The Episode That Changed My Life and Brought Me Back to Church
By Cheryl Chiu
The date was 24 Oct 1996. My dad had just come home from his business trip that day. My exams had just finished as well and I went for swimming training as usual that afternoon.
While we were doing land exercise/weights in the gym before entering the water, I suddenly felt giddy and nauseous. Within a span of five minutes, I felt a wave of nausea that I had never felt before and could not even walk steadily. My friend brought me to the washroom and I remembered almost vomiting.
The next thing I remember was that I was in hospital with bandages all over and five or six days had passed. I found out later that my swimming friends had tried to contact my parents but they were not immediately contactable as they were not at home. Thankfully they did not stay out for too long and rushed over upon hearing my condition. They brought me to the nearest clinic and the doctor advised them to bring me to the hospital (as I was not even able to walk by then). The nearest hospital did a quick check on me but their machines failed and I was sent by ambulance to their sister hospital.
At the next hospital, they found that I had a raptured blood vessel in my brain and the doctors had to make a quick decision about whether or not to do an immediate operation to insert a stent. They concluded that a clot had formed and there was no need for an immediate operation.
Over the next few days, I went through multiple scans and had the operation to remove the arteriovenous malformation (AVM). The operation was highly risky—I could end up in a vegetative state, or suffer from fits one to two years after the operation.
By the grace of God, the operation was very successful; it took less time than expected and I did not need any blood transfusion (they had initially prepared five packets of blood for me). There were also no side effects except for very bad memory for the few years after that. During that time, Pastor came by to pray for me.
After the whole incident, I realised that life is really a miracle and we are like dust. How would I have known that I was born with thin blood vessels that would burst some day? We can be taken away anytime and we really have no clue what is happening inside us. There were so many points at which God had graciously preserved me and also provided support. For example, if this had happened 15 minutes later and I was already in the pool, I would probably have drowned. Following the incident, I also read of others who had the same condition and died on the spot or within hours, following the rupture of the blood vessel.
Returning to Church
Seeing how God has preserved my life urged me to reconsider my priorities and return to church for regular worship. My mum and I used to attend church when I was young but had stopped when I was in lower primary because the timing of church service clashed with my swimming training.
When I returned to church, I remember feeling like I was coming home. Despite not being regular for about five years or so, the people, the building, Pastor, and the worship service still felt so familiar. I took sermons much more seriously and joined a Bible class too.
I remember we studied Acts at that time and three truths stood out for me:
1) God is holy
With just one lie, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by God. I had always thought (or thought I knew) that God was ready to forgive or overlook the sins that are committed. But obviously I was taking God’s grace for granted. God had been so very patient with me through all my daily faults and acts of unholiness. For every second that He extends our life, it must be used for His purposes. And it’s not too late to start on the journey of sanctification.
2) God is gracious
God did not leave us without help—He gave us the Holy Spirit. He is constantly with us and we are His temple. We are saved to do good works and to bring glory to His name.
3) God chooses the most unlikely
Saul’s (who became Paul) life was completely transformed after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. Even though he was not one of the original 12 disciples who spent much time with the Lord Jesus, he did no less in bringing the gospel to many nations. Paul’s huge faith and the Lord’s work in his life was ultimately to bring the gospel to the Gentiles (like me). If God chooses us, we must be prepared to work for Him.
As I grew in a greater understanding of the Bible through cross referencing, word study, and character study, I was convinced that the Bible was not just a history book but the true and living Word of God.
The AVM was just God’s way of bringing me (and my parents) to church again to know Him in a personal way like never before.