The engagement was to happen in Korea, with the romantic cherry blossoms around. A few of the Victory Parkers (in case you don’t know who they are, you can read on the “How They Met” section) have booked an 8-day trip to Korea and Dan knew that the proposal had to happen there. Prior to going there, Dan and I kept praying for provision, good health, and approval of everyone’s visa. We were excited and we had allotted the budget for the trip individually and although the itinerary wasn’t set yet, we were not worried because a friend who was going with us had after all, set foot in the country before. And without me knowing, Dan had another prayer in mind: To give me an awesome time in Korea and to give me the best engagement proposal. A week before the Korea trip, I was with my family in Baguio for a vacation. Unbeknownst to me, it was where I actually acquired the infections that would manifest days later.
We did not imagine an overwhelming infection and a life-threatening condition. We did not plan extending our stay in a foreign land and being walled in the emergency room for 5 days. Nor did we envision worrying and asking for financial help.
The trip to the hospital happened early morning, around 4am. I was shivering like crazy and I couldn’t breathe. It was all a blur. I knew I was still able to go down the stairs and get inside the cab. Dan told me that it was the palest he had seen me. I had turned violet and my lips were blue and all wrinkly. I had no idea that my look drew alarmed glances from the hospital staff. The moment I laid on the ER bed, a rush of needles and tubes invaded my body. I remember the doctor telling Dan that it was a good thing that I was rushed to the hospital earlier or the outcome could have been different. I later learned that he told Dan that it would have been the last time he’d see me. And based from the medical certificate, I was diagnosed with septic shock, infective endocarditis, and acute pyelonephritis. It also stated Ventricular Septal Defect (which I’ve had since birth) and Eisenmenger’s syndrome, which surprised me because I knew I had Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) but not this. Because of language barriers (yes, they can speak broken English but medical terms made it a bit difficult), Sunny, a Korean woman from Every Nation Church Korea whom we met just two days prior, came to help us. She explained that I had urinary infection, kidney infection, and blood or systemic infection. And the doctors were scared that it might affect my heart. I was supposed to be admitted to the ICU. Several negotiations were also made regarding the hospital bills because they were shockingly sky high! We were almost thrown out because no deposit was made on the first day. We suspected that they had us stay in the ER the whole 5 days because our deposit was not enough. Things were indeed shaky and certainly not what we expected it to be.
What do you do when things that you’ve prayed for seemed to be answered and life is happening the way you wanted it but suddenly the paths seem to change? What happens when a supposedly happy trip and a romantic, joyful event—a proposal—turns bad and life threatening? Do you blame someone? Do you curse God? Would you give in to dejection and anger? Or would you give it all to God and let Him take you through it and let Him do His work?
Dan was going through a lot of these emotions and questions. I, on the other hand, prayed a bit here and there…thought of God here and there. I couldn’t keep a rein on my thoughts. All I felt were physical pains and nausea. The 5 days were all somehow hazy to me. I honestly don’t know how I was able to talk to the doctors when they asked me questions or even the people who came to visit and pray for me. I didn’t have that certain grip on logic and reality as things felt so surreal and nightmarish. For someone who often relied on my brain and my intellect to guide me whenever I needed to stay awake and strong when I experienced physical pains, it was hard. I didn’t know back then that my mental blackouts, delusions, and hallucinations were a result of the illnesses and biological mutiny that was going on in my body. Negative thoughts still seemed to find its way to me though. I was worried about the hospital bills and for Dan’s health. I was worried for him because getting sleep there was next to impossible. He went through a lot as well. Watching me in pain, doing everything he can to make me feel comfortable, communicating with family and friends— which was hard because we had to rely on the Internet connection/Wi-Fi which the ER did not have. It meant going one floor up every time. He endured exhausting days and sleepless nights and more.
Yes, we did not expect what was supposed to be a promising vacation to turn out this way. But we also did not imagine the love pouring out to us from family and friends, and even a few strangers. And I did not foresee Dan’s love and care would go beyond what is expected of a boyfriend. I did not imagine him sacrificing. It was a picture of his great love…a picture of “in sickness and in health.” And we did not imagine witnessing God’s faithfulness and His saving hand in our lives.
Our family, friends, spiritual family in Cebu, and a few people we met for only a few hours in Every Nation Church Korea, and even someone we just befriended at the subway station have all shown great love through prayers, financial support, and concern. Dan and I couldn’t have been more grateful.
But what I certainly did not anticipate was the proposal. I’m someone who usually has great instincts and most times, I get those instincts right. Yes, I did think that he might propose in Korea but I shoved that thought away. Like anything else, I never want to assume. Battling physical, mental and emotional pains; a proposal was the farthest thing on my mind. It happened on the last day of our stay in the hospital. He did it right in that tiny space in the ER. I kept bugging him to buy me food even though it was early in the morning and the fast food places and restaurants inside the hospital were still closed. He finally went out to buy and by the time he came back, I was in such a hungry and sleepy state. I was still feeling nauseous and my head and stomach was experiencing all sorts of different sensations. So he came back and I told him I wanted to eat. He told me was going to do something. In my rational state, I would have raised questions and would know what he was about to do. But all I did was nod and close my eyes. I heard him ask a nurse if there was a tray and I did wonder why he would need a tray when he didn’t need it all those other days. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a tray. Then I saw him fixing something. While he was doing this thing, a patient was ushered right beside my bed and he was oblivious to it. When he finally noticed, the box fell down. It was actually a small cupcake box. But no, the cupcake did not fall out to the floor. I heard him say something (something like “I’m just going to do this”) as he closed the curtains all around us (which the nurses actually hated). He knelt down right beside my bed. And yes, my drug-addled brain had some difficulty deciphering his words. I knew he said that he wanted to take care of me for the rest of his life and he wanted to share forever with me. Of course, I heard him ask me the proverbial question— “Will you marry me?” And what do you answer to that? His proposal might not seem the typical “kilig-inducing” thing that you get to see on TV but it meant that much to me. I looked back on those 5 horrible days and everything came flashing back. I saw the depth of his love for me and how he had seen me at my ugliest and worst. The pale, deathly face…the puking spells…sacrificing the little sleep he had the moment I woke up because I wanted something…listening to me complain about things that didn’t even make sense…seeing me all sick and dirty. How could I possibly say “no” to this man? “In sickness and in health” never rang so true.
I laughed and said, “Why am I not crying?” He hugged me and that’s when the tears came. From both of us. The moment was ruined when we heard a voice asking, “Can I come in?” We had to open the curtains as the doctor talked to us. It was our last day in the hospital and it was a good day to end our incredible ordeal in Korea. I could not wait to go home. I wanted to see my family. I longed for my wide bed. I couldn’t wait to regain my strength and start anew. The engagement seemed to be a prelude to that.
We battled but we (actually it was more of Dan) fought with prayers. When circumstances are out of your control (like what happened to us), you surrender. You give them all to God. Dan found a new and stronger confidence in God. God seemed to answer his prayers for that proposal in Korea but when things took a swerve, he still had to hand in the plans to God. It’s still all about Him. Even when things seem to mess up, even when they look ugly, it will always be beautiful. At the end of the day, there is an unwanted gift…in the form of love and faith, and in the beauty of who God is. I’m still recovering (I still have the infections and doctors here in Cebu are still uncertain with my heart condition) but I know He will heal me completely. He has saved me that one time in the ER so I am confident that He will continue to save me. We’re still reeling from the financial difficulties from the hospital confinement but we know He will provide for us. He will give us the wedding we’ve dreamed of. And more importantly, He will give us the kind of marriage that is centered on Him.
*For more details, check Wela’s future blog posts on “Wake-Up Calls”.