Sunday, December 12, 2021

A wake-up call

My teenaged daughter blessed me with the privilege of sharing this testimony with you through my blog. She wrote it herself late last night. I was incredibly moved to read it and hope you are inspired too!
by Anna Ziebarth
I have been struggling with my emotional health for pretty much as long as I can remember. I was having a particularly rough year with various stupid decisions made along the way.
It was the eleventh of December, exactly one week from my sister’s wedding. I woke up that morning at 4 AM with intense stomach pain and feeling like I was going to puke. I immediately got up and went to the bathroom where I promptly vomited. I was still groggy and when I saw lots of dark red in the toilet; I almost panicked, but quickly racked my brain for what I had least eaten. Thank goodness I had eaten tomatoes the night before! Unfortunately, I was still in a lot of pain after vomiting, but I attempted to go back to sleep because I figured I would be fine and didn’t want to wake up my parents.
After about 15 minutes of painful tossing and turning, I got back up to wake up my parents. I explained the situation and my mom quickly got up and took me downstairs to find something to help my stomach settle. Once that was accomplished, I went back to bed and so did my mother. I tried very hard to sleep but the medication didn’t seem to help at all. This time I made it for 45 minutes of tossing and turning before I went back to wake up my mom again. She told me to go downstairs and lie on the couch and she would go and get a heating pad to see if that would help.
As the pad was heating up, she came to check my temperature, because, you know, COVID. Anyways, I didn’t have a fever but I was still feeling awful, so, on a hunch, my mother told me to lie on my back and started gently pressing on my stomach. At this point the pain had changed from what I thought was a bad stomachache to less painful but consistent pain in the lower right side. (This might sound familiar to some people.) When she pressed there and I reacted strongly, she immediately started asking me a few questions like if I had chills, was I nauseated, was the pain in a specific area, etc. After I answered she told me that she suspected I could have appendicitis, because she had experienced it before at about my age. Mom told me to get ready to go to the ER and went to wake up my family to let them know what was up, because at this point it was 7 AM.
I was, in fact, supposed to be working that morning at 7, but spoiler alert, never made it there. My mother, I think, was still waking up the rest of the way because when we got to the Waynesboro Hospital, she parked on the wrong side for the ER. I honestly just found it funny and said we could just walk around because I wasn’t really in pain for a bit. After we walked on some landscaping rocks around the building, we checked in immediately because there was no one else in the waiting room.
After the usual doctor visit things, like being interviewed behind a bright light and being poked and prodded with a variety of things, I was in my own so-called room. Once I was brutally stabbed (I might be slightly exaggerating) and hooked up to an IV, Dr. Kipe came in and gave me the rundown of what some possibilities were and what actions they were going to take. A lot of waiting in between an ultrasound and CT scan later, and Dr. Kipe was back with the final news. (There had only been three other patients in the ER with me throughout this whole time, but for your sanity and mine, I won’t talk about them anymore.) Dr. Kipe told me that I did in fact have appendicitis and that they would be sending me to Chambersburg Hospital to see Dr. Caine, who would evaluate me for an operation. But then he said, and I quote, “Let me rephrase that; You’re going to see Dr. Caine, and you’re going to have an operation.” He saw my Lord of the Rings memorabilia and promptly asked about it, which proceeded into our short discussion on our mutual disappointment in the Hobbit movies, and most importantly, how Legolas was our favorite character. (Apparently his son looks like Legolas and I’ll be honest that I’m totally jealous.)
The nurse came in not too long after he left and unhooked me from the IV and told me I could get ready to have my mom drive me to the Chambersburg Hospital. She left the IV in my arm so that I wouldn’t have to be stabbed again, and I was very glad about that. Thank you nurse whose name I don’t know! On the way out, another nurse offered to stand in for me if I couldn’t be in my sister’s wedding.
I wonder how strange it was for anyone driving by to see a hospital patient, still in a gown with an IV in her arm, walking over landscaping rocks by a highway. Maybe they thought a patient snuck out or something, who knows. At this point I felt totally fine, probably because I had been stuffed with pain and nausea medication. On the way to the other hospital, I found out that my immediate family (including my sister’s hooligan fiancĂ©) was going to meet us in the parking lot to show their support and tell me not to die. Even a really nice older lady that is a family friend said she was coming so she could pray for me before I went in at about noon. The friends I had informed of my condition all wished me well and even offered to bring me stuff, which I politely declined because I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anyways.
When we got on the interstate exit for the hospital, we heard someone honk behind us, and--lo and behold--my immediate family happened to be right behind us! And not only that, but a close family friend was in the car behind them, because he apparently was getting some bloodwork done. That was a hilarious coincidence. After our prayer pow-wow in the parking lot and my sister asking me if I was still sure I wasn’t faking it (I had joked about it that morning), we made our way into the ER.
A few confusions being cleared up later, I was suddenly being escorted to the PACU with my mom by a security guard. Before I knew it, I was on a gurney and Dr. Caine was informing me about what was going to happen next, and of course when she asked if I had any questions, I asked what they were going to do with my appendix. The anesthesiologist and a few others asked me questions, etc., and, boy, did I receive a lot of attention! Apparently, the hospital had been pretty busy and I was the only one there the whole time I was there, so of course I was very popular.
A doctor named Kris talked to me last and asked me if I had ever seen videos of people doing really dumb stuff after having a surgery, and apparently I gave him a look somewhere between are you serious and a death glare. Kris and another doctor found this hilarious and said the face I made was perfect and priceless. After he drugged me up, he told me that it also worked like truth serum and I wouldn’t remember all the secrets I spilled while I was under. He also joked to my mom that she should stay for the first little bit in case I said anything she needed to know.
At this point it gets pretty fuzzy, probably because I was under the influence, but I’ll talk about what I know. I don’t remember being wheeled to the operation room, but I do remember being rolled next to a very skinny operating table that I commented on, and was told people twice my size had been operated on at the very same table. I saw a guy with a beard on my life and he saw me looking at him so he waved at me. Someone, possibly Kris, informed me that this was Wade and that he would be part of the crew as well.
I don’t remember anything else until someone, maybe Kris, asked me if I wanted to see my appendix, to which I immediately answered yes. It was a lot smaller than I expected, about the size of my pinky and nice and flesh colored. After that, when I was apparently being rolled back (though I don’t remember the movement) Kris asked me if I was a senior and I told him, no, that I was a junior. Then he asked about what I was planning on doing after high school and I told him all about my current plan to go to Hagerstown Community College for two years to save money, and then transferring to Elon University, where I will take advantage of their study abroad program. Kris then asked if I knew my major and I told him it was complicated because I apparently didn’t feel like explaining media analytics at the time. I found out later that most of the operating crew was impressed not only that I woke up pretty fast, but that I was easily having conversations, even though I was still half under.
When we got back, they asked how I was doing and I said fine, but obviously I was groggy. I asked what time it was at least two times and both times it was “around two o’clock,” so I was clearly barely awake but apparently still lively. They asked me if I remembered anything and I said I remembered seeing my appendix and not much else, but after my mom came in a bit later, I remembered the other bits and pieces. According to one of the nurses, it was very unusual that I remembered that bit about Wade, and asked me if I knew him and I told her that I definitely did not. One of the doctors then made a joke about how it’s a good thing they didn’t insult me while I was under because I would’ve remembered, which we all laughed at.
After being monitored for about an hour, I was getting ready to head out because the hospital was very full and they needed more beds, so they sent me to recover at home for the next 48 hours with specific instructions for the next four weeks. By the time it was 3:15, I was being pushed on a wheelchair by a nurse on the way to the car. (That same nurse had given me a warm blanket when I came in, so, yeah, she was amazing!) I was finally allowed to eat, but, to my disappointment, I was not allowed to eat anything greasy that night, which sent my pizza plans down the drain. What do they expect anyways when they play Pizza Hut ads in the waiting room all day?
When I finally arrived home, I had a pretty relaxing rest of the day. I was given food (which was really good but probably even more delicious because I was so hungry). My family was warned about the whole “truth serum” thing, and then my mother and I recounted some funny things from our day.
I was surprised to find out from my mom that the staff said I was so sweet and polite, and when a nurse said my mom raised me well I immediately agreed. While I wasn’t that surprised, if you asked any of my friends, they would certainly tell you that I’m not exactly Ms. Polite and Sweet all of the time. I did end up saying a few funny things, like asking if anyone else saw the rhino warrior on the wall, or when I told my mom she looked like a drenched rat after she had gone on a walk in the rain. I relaxed and watched a Christmas movie with part of the family before heading to bed and thinking about the crazy day I had just had, and what I realized because of it.
I’ve been struggling to find what I want to do in life, trying to find a reason to keep living every day, because I constantly felt like no one really cared. Yeah, I knew that God was that reason, and I knew so many logical reasons that he was real and I just needed to pick up my cross and follow him. But, for some reason I was just really stubborn about it and kept “hopping the fence” so to speak. I would be really in it for Christ for about a week, then I would just kind of do my own thing and every once in a while I’d make a really stupid choice like I mentioned earlier.
As I was lying awake pondering, it suddenly hit me. Why did I keep being so stubborn and avoiding what I knew was the right choice to make? I’m convinced God planned all along to use today as a sort of wake-up call. Not only did he show me that people DID care about me in a variety of ways (and I mean seriously, it really amazed me), but he also showed me that it was so worth living.
After realizing these things, God put my favorite verse in my head, Psalm 34:10: “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” As I thought about why he put that verse in my head I realized that I had been weak pretty much the whole day, even when I was stock full of pain medication. I also had been physically hungry almost the whole day, since my breakfast was a 4 AM yogurt and I didn’t get to eat again until at least 4 PM. The last part took me a little longer, but when I figured it out it hit me like a truck full of bricks. THIS was it; THIS was what I was apparently waiting for this whole time.
God let me do my own thing and try and figure things out and waited for me to learn the way I had chosen, the hard way, to learn it was Him I needed to rely upon. I felt him whisper to me saying, “Don’t you get it now, daughter? I’ve always loved you, and so do others in your life. If you would just follow me, you will lack nothing. That doesn’t mean you won’t face trials, but I never promised that. However, I did promise to spread the hope of the gospel through you and that I have plans for you to prosper. Remember Paul and Silas in the prison in Corinth, praising my name joyfully in chains? Remember the books that your mom used to read to you about missionaries across the world giving their lives to share the gospel, and making a huge impact because of it? I have plans for you also my child, which could be becoming an international missionary, but it could also mean so many other amazing things! You just have to keep living, follow me, and you will be made whole and accomplish amazing things for my perfect will. I KNOW you can do it.”
This took me two hours and forty minutes to write from 10 PM to 12:40 AM on the very night of December 11th. I became inspired by God to write this all down, and it was worth every minute. Thank you, Jesus.


  1. Oh Anna, what a powerful, funny, real account of your life changing day. I pray for your speedy recovery from the surgery and that 12/11/21 will continue to serve as a constant reminder that following Jesus and seeking His will is what it's all about.

    1. Thank you for the prayers! Recovery is going well so far, and I sure hope I am continually reminded of 12/11/21.

  2. Wow! What a powerful testimony-perhaps writing may also be in the future plans God has? Many prayers going up! I can't wait to see all God will do through Anna's willingness to share!

    1. Thank you! I felt very inspired that night and God definitely told me what to write and how so I could impact others for His glory. I appreciate the prayers very much, and it was my pleasure to share my experience to others.

  3. Anna,

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful way your heavenly Father used an extreme way to speak truth to you. I am so glad God used this painful experience to share how much he loves you and has a wonderful plan for you. You are a special young lady and I am grateful to God that he let you know that yesterday. I will be praying for complete healing! Brenda Brazee

    1. It was definitely a God thing. He just told me that I needed to record my experience to share with others and hopefully impact their lives. Thank you so much for the prayers and support.