Pills for Breakfast: Looking for God on the Operating Table

Pills for Breakfast: Looking for God on the Operating Table

There I was, stomach down on the operating table, in only a hospital gown and my underwear, and I found myself doing the one thing I hadn’t sincerely done in months.

I was praying.

With my whole heart, my whole being, and my whole soul, I was saying the most earnest prayer I could remember saying in a long, long time.

“Dear God. Please, please, PLEASE be with me right now. Please, whatever happens, please do not let them hit a nerve. Please God. I could not handle it if that happened. Please God. You are the only one I can ask for help right now. I need you. I need this. Please help me.”

It was my second trip to the Mayo Clinic and I was in the midst of what was supposed to be a 10-minute epidural that had passed the hour mark. The original doctor had been unable to get the needle through my spine in my middle back, and another doctor had to be called in to consult.

Eventually, they decided to go through my lower back, but to get the medication in the right place, they had to thread a catheter tube up my spine — no easy task. They kept threading it to the left when it needed to go right, and so they had to keep pulling it back down my spine and out of my body and redoing it.

bigstock-Surgeons-See-more-in-my-portf-12370376In case you’re wondering, it really hurts when they do that, and you can totally feel it.

Before the procedure, everyone I talked to, from the nurse who checked my blood pressure to the actual doctor slated to give me the epidural, had assured me seven ways from Sunday that this was going to be a quick and easy procedure.

They told me there was no reason to give me any of the sedative I had been given when I had undergone a similar procedure awhile back, because this one was just going to be so dog gone easy.

I should have known then that it wouldn’t be. But I nervously took them at their word.

Eventually though, as I heard the doctor tell his resident, “I’ve just never seen anything like this before,” I started to worry that this whole thing was going to be full of worst-case scenarios. One of which was that they could hit one of my nerves during the procedure, which could send a shooting pain down my leg, that, from what I could gather, would hurt like hell.

So, as more and more things went wrong, I lost more and more faith in the doctors poking me in the spine. And eventually, I turned to the only one you can turn to when there’s nobody else left to help — God.

“I’m so sorry that we haven’t talked much in the last few months. I am so sorry that I haven’t been going to church. I swear, I am,” I prayed silently. “I just really need your help right now. Because I am going to freak the eff out if they hit my nerve. I’m telling you, I could not take that.”

Eventually, about 90 minutes after I first lay down on the table, they were done. The doctors had managed to get the medication into the right spot without hitting any of my nerves.

I could barely walk out of the room to where my clothes were, and it felt like someone had just stuck a bunch of needles into various parts of my back — mostly because they had.

All I could think about was that prayer though. I hadn’t prayed like that in such a long time.

So many people write how having a chronic illness strengthens their faith, how it brings them closer to God than they’ve ever been. But I have no idea how that happens. For me, it’s made me a little bit more of an atheist every day.

When I first got sick, before I was on any medications that helped at all, before I had any idea what might be happening to me, I would lay in bed at night, unable to fall asleep because of the pain, and I would literally cry out to God.

And in those moments, when the pain only got worse, He seemed so silent.

Then, when it became clear that I would have to resign my role as the youth leader at the church I was attending, I started to question whether this whole thing was somehow God’s way of telling me I wasn’t doing a good job leading the youth.

I know, I know, that’s probably not true. But when something like that happens to you, it’s impossible not to have those thoughts.

From there, I started to wonder how any God could ever let one of his children suffer the way I have.

And then, one night a few months ago, I was up all night in such severe pain that the next day the doctor gave me a shot of Dilaudid. Unfortunately, instead of relieving my pain, it promptly made me start vomiting uncontrollably. I literally threw up all night long, with barely enough time to catch my breath between each time.

It was the worst 48 hours of my entire life. And it was then that the questions of where God could possibly be during all of this really started to take root.

I really do believe that life with obscene chronic pain is the worst life imaginable, and I don’t understand how it could possibly lead anyone to have a closer relationship with God. For me, it has only made Him more and more distant.

Maybe I am angry or just confused. And maybe one day everything will become clear. But for now, I am in too much pain to make sense of the fact that a supposedly loving creator would let one of his creations endure such a thing.

And yet, there I was, on the operating table, praying with such a sincere heart that I barely recognized myself.

So I guess when it comes right down to it, I still want really want to believe. I need to.

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell is journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching “Burn Notice” episodes on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She has had pain in her right ribs since February 2013. It is currently undiagnosed.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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God never promised us a rose garden, as the song says. When we go through desperate times when we feel totally aone and forgotten about, the Lord is there, even though it doesn’t feel like it. It is times like these that build and strengthen faith. We wouldn’t fully comprehend and appreciate days filled with sunshine and rainbows if we hadn’t gone through storms that were so long and dark and that we thought we couldn’t survive another minute.


An interesting article about walking through the darkness if faith when we suffer pain. I hope it helps you. Hugs!


By the way, I suffered RSD last year, but it was caught in time. Since the RSD signs disappeared, but the pain stayed… We are getting closer to the cause if the original pain after a year and a half: Morton’s Neuroma. Waiting for an MRI in 2 weeks.


Sorry to hear about your physical and emotional pain. Even Jesus went through pain and we are not less than him. We might not understand things that happen. Sometimes people do find the answer at a certain point in their lives. One of my sisters had a horrendous car accident. She and her daughter were saved within the fires of their vehicle and it explored 5 seconds after the 2nd one was taken out. Their recovery took a long time. Both became closer to God. My sister still takes pain medication after almost 30 years. My mum died of MS consequences and she also grew closer to God, she brought us all closer to God. My dad stopped drinking a year before her diagnosis after he begged God to help him stop. If he had not accepted God’s grace at that moment, mum’s care would have been more difficult. So, yes, sometimes we don’t understand everything in life, but faith-hope-love in Him will help us walk through it. We are not being punished through it. It just happens. If we blame God for the “bad” things, we would also have to “praise” Him for the “good” ones. You asked God that the Drs would not touch any if your nerves during the procedure and He did help you out, none if the nerves were touch. Maybe that is what the Drs were referring to when they said they had never seen anything like that. Anyway, I saw some people gave you some advice in regards to some possible diagnosis. Ask for those tests and I wish you the best.


Costochondritis - Pain under right rib cage may be experienced due to costochondritis which refers to an inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone. This can occur due to injury, physical strain, infections, fibromyalgia and upper respiratory illnesses. Most often, costochondritis pain may be mistaken for cardio vascular disease symptoms. Other symptoms of costochondritis include pain when breathing or coughing and difficulty in breathing.

Catherine Nichols Pogorzelski

Crystal: Please have docs check blood for gene HLA-B27 for Ankylosing Spondylitis and other arthropathies and also get checked by a vascular surgeon for FMD-FIbromuscular dysplasia, two things I’d suspected many years ago and finally someone did the RIGHT tests FYI Good luck, I feel your pain! BTW any Lyme in your past? I’ve tested Positive three times, bitten only once/rash and treated with the cursory one month antibiotics, they use us as guinea pigs and don’t care that we suffer especially within the brain/autonomic system!
Do NOT take NO for an answer, any doctor unwilling to do a test is suspect in my book, get a new doc; also keep MRI contrast OUT of your veins, our bodies are retaining Gadolinium and soon it will be contraindicated in everyone we hope not jeu those with Kidney diseae. I have high amounts in me and fibrosis/stenosis/dermally and in bowel.
wishing you continued BETTER health…Cathy

Good column, Crystal.