Do You Believe in Miracles?
Written by Holly Knipp

February 2005

Although I am still young, God has provided me with experiences in life, which I believe gave me the focus, strength and determination to achieve my dreams.

Two things have been a constant in my life, my love for God and for sports. I've played organized sports since I was five. At the age of fourteen I was playing softball, basketball, competitive soccer, and competing in karate at a national level. What I didn't know was that it was all going to come to a sudden end, and my faith in God would be severely tested.

In November of my freshman year, I found four painful lumps in my breast and there was concern that it might be breast cancer. Ten days prior to my surgery I was injured playing indoor soccer. The injury left me with a large, painful knot on my lower leg. However, this was overshadowed by my up coming surgery.

To my great relief my tumors were benign. I lost a large part of one breast and had some recovering to do, and I put my leg problem aside. I didn't know it, but my leg injury was going to change my life in the most radical way.

My lump on my leg wasn't getting better and the pain was getting worse. I saw several doctors, but I wasn't improving. To make matters worse an orthopedic surgeon gave me a steroid injection in my leg, which succeeded in dissolving the lump and almost all of the tissue under the skin. I now had a painful, colorful depression the size of a golf ball on my leg.

Five doctors later, a neurologist determined I had a permanent nerve disorder known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). RSD is generally caused by injury to a nerve or nerve cluster. A healthy nerve can transmit a wide range of sensations, such as pressure, cold, hot and pain. In RSD every sensation becomes pain. As RSD progresses so does the pain’s intensity.

The long-term outlook for RSD is not good. The sympathetic nervous system becomes hypersensitive to pain, and it is common for RSD to spread throughout your entire body and with time lead to total disability.

As my pain increased, my activities decreased. I slowly had to drop all my sports and activities that I loved. I had to watch my friends play without me and it broke my heart. My emotions were like a roller coaster, and I was becoming scared for my future. Although I had found a group of doctors who understood my problem, they were unable to find a treatment to help me. Eventually the pain became so intense that I no longer could move without my brace and my doctors could only use tissues to touch my leg and even that would usually make me cry.

I was brought to a new low in August of my junior year when the pain became unbearable, and I was unable to walk. This led to a series of spinal injections, which decreased the pain and helped me to walk again. Although I was walking again with pain, the steroids caused me to gain 30 unwanted pounds and acne which sent me into a depression.

In my quest to get better, I had seen over 30 specialists and explored numerous treatments. In 2004, I spent a week at the Mayo Clinic with one of the few world-renowned RSD pediatric specialists. There seemed to be no cure for me but I was adjusting.

As my RSD got progressively worse, my faith in God grew cold. I was angry and bitter. I daily questioned how God could let this happen, and why didn't He take this away? How could He possibly love me while putting me through so much pain?

For three years, I wore a mask everyday of my life. I walked around school with a smile on my face but a tear in my heart. Not even my closest friends knew how intense my pain had become.

In October of my senior year, a doctor from Canada claimed to have the cure for RSD and brought it down to the states to test it on me. For the first four days my life was great. I was walking without pain and I was even playing two-hand touch football with my friends. I was a kid again, and I had never been happier.

But on the fifth day I was not prepared for what was about to happen to me. When I woke up that morning I started to feel the pain in my left hand, then the toes of both feet, and throughout my shoulders. Instead of healing me, the machine had un-localized my RSD and it had spread all over my body. It was a devastating time for my family and me. We tried a new injection to the front of my spine that unfortunately was administered through my throat. We added several new drugs, but the side effects outweighed the benefits. I was going to have to adjust to my new limitations.

At this point, I lost all hope. Even receiving a high five from a friend shot pains all over my body and could leave me in tears for hours. Because I was disabled, I was unable to continue my work program at school and was forced to stop anything left in my life that gave me joy.

When I thought about my future, I would start to cry. My dreams were shattered, and all I could do was watch as my future slowly slipped further and further away from me. I no longer could dream about going off to college with my friends or even someday, play with my kids in the backyard.

It was difficult not to be scared, depressed and angry all at the same time. RSD produces a unique stabbing, burning pain that takes your breath away. As soon as I would walk into the cold, I would be hit with intense pain from every part of my body. On a scale of 1-10 my pain was sometimes a 12.

Everything around me made me nervous. I had to be extra cautious everywhere I went to make sure nothing would hit me because after it had spread anywhere I received even the slightest bit of trauma my RSD would immediately spread to that area of my body.

In November of 2004, I started a bible study with a fellow church member, Kristi Bergen, which slowly rebuilt my faith. On February 1st of 2005, I picked up my Bible for the first time in nearly three years and read something that would have a lasting impact on my health, my state of mind and my spirit.

In Psalm 71 I read, "Turn your ear to me and save me...Do not forsake me when my strength is gone. Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again."

After reading these verses I had a peace come over me and I knew immediately that everything was going to be okay and for the first time in close to three years, I trusted God to lead me out of the darkness. At that moment, I knew that even if I was paralyzed for the rest of my life, that I would be okay because God was going to take care of me.

The next day my life changed forever. I was sitting at our Wednesday night youth service, and we were all silently praying at our seats. During this time, I did something I hadn't done in years; I prayed my heart out!

With tears streaming down my face I begged God to take away my pain, to make me whole again. I rededicated my life to Him and asked Him to take away just an ounce of my pain, and I meant every word. As I repeated these words, I felt His presence for the first time in over three years and I burst into sobs.

I felt him hold me, comfort me, and go through me. Then, I felt a tingle go from the top of my head down to my toes and I knew immediately what had happened. I reached out for my hand, and the pain was gone! I grabbed my knee, which I had not done in three years, and felt no pain. I was healed!

This was a pain I felt every moment of my life for the past three years and God had taken it away from me in a second. My whole body shook with anticipation; I was finally free. I was free from all the pain and suffering I'd experienced for three years. God had healed me.

I was so happy I started jumping around church yelling, "I can jump! I can jump!" I cannot fully explain the thoughts and feelings that were rushing through me. A girl who couldn't even be touched with a tissue because the pain was so bad, a girl who couldn't walk from her bed to her closet without tears, a girl who couldn't walk at all a year ago, a girl whose dreams were shattered, was healed!

That night, I cried the hardest I've ever cried my whole life. The joy was overwhelming. As I saw my youth group coming to me in tears, something clicked, and I knew that this was the reason I had suffered, that this was the reason I'd gone through so much pain.

I had finally found my purpose. I am God's purpose. He healed me to show the world that He is truly amazing and wonderful.

All my life I have been waiting to see a miracle. To see some kind of sign that would show me that God is real. I waited for three years for God to heal me, but when He didn't I stopped believing in miracles. I stopped trusting in Him.

The whole time I was waiting, all this time I couldn't believe in miracles, God was creating one. I am His miracle. He had always been there for me, but I couldn't see it because I chose not to trust in Him.

He is the almighty God. The whole time I was consumed with anger, He was loving His child and making things happen for me. Now, as I look back on the night God healed me, I feel shameful for ever doubting Him and His love for me. Although I am unworthy of His mercy and love He still gave me what no one else ever could, a second chance at life, my miracle.

I am forever changed and grateful. Pain and suffering can be a great teacher, and I believe they have taught me many valuable life lessons.

I've learned to never stop dreaming and believing, to not turn your back on your faith when you can't understand. I have tremendous empathy for others who suffer and are in need. I believe I can make a difference in a person's life. My goal is to show that dreams can be reached and goals met if worked hard enough for them, and to let everyone know that miracles do happen.