10-15 years old.
Growing up in the middle of the beautiful Swiss Alps is a dream for many, and it was for me until I realised that it can be a nightmare too!
For several weeks at the beginning of 1999, Switzerland was waylaid by a huge snowstorm. Life became very difficult at this time. Life in a small town surrounded by big mountains became very dangerous for the people who lived there. Most roads that lead out of the valley were closed for weeks because of a high risk of avalanches, that could come down the valley at any time and potentially kill drivers on the roads.
For me as a Dialysis patient, this was awful as there was no way for me to get to hospital! I was having treatment three times a week and the hospital was an hour’s drive from my town. For many people it became a very “dramatic “ time because they couldn`t live their normal comfortable lifestyle, whereas I was concerned about whether I could stay alive or not! If you stop Dialysis treatment yet you still need it you will die in 5-7 days!
Thankfully there was a solution to get out of town. The council arranged transport by helicopter to get people down the valley!
Traffic was flowing normally from the next town along, Frutigen, because there was no avalanche risk in that area.
Every day, people were transported from town to town by helicopter. Not only that, but food stocks and other important things for the shops were transported this way. Once in Frutigen, people drove or took the train as normal to continue their journeys.
This was a crazy few weeks for all of us, but for a 10 year old it was the best as I got to fulfil my dream of flying in a helicopter! And it didn’t happen just once or twice, but 11 times in just 3 weeks!
This wasn’t the first time I’d flown in a helicopter. I’d been in one in 1993 when I had a stroke, and again in 1998 after the car accident*. Both of those times I wasn’t really conscious, so this time round it was great!
Although the roads were closed and the town completely snowed in, I enjoyed these three weeks of being transported by helicopter. Sometimes I couldn`t wait for the next flight!
One day however, there was really thick fog, so thick that even air traffic had to be stopped. And it happened to be on a day that I needed Dialysis! We didn’t know what to do. My Dad, who worked past Frutigen, had stayed at my grandparent’s house in Frutigen, so he didn’t have to fly back and forth to our house so much. This meant my Mum took on the role as brave woman and called the police in order to find a way to get me to hospital.
At 9am that morning, the police found a solution to transport me, my mum and somebody else who had a degree exam that day, out of town.
A police car picked us up from home at 10am, and took us to a stopover of a cable car in my town, and from there we could travel by snow groomer over the mountains that lead to another cable car stopover in the valley next to ours.
Even though we had a very experienced driver who knew the area well, he found it really difficult to find the way through the fog. It took us about 4 hours to drive to the other cable car station. On a clear day, it would only take an hour on the snow groomer!
Once we arrived at the other cable car stopover, we had to drive with a car to a town called Lenk. We got to Lenk at 5pm, where Dad picked us up in the car and drove us to the hospital, where we arrived at 6pm.
And this was just the beginning, as I still had to do my treatment, which lasted for 4 hours. I was finished at 10pm, and then we drove an hour back to Frutigen to my grandparents’ place. We stayed there until all the roads were open again!
Two days after the roads opened, I became very sick again and suffered on a stroke, actually the same issue I had in 1993 when I fell in to a coma. It wasn’t as bad as that time, but I was barely conscious so I was taken to hospital by helicopter again. The next morning the doctors told my parents that they hadn’t thought that I would make it through the night, so this was another death-overcoming miracle for the books!
Three days before my 11th birthday, in November 1999, the doctors called and said that there was a kidney ready for me. The transplant went very well and the kidney fitted. However, I was psychologically and emotionally not in a good condition because I was scared of losing the kidney, like last time.
But throughout the year 2000 my physically state was pretty stable and I once again was living the dream – life without Dialysis treatment three times a week!
Before I had the third kidney transplant, I thought that all I needed for my life to be complete was another kidney. But once I had the kidney, I realised that I still lacked something in my life. That “something” could only be filled deep inside me.
Then, in October 2000 I found the thing that would put an end to that feeling of lack forever! A Pastor asked me if I want to give my life to Jesus! Growing up in a Christian household. I already knew about God and the Bible etc. But I’d never made a conscious decision to surrender my life to God in order to be reconnected with Him! But then I did, and all of a sudden, my life was finally filled with all the things I had been looking for! It was something that happened deep inside me, that brought everlasting joy; unconditional love; a hope that gives purpose and meaning no matter what hardships and struggles life throws at me;
unending forgiveness with the God who created the universe; ever flowing mercy; and a supernatural strength that brings power in the midst of difficulties! It was the best decision I could ever make and I got a completely different perspective about what life could look like even living with a chronic illness!
Once again, in January 2001, my body had some difficulties. I had a glandular fever* that caused my body to activate my chronic illness again! I was on the edge of a very difficult season. Knowing that the illness had activated again, I was scared of losing my kidney. The doctors and nurses did everything they could to keep the kidney alive, but after couple of months it stopped working properly, and I had to go back to Dialysis treatments!
I was disappointed, angry and couldn`t understand why this had happened again to someone who had already been through lots of things! Yet knowing that I now had someone bigger and better, aka God, in my life who looks after me, I held on to His promise that all things will one day work together for good. That summer though, I had to have the kidney removed, because it was now doing more damage to me than good.
In 2002, I became very sick again, and had a serious lung infection for the third time. I was taken to the Intensive Care Unit and came to a point of dying, but praise God I overcame death again and slowly recovered. A few days later, I had another infection but this time from my Haemodialysis catheter. I had to have another operation, to remove that catheter and have a new one fitted. This operation for the catheter was not the first and last one as I’ve had several over the years. Every now and then my catheter has to be changed because of infection, leaking or other issues.
The year 2003 was pretty much stable. Alongside my regular dialysis treatment, I attended school as much as possible and enjoyed my free time by being with my friends, family and doing hobbies.
To be continued….