James 1:17 (New International Version)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Mary was not a leprosy patient. Rather, she worked as a medical resident at Brand's leprosy hospital in India. One day she went on a picnic outing in a station wagon driven by a young student out to demonstrate his bravery. After following a poky school bus for several miles the driver, thoroughly exasperated, jerked the car into the passing lane and floored the accelerator. When he saw another car coming head-on, he instinctively stomped on the brake pedal-but hit the gas instead. The station wagon veered over a bridge and tumbled down a steep embankment.
Mary Verghese, promising young physician, lay motionless at the bottom of the bank. Her face was slit in a deep gash from cheekbone to chin. Her lower limbs dangled uselessly, like two sticks of wood. .
Mary's next few months were almost unbearable. As summer temperatures reached 110 degrees outside, Mary lay in her sweltering hospital room, in traction, wrapped in a perspex jacket and plastic brace. She faced agonizing hours of therapy. Each week nurses would test her for sensation, and each week she would fail, never feeling the pinpricks on her legs.
After observing her downward spiral of despair, Dr. Brand stopped by her room for a visit. "Mary," he began, "I think it's time to begin thinking of your professional future as a doctor." At first she thought he was joking, but he went on to suggest that she might bring to other patients unique qualities of sympathy and understanding. She pondered his suggestion a *Mary's story is told in Take My Hands by Dorothy Clarke Wilson.
long time, doubting whether she would ever recover sufficient use of her limbs to function as a doctor.
Gradually, Mary began to work with the leprosy patients. The hospital staff noticed that patients' self-pity, hopelessness, and sullenness seemed to fade when Mary Verghese was around.
Leprosy patients whispered among themselves about the wheelchair doctor (the first in India) who was more disabled than they were, whose face, like theirs, bore scars. Before long Mary Verghese began assisting at surgery- tedious, exhausting work for her in a sitting position.
One day Dr. Brand met Mary rolling her wheelchair between buildings of the hospital and asked how she was doing. "At first the threads seemed so tangled and broken," she replied, "but I'm beginning to think life may have a pattern after all." Mary's recovery was to involve many excruciating hours of therapy, as well as major surgery on her spine. She remained incontinent for life and fought constantly against pressure sores. But she now had a glimmer of hope. She began to understand that the disability was not a punishment sent by God to entrap her in a life of misery. Rather, it could be transformed into her greatest asset as a doctor. In her wheelchair, with her crooked smile, she had immediate rapport with disabled patients.
Eventually Mary learned to walk with braces. She worked under scholarship in New York's Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and ultimately headed up a new department at the Physiotherapy School in Vellore, India.
Mary stands as an outstanding example of a person who got nowhere asking why a tragedy happened. But as she turned toward God and asked to what end, she learned to trust him to weave a new design for her life. In doing so, Mary Verghese has probably achieved far more than she would have had the accident not occurred.
Mary Verghese offers a great contrast to people I know who have turned away from God because of their suffering. They talk about their illness, often hypochondriacally, as if it's the only part of their lives. They give full vent to the self-pity that smolders beneath the surface in each of us.
Dear Lord we pray that we would take the gifts that You have given us and that we would use them to show Your love to all those in our life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.