anything, but that's how I've always felt. So I doggedly persisted in refusing anything but anesthetic while they tore my knee open, drilled two screws through my patella to reconnect the five pieces of my kneecap back into a blessed skeletal Pangaea, and stitched up the five-inch gash under my knee.

I was going to even refuse to be put under during the operation, using only local anesthetic instead, but they informed me just as they wheeled me into the operating room that my bladder would need to be ... siphoned ... if I took that route. Having heard stories from my brothers about the horrors of catheters, I declined politely.

"I'll hold it!" I told them urgently. "Put me under!"

Anyway, back to pain. As the local anesthetic wore off after the surgery, the pain escalated. I refused medication anyway. At about an 8, I decided I was pretty uncomfortable, but still didn't want hard drugs floating around in my system. The nurses finally convinced me to take a type of liquid ibuprofen injected directly into my I.V. That took the edge off.

Soon after that, they undressed my wound for the first time and told me I should probably shower. I took the hint, but again politely refused when the nurses offered to help, instead relying on my wife. I let the water cascade down on me while I felt the pain rise higher. After the shower, when I got back into my clothes and bed, the nurses decided to test my pain threshold by rewrapping my leg. None too gently, they tossed my leg about like a sack of potatoes (at least that's what it felt like, albeit a little more lumpy.) And then the pain, which had hovered around 8 through the shower shot up like an unwelcome firework.

I didn't know pain could go so high. It sent spasms through my entire body, I broke out in a cold sweat and lay writhing in agony on the bed. I gripped the handle on the side of the bed as if trying to choke the lifeblood out of it. My breathing became shallower than a kiddie pool and faster than a parent saving a child from drowning in it. My wife escorted my children out of the room while the nurses tortured me. If they had asked me the 1 to 10 question at that moment, I maybe could have slipped in a ragged "16," between the hyperventilating breaths that were keeping me alive. I might just have stopped breathing had someone given me the option. But that 16 would have been accurate. I literally had no clue anything could hurt that bad, and I've taken a lot of hits in my adventurous life.

After the pain subsided to an 11 when they finished wrapping me, my mind was immediately drawn to the atonement. Suddenly it made more sense that the Savior bled from every pore.

D&C 19: 17-19
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink-
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

I now know what it means to tremble because of pain. The shaking was uncontrollable, my grip on the bed unrelenting. And that's at a mere 16 on the pain scale, no spiritual anguish attached. Now imagine stacking every single occurrence of physical and spiritual pain and slapping them on someone at once, and that 16 seems but a trifle. Stack that much pain on top of itself, and I think I can see why the Lord did bleed from every pore. I'll never understand it fully unless I die without repenting, but feeling my small moment of pain opened a conduit of love and gratitude for the atonement I had never before felt on such a level. 

I guess I'm just glad that Jesus Christ took that "bitter cup," so that all I have to endure are those rare moments at 16, whether they be spiritual or physical.

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