German Retreat (Part 1) Dec 17- Jan 1, 2019

Arriving in Germany was magical. It was cold, dark, and misty. We landed in the dead of night. I felt very groggy, but upbeat as I walked down the little plane’s steps, wrapped in a scratchy blanket from the air ambulance. There was an American ambulance, shiny and new, twice the size of its Cameroonian counterpart pulled up close to the plane. It was a pleasing sight to see such black tarmac and well maintained lamps making the fog glow. The girl who greeted me seemed my age, and did a quick handoff with the German doctor. She was smily and had very white teeth, and dark, well shaped brows. By her uniform she was Air Force. “How’re you doin’? Welcome to Germany! Do you need another blanket? You can lie down if you want.” “I’m fine.” I replied as I climbed in and sat on the stretcher. There wasn’t any tape to be seen on these walls. “Where are you coming from?” She asked. “Cameroon.” “Wow! That must be pretty different. Well, we’re headed to Landstuhl. It’s the biggest military hospital outside the US. You’ll be in good hands.” The ride was so smooth… “I find myself hoping there’s actually something wrong with me. Poor Tricare insurance is sure getting the squeeze tonight!”

I’m not used to being out alone… without children, husband, guards, students, housekeeper, gardener, chores, cooking, responsibilities, management. My mind went to a new zone. Just me and God’s Spirit in me.

Before I knew it, I was offloaded and taken to a room in the hospital. There were two beds there, but the other one was empty. A nurse came in, introduced herself, and was getting an IV ready. “I already have one” I told her. “Sorry, we can’t use it… we have to make sure it’s done right.” She took out the German IV and started and Amurrcan one.

First Red Blood Cell Transfusion. Much thicker than I pictured. I could feel it going in my vein and my heart pumping it about.

The on call doctor came in to see me after no time at all. He had a California swagger about him as he wheeled towards me on the little round stool. He pushed around on my abdomen. Satisfied to not sense anything dire, he said “Well, you’ve got about three red blood cells left. I’m gonna take em, and then we’ll give you a transfusion. K?” I gave him the thumbs up and signed on the dotted line.

Little did I know, the family communication lines were firing up. One of my cousins has a dear friend living close by Landstuhl and she’d given her a call. Nan is not the sort of girl many of us know who fear being awkward or imposing. She is a bulldozer of love- moving mountains and getting it done- smiling, laughing, and being fabulous. She and her husband were in their car, driving back from Italy when my cousin called. Nan contacted a friend of hers that works in the massive Landstuhl Hospital. Her friend just so happened to be the person tracking my flight- God at work. The next morning Nan was by my side in the Hospital. From that moment on we were sisters.

Culture shock from Cameroon to Germany was so, so sweet. The slogan pictured, “Selfless Service”, made me cry with delight. I didn’t have to prove myself to them. Everyone served me without complaint, sideways glance or me having to prove anything.

We giggled (and grimaced) our way through a bone marrow biopsy the next morning. We were an overnight comedy duo, making Dr. W (hematologist-oncologist) and whatever nurses were around crack up along with us. It felt magical to have laughter come easy, food delivered to the room, a break from my normal life, and best of all, enough blood in my veins. I felt invigorated, and full of a positive mindset with no effort at all- ready for anything!

Nurse:”You’re getting discharged after the biopsy. And sorry… you can’t stay at the Fisher House*.” *(establishment right next to the hospital designed for out patients who come from outside the country… still not sure why they turned my application down, but so glad they did!). My dear Nan: “No problem, you can stay with us! I’ll drive you to all your appointments.” Nurse: “That’s so great you knew someone who is close by!” “Oh, now I do! We just met yesterday!” Nurse: “Oh wow.”

The drive between Nan’s and the hospital

The next few days were magical. Waking up at Nan’s was so peaceful. Coffee, croissants, no responsibilities, praying, journaling, thanking God for the break from wild life in Cameroon…

View from Nan’s kitchen window
A few of my favorite things

I felt incredibly indebted to Nan and her husband for letting me stay with them… they wanted nothing in return. I filled my time with extended prayer and contemplation, deep conversations with Nan over coffee, and extravagant cooking. The grocery stores were such a treat, especially the one we went to just across the border in France. Dingy floor, poor lighting, but the food… oh the food!!!!

Cora grocery store- the picture can’t do it justice… there were lemons by region, mangosteen and exotic fruits, fragrances wafting invitingly from the different baskets…
Tapas Christmas dinner
New Years Dinner- The best fillet mignon I’ve ever tasted (let alone made!)

A friend from college happened to live just over an hour train ride away. I checked with Dr W if I could go. He didn’t see why not! My body felt strong, my mind was filled with God’s praise and prayers for my kids and husband… the train ride to Heidelberg flew by and I prayed there and back, and in between.

If you haven’t visited Heidelberg, you’re missing out. If you don’t have a college friend that lives there, you need one. In particular, one that is beautiful, loving, caring, talented, and makes the most delicious babies imaginable.

Train ride to Heidelberg
Heidelberg Christmas Market- a snack on my walk from the train station to my friends’ house.

TO BE CONTINUED…