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Hospitalized 7th-grader shares his faith

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Sandra Flaherty’s son, Michael, was about halfway into a seven-week-long rehabilitation regimen at a Boston hospital when he received a surprise present from fellow church members: a Nintendo Wii.

The popular game system included an exercise module designed to make his daily routine easier and more fun.

The seventh-grader called the gift from Hunsinger Lane Baptist Church “over and beyond a million percent.”

“I couldn’t put it into words,” he said of the support that included more than 150 get well cards and other expressions of encouragement for him and his family.

“My Sunday School class did stuff for me, or their parents, or their parents’ friends,” Michael said of the Louisville, Ky., church.

“People across the country were praying for me — people I didn’t even know,” he added.

Michael admitted that when his battle with CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) began, it shook his faith. Not only did his condition keep getting worse, he kept praying but not seeing any answers.

“When I got to Boston and met some nice doctors, they knew I wasn’t faking it,” Michael said of the frustration of originally being told there was nothing wrong with him. “I met other people, too, and we cheered each other on.”

Still, he had a painful first week there, screaming regularly because of pain and continuing to suffer numerous symptoms. Doctors told him that was normal for the first week, which proved to be true.

At the end of that week, he was able to twitch a toe without it hurting. That was followed by a foot and an ankle.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Michael said of his first pain-free movements in months. “It was the most awesome miracle I had ever seen.”

His mother is proud of the way her son regularly asked doctors and other hospital personnel if they were Christians.

One of those encounters was with a clinical assistant who regularly visited with Michael and handled tasks that his condition prevented him from undertaking.

Michael asked if the man’s Baptist church had AWANA, a Bible-based children’s program. The question subsequently led to a visit from an AWANA representative to the church – followed by plans to start AWANA there this fall.

“I felt so good,” Michael said when he learned of the church’s decision. “I was so happy. I saw how God was using this and how He can turn something bad into something good. It shows how good He is.”

“My little missionary,” said his mother, who has taught 3- and 4-year-olds in the AWANA program at Hunsinger Lane for 10 years. “There are hardly any AWANA churches in Massachusetts.”

Flaherty said her son also shared his faith in Christ with four teenage girls who were in the same rehabilitation wing.

A booklet of about 30 Bible verses about healing and other topics that she prepared for Michael to use during therapy proved so popular she wound up making copies for all the girls, Flaherty said.

Today, after once thinking he would never walk again, Michael plans to play for his middle school’s soccer team and is overjoyed that he is able to run and do back flips on his trampoline.

Reflecting on the most important lesson he’s learned during the past six months, Michael said he sees that when life is rough and it feels like nothing will get better, God is always there.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “He’s always waiting for you and He’s always with you.

“That’s huge. God does everything for a reason. We can’t always see it but we’ve got to trust Him.”

His mother, meanwhile, has become an advocate for informing the public about CRPS, which used to be known as RSD, for reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Hence, the website for CRPS is www.rsds.org.

Usually caused by a minor trauma, CRPS is characterized by such symptoms as burning, stabbing pain, extreme sensitivity to any touch, swelling and pain that steadily worsens instead of getting better.

The doctor who admitted Michael to the clinic in Boston told Flaherty that he had treated 900 patients with CRPS over the last 25 years.

“What a horrifying statistic,” Flaherty said.

She said that 80 percent of patients respond to outpatient and occupational therapy, with only 20 percent becoming severe enough to require further intervention.
Ken Walker is a freelance writer based in Huntington, W.Va.

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