The Vulnerable Pastor
January 1, 2018
In thinking about what I would write so as to update all my friends and followers, I wanted to publish a blog post entitled “The Myth of the Super Pastor.” After I was two pages in, I realized that would need to be a subject I dealt with in detail at a later time. So, instead, I am going to share with all of you what is going on in my life concerning my upcoming surgery. This is the moment when I step out from behind the curtain and become vulnerable not just to a few close friends and family but to all of those who have followed me over the years.
Beginning in the middle of 2015, my lower back has caused me a great deal of pain. At first I thought it was kidney stones so, at the beginning of 2016, the doctor ordered some x-rays and eventually an MRI. They did find a kidney stone and when they surgically tried to remove it they discovered I had already passed it.
I thought this would be the end of it but shortly after our move in the summer of 2016, I began to have even greater pain in my lower back. I waited until our new insurance kicked in and went to the doctor in September. She checked me out, ordered an MRI, and recommended me to a specialist. It took almost two months to get in to see him by which time I was having serious pain in my neck and right arm. My “consultation” lasted all of ten minutes before he said I needed another test and I would be seeing a different specialist. It took another few weeks to get in and by that time I had found I couldn’t stand for more than 10-15 minutes at a time and my right arm was steadily losing mobility while also increasing in pain. The pain, at this time, is fairly constant and no pain killers seem to be working.
Well, just two weeks ago, I saw the new specialist and he said surgery would be required and I should have it as quickly as possible. I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and told I needed to have three discs (possibly four) removed. The surgery is called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion with bone spur removal and will keep me from driving and lifting anything above 10 pounds for approximately four to six weeks. If you want to see what that looks like, here is a video:
While it looks a bit frightening, I’m hoping for the best. I have spoken with others online who have had this surgery and they’ve told me the pain relief is almost immediate. The doctor, of course, has told me that may or may not happen as quickly as it has for others yet I’m maintaining as positive an attitude as possible.
Of course, there are difficult days ahead. I’m having surgery just when we are beginning a new direction for the church I am pastoring. We are also working out how our son will be picked up from school when he goes back the week following my surgery. While I could travel across the state and have the surgery at a Methodist hospital where the cost would be significantly less, it would create a significant delay in my treatment and having proper after care while living four hours away from any attending physician would be a huge challenge for our family. This means we will have a pretty big hospital bill since our deductibles will once again reset on January 1. Since we are still paying the co-pays on two MRI’s and a Cat Scan from 2017, we are still trying to find ways to fit this into our limited budget.
The surgery will be this Friday, January 5, which for those of us who follow the liturgical year, is the last day of Christmas. My hope is this will be a wonderful final Christmas present which will lead me into a better New Year. Of course, the doctor has also mentioned I may also need knee surgery in 2018. It seems those years of moving lots of furniture, appliances, and heavy big screen televisions has finally caught up with me.
Please keep my wife, our family, and the church I am serving in your prayers. While this will be a personally trying time for me, it is also going to be difficult for my family and this fledgling congregation.
On a geeky note, I’m upset they don’t have nanites to use in this procedure nor will they be able to turn me into a cyborg. Our robotic overlords have failed me.
Grace and Peace,
Derek W. White
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