The Road to Recovery

By Ai Hiong Sim

Have you ever been ill? It’s been just over two years since my major surgery on my lower back. I had to have a Decompression and Fusion of the L3-5 in my spine. The road to recovery has been long and difficult. However, through this difficult journey I am learning so many precious lessons from God. Come, walk with me as I share my journey with you.  

Surgery 

It was a three-and-half hours’ surgery. My surgeon at Hollywood Private Hospital was Mr. Gabriel Lee. After surgery I was wheeled into the ward near the nurses’ station. Everything seemed blur, but I recognised my husband and members of my family, and Rev. Lam. The surgeon came, and he assured me that the surgery was successful, and I should recover well. There were tubes all over—one to drain the blood into small bottles, another attached to the catheter, another for blood transfusion, and yet another for drip. I lay there helpless, but thankful that I was alive, and that the ordeal was over! I remained in the surgical ward for 4 days, then I was transferred to the rehab ward.  

I was in the recovery ward for a month. The days were long and lonely. I’ve never been in hospital that long! I am thankful to God for all the doctors, nurses, and medical team who looked after me during my stay in hospital. Each one did their best to make me feel comfortable and well. Everyone was cheerful and encouraging, including the cleaners and those who served meals. The physios worked hard on me to help me get moving and walking. My dear husband visited and prayed for me daily, and was such an encouragement to me; thank God for him. I missed him when I was in hospital. We are grateful to family and friends who supported us through this difficult time when I was in hospital, and after I was discharged. Our pastor, Rev. Lam was a sheltering tree for us during this trying time, and we thank God for him and his wife Jennifer, and for their ministry of love. I also thank God for caring friends who take the time to visit, call and pray for me on the phone, drop off some baked goodies or a hot meal, shop groceries for me, or stay with me when I needed someone around when my husband had to be out. Friends are a real blessing, and I thank God for every one of them.  

Through these difficult situations in life he teaches me to put my trust in him. He assures me that he is always near to help me when I call on him. He reminds me that he is in control of every situation, no matter how difficult and confusing it may seem at times.

Ai Hiong Sim

God extended His love and comfort to me in many other ways during my time in hospital. One of the nurses who looked after me was from Melaka, Malaysia. I had served in the Methodist Church in Melaka in the mid-sixties, so we had some things in common. We had many mutual friends. She was a Christian, and she was a great help and encouragement to me. Another nurse works part time at Bibik Chan, a restaurant where my husband and I dine often; so again, there was that connection. One night I had difficulty falling asleep, so I sat up to read. Behind the curtain which was drawn, I heard a nurse saying, “Ai Hiong … I wonder if it’s the same Ai Hiong I know.” Then she came by my bed and saw that I was awake.  

“Ai Hiong, it IS you!” What an incredible moment—my childhood friend I haven’t seen for many decades! God is so good! I was so excited I had difficulty falling asleep that night; but I was thrilled to bits because God knew just what I needed—an old friend to cheer me up. May brought me fruits from her garden, and stopped by to chat before she left for home each day. That was so comforting. She was a ray of sunshine. Then there was Hazel, another patient from the same ward, but she was in a room few doors from me. One day she turned up at my door and asked if she could come in. Of course, I welcomed her. She had surgery but was recovering well and waiting to be discharged. Hazel is a Christian and worships at Floreat Salvation Army. We connected as a family of God. We had a lovely chat, and were able to encourage each other. I had another visit from her just before she was discharged. Thank you, God, for meeting me at every point of my need. 

I asked to be discharged on 14th May, as I wanted to be home for my 25th wedding anniversary the following day. My request was granted and I was discharged on the evening of 14th May. I was too tired and weak to celebrate, but I was thrilled and thankful to be home. There is no place like HOME! My dear husband cooked us a simple meal, and we thanked God for all His wonderful blessings He continues to shower upon us. We have had 25 good years together, and God has taught us to love and appreciate each other more and more; and together we have grown closer to the Lord. We look forward to more happy years together.  By the grace of God, I have been very blessed with a wonderful husband who loves me dearly and takes good care of me. He has been helping me with all the cooking, cleaning, groceries, and all the other chores—everything else that needs to be done around the house! As time went on, my poor husband started showing signs of burnout. So, I started looking for help. I am so grateful to God that help is available through My Aged Care Services provided by the Australian Government. I now get help with cleaning once a fortnight, gardening services once a month, and 4 hours of respite care every week. When the respite support workers come, my husband is able to have time out and enjoy time with his son over lunch and then do some window shopping! Thank God for these support services. We are very grateful.  

Acceptance Brings Peace 

I have always been a very active and independent person; so being disabled and immobile has been very difficult for me. My badly damaged nerves in my lower back had resulted in a left foot drop, which means that I have to wear a splint to help me walk. I also have poor balance, and so I need to use a walker/rolator for moving around, and the wheelchair when I go out for longer periods of time. This was very difficult for me. There was that stigma of being seen in public with the walker or wheelchair, and having to answer so many questions when people asked what had happened to me (I could use a tape recording I guess?). But over time, God helped me to come to terms with my disability. It was like I was set free and I started to experience peace about my shortcomings. Now I wear a willing smile, and people would normally respond with a bigger smile! I am often asked if I needed any help, and I am thankful that generally people out there are very helpful and caring. 

I have to learn to come to terms with not being able to do so many things that I used to be able to do when I was well. Now I have to depend on people to do things for me. For the first few months it was a very humbling experience for me to have support workers come to help me shower. Thank God I am now able to shower myself and be more independent. I learnt to be thankful for small achievements, like filling the water bottles, heating heat packs in the microwave, helping to hang up small pieces of laundry and folding them when they are dry. Sometimes I help my husband to cut up vegetables and other stuff for him to cook. I can manage standing by the sink to wash a few dishes. My husband still does all these things though, but it gives me such a great feeling of achievement if and when he allows me to help. I have to discipline myself with my daily exercises. I walk around the house or in the garden with the walker, climb the steps outside the house to the carport and back, cycle on the pedal exerciser and do as much stretching exercises as I can. Thank God my legs are gaining strength every day. I continue to pray and trust God for complete healing. Sometimes I feel discouraged with myself for taking so long to recover; but I have to keep claiming and trusting God’s promises. He has given me so many wonderful promises in the Bible. Some of my favourites have been: 

Isaiah 41:10. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  

Isaiah 40:2–31. Do you not know, have you not heard? The LORD is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not be faint. 

There are so many more promises I could quote; the Bible is full of them. I thank God that during this long road to recovery I have had a lot of time to read, study, and meditate on God’s word, to sing praises to him, to worship him, to pray, and just to enjoy being in his presence. The Psalmist says, “In his presence there is fullness of joy!”

It is the joy of the Lord; the joy of knowing that God is with me IN my suffering. He is with me, and he gives me grace to cope.

Ai Hiong Sim

Have I ever asked, “Why is this happening to me?” Yes, I have, in the beginning. But as time went on, I started to ask, “God, what are you wanting me to learn from this ordeal?” Over the weeks and months God is showing me a few things. God does not send me trials, but sometimes he does allow me to go through trials and tribulations. Through these difficult situations in life he teaches me to put my trust in him. He assures me that he is always near to help me when I call on him. He reminds me that he is in control of every situation, no matter how difficult and confusing it may seem at times. And as I put my trust in him, he teaches me that with man things may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible. And so, through my trials my faith in God is strengthened.  

Through my trials and pain, God is also teaching me to remain joyful. I may not be very comfortable or dancing around when I am suffering pain; but God has taught me that I can still experience hoy in my heart. It is the joy of the Lord; the joy of knowing that God is with me IN my suffering. He is with me, and he gives me grace to cope. This grace he gives is not just the ability to hang in there but the ability to overcome and get on top of whatever pain or discomfort I’m facing. So, I learn to cast my cares on him because I know he loves me and cares for me (cf. James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22). God continues to teach me precious lessons through my trials and tribulations. These lessons are not mastered overnight; I have to learn to take up my cross DAILY and follow Jesus, and learn from him as I place my hands in his and walk with him.  

Psalm 46:1 “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble.”  

God has become my refuge and strength through this difficult recovery journey. Allow me to share with you something I read during one of my difficult days: 

One day, Gordon and his wife Gail were taking a walk round their neighbourhood, admiring the beautiful homes with different architecture, when Gordon noticed a small but bright poster in one window. It was positioned in a prominent place where it could not be missed, not even by a child. The poster featured a silhouette of an open hand. Gail told her husband that the poster was a sign of a safe place. It is a signal to a frightened or sick child that here is a home that offers protection and assistance. If the child knocks at the door he can be assured of safety from trouble.  

Over the past months this is what I have learnt—that GOD is MY SAFE PLACE. Whenever I am afraid, anxious or in pain, I can run to him. His hand is always at the window. I just need to knock at his door, and I am safe from all trouble. I learn to create my own safe place. It could be my bedroom or my study, it could be the garden on a nice sunny day. I could be going for a walk; or I could just be sitting in a chair in the corner of the lounge. It is so wonderful to know that wherever you are, God is there! There in my safe place I find comfort, rest and healing as I listen to music, pray, read the Bible and meditate, or write my journal and share my deepest thoughts with God. Are you needing a safe place? I hope you will also find your “safe place” in God. He will dispel your weariness and anxieties. You can enjoy his presence, experience his healing, and find rest. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28–30). He also says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” So, knock at his door, his loving hand will always be at the window; and he will answer your call—anytime! 

Someone asked me, “Does God always heal?” I believe that God is always able to heal, although sometimes he may choose not to heal. Sometimes he heals instantly, other times he heals in stages. I believe God is healing me in stages. My recovery may be slow, but I have come a long way. I have been able to attend church services most Sundays, meet friends for lunch and coffee, visit friends once in a while, and do small grocery shopping on my scooter. I even managed a trip to Singapore to see family (Singapore Airlines provide excellent wheelchair service!). Unfortunately, my recovery was interrupted by two falls which resulted in minor fractures and 8 weeks of recovery each. I have recovered from the fractures and am walking again. I thank God that he will complete the work of healing he has already begun in me. I thank him for pain-free days, and days when I can achieve more. On bad days I run to my “safe place”, and I thank him for wiping away my tears and for peace and comfort I can find in him.  Each new day brings new challenges, but I thank God for his grace and mercy, which are new every morning. Great is his love, higher than the heavens; his faithfulness reaches to the skies (Psalm 108:4).   

Let me end my testimony with the chorus of one of my favourite hymns: 

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Great is Thy Faithfulness 
Morning by morning new mercies I see 
All I have needed thy Hand has provided 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Thomas O Chisholm                                  

Ai Hiong and her husband, Tong Seng, worship at Kingsway Methodist Church, Nedlands, WA.