Ky and Bill Prevette

Reflections with Charles Wesley from Hospital in Spain – Pain


June 2, 2010

I was hospitalized in Barcelona Spain on May 19th with Acute Pancreatitis. This was probably the most painful experience of my life, certainly the only time as an adult I have been in the hospital for anything other than an injury

During my 9 day hospitalization. a colleague from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies sent me the words to Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, ‘Jesus Lover of My Soul’. On the last night I was in the hospital I wrote a personal reflection about my time of illness and a few lessons learned. I was particularly struck with the  the 3rd stanza of the hymn.

I don’t know what it was in Charles Wesley’s life that brought him to write this hymn but it does parallel so much my personal  pain and angst. I include the entire hymn here followed by my thoughts from a hospital room in Spain:

Jesus, lover of my soul,    
  Let me to thy bosom fly,    
While the nearer waters roll,    
  While the tempest still is high:    
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide           
  Till the storm of life is past,    
Safe into the haven guide,    
  O, receive my soul at last!    
Other refuge have I none,    
  Hangs my helpless soul on thee;           
Leave, ah, leave me not alone,    
  Still support and comfort me:    
All my trust on thee is stayed,    
  All my help from thee I bring;    
Cover my defenceless head 
  With the shadow of thy wing.    
Wilt thou not regard my call?    
  Wilt thou not accept my prayer?    
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall!    
  Lo! on thee I cast my care!
Reach me out thy gracious hand    
  While I of thy strength receive,    
Hoping against hope I stand,    
  Dying, and behold I live!    

Plenteous grace with thee is found,    
  Grace to cover all my sin;    
Let the healing streams abound,
  Make and keep me pure within:    
Thou of life the fountain art;    
  Freely let me take of thee,    
Spring thou up within my heart,    
  Rise to all eternity!

A Personal Reflection after 9 days in a Barcelona Hospital, written May, 27th 2010

May 19 – 20
Wilt thou not regard my call?    
  Wilt thou not accept my prayer?

By the first night of my hospital stay it was clear I was in real trouble, with pain like I have not known before. I am usually ok with physical pain if I understand what is going on around me in this case I felt lost and confused.  The nurses spoke no English, the man with whom I was sharing a room had a family member spending the night with him (typical in Spain) and these guys snored so loud it was impossible to sleep. It seems humorous now but I was praying out loud at a pretty high volume – ‘OH God help me – make these guys shut up or heal their adenoids’.  To no avail, I slept 2 hours that night and watched the dawn with something like knives in my abdomen. My two room partners got up and immediately started talking and laughing like they were at a soccer match. (Later I found out they were from Southern Spain and  love large gatherings with lots of noise, the room was full of their family most of the day talking and laughing. If I had known these lyrics I would have sung them ‘wilt you not regard my call – wilt thou not accept my prayer.’
May 21-24
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall!    
  Lo! on thee I cast my care!  

Night two was a repeat of one, by now I understood there is no real treatment for acute pancreatitis (at least here in this hospital) other than shut down all oral intake and ride it out living on pain killers. Usually pain killers just make me have strange dreams and I suppose they dull pain but I feel the pharmaceutical companies have created their own language with ‘pain killers’. The nurses gave me morphine that night to calm me down as I was getting so agitated at the snoring and complete lack of control I had in the situation.  I ‘cast my care on God’ and asked to be moved to another room the next day. What is that cliché about ‘jumping from the frying pan into the fire’? The next three nights were painful but things were starting to feel more like small pieces of glass in my abdomen than knives. But my new room mate redefined the term snoring.  I had fluid in my lungs so I could not make a noise that loud if I had to. As soon as he woke up, he went in our common bathroom and smoked a cigarette and the fumes made me sick.  Funny thing was he was a big likeable guy. We talked a bit – he in Cataluña and me in English, and we got to be buddies. I probably slept 2 hours each night. I had a positive CT scan on Monday and my new buddy was released on Tuesday the day I started showing some real improvement. Just as I was starting to think ‘at last a night where I might sleep a few hours’ the nurses came and  told me they would move me again.  So I just threw up my hands and said oh well, ‘Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall Lo! on thee I cast my care! Whatever you think of God in times like this it is pretty clear we don’t direct the movie. God writes his Story in our lives but this sort of writing is painful.

Reach out thy gracious hand    
  While I of thy strength receive,    
Hoping against hope I stand,    
 Dying, and behold I live!   

My new room mate was a younger guy in his 40s in much worse shape than I. Last year he  had colon cancer and part of his colon removed. He is back this time with 10 inch incision up his abdomen because his bowel was twisted and occluded. He made no noise whatsoever at night, other than to occasionally moan in the night. By now I was feeling like I would live and I prayed with deep empathy that God would touch him. ‘Reach out thy gracious hand’ not to me but this brother who needs a touch from you.  His mother slept in a chair next to him. My strength was slowly returning, now I had only to contend with Level 5 pain and diarrhoea and needing to pee every 10 minutes. ‘While of thy strength I receive hoping against hope’ I was beginning to see in my personal trial that this  too shall pass.

Each day got progressively better. I was hooked to about 4 bags of IV, had a sub-clavian catheter for feeding. They took out my wrist IV on Tuesday and the sub-clavian on Wednesday. Now they are monitoring my progress which seems good, I am swollen like a balloon from all the inflammation but I am able to walk and ‘stand’.  On Thursday my doctor said my blood analysis was good and I could be released to travel on Friday.  

This ordeal began on the day we were scheduled to fly back to London. I have asked every day since starting to improve if I can leave at the end of the week. The doctors just tell me that I have a serious condition and it had potential to be fatal. ‘Dying, and behold I live’. I now see these words in a much different perspective. Its true what they say about trauma and near-death experiences, it does get your attention.

I am now beginning a new chapter of my life. Joining OCMS is a part of that. I will continue with care in the UK, hopefully avoiding any surgery, and will need to lose at least 30-40 pounds and be super vigilant about my diet. I will need to adopt a new lifestyle – where reflection, soul and body care are not just pretty words.  

Wesley was right – living is not to be taken for granted. We rest in Him! Thanks be to God for giving us life in both weakness, frailty and recovery.

Bill Prevette

4 Responses to Reflections with Charles Wesley from Hospital in Spain – Pain

  • Dear Bill,
    What can I say? I’m sorry you had to suffer this way. I’m glad you had this hymn to meditate on. I hope you are feeling better and are on the road of recovery.
    It’s about time you started to find your clothing in a dresser than out of a suitcase. Time to get your home base secure and settled.

    I will pray for your complete recovery and get back to you as to my journey here at Timberline.


  • Thanks Bill for you note and concern, we are getting settled and it is good to finally have a ‘home’.

  • How I praise the Lord for your recovery! What a traumatic event. I too have had a near death experience(1994) and it changed my life. i will continue to pray for your complete recovery and your new duties in Oxford. I just finished reading your last newsletter about the ordeal in Spain. As you know, I am putting together a missionary birthday and anniversary calendar and I didn’t have your address. i noticed on your newsletter that your home telephone number left out the last digit. What comes after 918? The calendar is finished and now we jsut have to come up with a way to market it for the congregation. Got any ideas?

    Blessings to you and Ky. We love you.

  • Pat,

    I just had surgery yesterday to remove my gall bladder, I have been dealing with pretty constant abdominal pain since the pancreatic attack and most recently a case of diverticulits in my lower GI. Thanks for praying and your concerns.

    Our home telephone number when dialing from the USA is :011-44-1865-425-918

    The land lines in the UK don’t have that extra digit you are asking about.