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In sickness and in health

By Jennifer McClure

If you don’t admit Mary into the hospital, I won’t be held liable if she dies.

The doctor’s words stole Harold Sallee’s breath and sent his thoughts whirling.

Would his wife survive the night? Would she become dependent on a ventilator? What was this sickness that slowly attacked her body with numbness and paralysis?

If only they hadn’t moved, maybe this wouldn’t have happened — or at least they would have had close friends and family nearby for support.

But Harold knew it was God’s will for him to accept the position of administrator to the general superintendent at the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Mo. They had moved from Brighton, Mich., where he had served as executive pastor of Brighton Assembly of God.

No one could have foreseen anything like this happening with 700 miles between them and their support system. Though unable to understand why, Harold wondered if perhaps this illness also was part of God’s plan.

Mary had only been in town for a month and had just unpacked the last box before being admitted into the hospital with a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system.

A week or so earlier, Mary began to experience severe lower back pain. She immediately assumed she had injured her back while unpacking. She grew concerned when the pain moved into her legs and her extremities began to go numb.

By the time she was admitted into the hospital, she had no sensation in her feet or legs below her mid-thighs. Being unable to feel things with her feet made walking without assistance impossible. But the primary concern was paralysis. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the symptoms of GBS can increase to a point where the muscles cannot be used at all, making the patient almost totally paralyzed. If the paralysis progressed, it could shut down her respiratory system.

In their 42 years of marriage, Harold and Mary had never experienced any serious illness. Mary, in fact, had been active and healthy nearly all her life. Suddenly finding themselves uprooted and facing the most severe medical crisis of their marriage, they had no choice but to turn to God.

“All we could do was bind our hearts together and believe that God was going to heal me,” Mary says.

After being admitted on a Wednesday, Mary was released in time to have dinner at home on Friday. Though mostly immobile with the numbness in her extremities and legs persisting, the doctor ruled she was past the crisis period.

Once home, she had work to do. Every day Mary would get on the floor to do the exercises the doctor required.

During these days at home, she would also exercise her faith, praying and believing for a healing. One day she received a get-well card from a friend that included three treasures: Jeremiah 30:17; Jeremiah 1:12 and Matthew 9:29.

• “ ‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’ ” (NIV)

• “The Lord said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.’ ”

• “Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you.’ ”

“I just kept quoting those Scriptures and believing in God’s Word,” Mary says.

Seven weeks after she was discharged from the hospital, Mary was able to walk with her family around Silver Dollar City, a family theme park located in the hilly terrain of Branson, Mo.

Early on, the doctor warned she might experience relapses of the illness and even a “flapping foot,” but in the last five years neither has been the case. She regularly walks two miles three times or more each week without any difficulty.

Looking back, Harold and Mary know what pulled them through Mary’s sickness.

“Our faith and our love for each other got us through,’’ Mary says. “Also our family, our church family in Brighton and several churches in Springfield were praying for me. We so appreciate those prayers and know that their prayers coupled with ours is what kept us strong during that time.”


JENNIFER McCLURE is assistant editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at jmcclure.agblogger.org.

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