Location: Oregon, United States

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On being a leper

At the time of this writing, I am waiting to hear the results of an x-ray for one of the residents at the place where I work. I will not know until tomorrow, Monday. If the results are negative, it is a very good thing. If they are positive, it will mean that everyone in the house has been exposed to active tuberculosis.

So even though it's still only a small possibility, I've been thinking about the what-ifs this weekend. Paul laughs at me, because I've had a couple of 'sort-of' near death experiences before, and I tend to go straight to the what-ifs. But it helps me to plan, and writing helps me to sort it all out. I've also been thinking about how I feel about it all, and my feelings are all over the board.

Feeling #1: Anger. I am angry with myself and all my coworkers, because we should know better than to let anyone in until they've had their TB test. But I think we have operated thus far on the "it can't happen to me" assumption. Well, duh. There are rules for a reason. I am angry with the resident for not coming clean with us. He knew he had tested positive in the past and had only finished a partial round of antibiotics. But he came in anyway.

Feeling # 2: Fear. I am not afraid of having the disease myself. If I have it, it is still very early in the process and I will most likely still be in the latent stage. This is easily treated. The biggest fear surrounds William. He is on a medication that greatly reduces his ability to fight disease. If he were exposed to active tuberculosis, he would have to discontinue this medication (the only one that has worked to keep his Crohn's under control), and take preventive antibiotics. Ugh. This is huge. I am also afraid of the 'wave' effect it would have. I'm not exactly a homebody, and I can't imagine how many people I've come in contact with since this person moved in to the house. And how many people they've come in contact with. And alerting everyone...

Feeling #3: Paranoia. I've had this cough lately... but it developed only a week after the individual moved in to the house, too soon to be a result of exposure. Nevertheless, every time I cough, I think about it.

Feeling #4: Resignation? Peace? I know that God will not give me more than I can handle, and that if the worst case scenario ends up being the case, I will just have to move through the steps and do what I need to do. And if the results come back negative, then it is a lesson very well learned.

Feeling #5: Leprous. The pastor at our church gave a sermon based on the story in Mark about Jesus healing the leper. Much of the time was spent describing what it was like to be a leper in Jesus' time. Everyone was afraid of catching the disease, and indeed, it was very contagious. If you caught it, you were quarantined with everyone else that had it outside of the city. This was basically a slow death sentence, because once you were sent to the leper colony, there would be little chance of recovery since you would be constantly exposed to the illness. I was strangely able to identify with the leper in the story during this telling. What were his feelings? Fear, certainly. Would he ever have contact with his family? What if they got it?

Also shame. Back then, leprosy was considered to be a result of sin. Fortunately, we do not link our illnesses to our sins any more. Or do we? Haven't I flirted with disaster by choosing to work with an at-risk population even though my son's wellness depends on my own? How are my choices linked to my health, and therefore my family's and in this case, everyone around me? If I have it, and I'm contagious, I would definitely feel shame and responsibility.

But Jesus touched the leper. Even though he was highly contagious, an outcast. Even this is amazing to me. Strangely, I'm not so amazed that Jesus touched him. After all, he was/is God, and he must have known that the plan was A.) Die of leprosy or B.) Die of something else. So his decision to touch the guy doesn't seem like such a big deal. But the fact that the leper allowed himself to be touched does amaze me. Would you allow the Christ to touch you if it would be your fault he died of the disease? Would you allow anyone to touch you? Breathe your breath?

Which brings me full circle. The person that moved in knew, and yet he allowed us to breathe his breath. Where does that leave me? Hopefully, I can approach it like Jesus did. Either the plan is A.) get tuberculosis or B.) not. I hope I can react with the compassion Jesus had as well, and continue to treat this person as, well, a person. Versus a non-person, an outcast, someone to be despised. Basically, a leper.


Blogger ~bethany joy said...

We're praying.
good to hear from you, even if it's something scary.
Love and encouragement,
bethany joy joy

10:01 AM  

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