I love pasta, and one of my favourite sauces is vongoli sauce. No surprise, therefore, that when Lindsay and I went out for a meal on our first night in Venice, I ordered a plate of pasta piled high with clams. Delicious! The fun started a few hours later. I woke up at one o’clock in the morning with stinging eyes and short of breath. Lindsay took one look at my face, which was puffing up dramatically, and said “Oh no! It’s the shellfish!”
I was suffering from an allergic reaction known as ‘anaphylactic shock’. The only other time I had suffered from one of these was several years ago here in Liberton. On that occasion I had to spend a night in A&E where I was pumped full of adrenalin, steroids and anti-histamines. Our problem in Venice was we had no adrenalin, no steroids, and only some very low strength anti-histamine tablets. On top of this, all the hotel staff had gone home, none of the telephones seemed to be working, and the usually busy streets and canals were now deserted.
One of the worst things about anaphylactic shock is the rising sense of panic you feel, as the symptoms get worse and worse. I was soon sitting on the side of the bed, gasping for breath. Two things then happened which made all the difference. The first was that I became conscious of Lindsay sitting beside me with her hand on my back, reading these words from Psalm 40 …
I waited patiently for the Lord my God;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God…
She then prayed, asking God to heal me. I’ve always believed in the Holy Spirit’s power to heal, but never before have I experienced such an immediate and dramatic change. Within seconds I was breathing more easily, and soon was aware that the other symptoms were lessening too.
The second thing that happened was that Lindsay phoned my sister, Ella, on my mobile phone. While the time was 1 am in Venice, it was only 12 midnight in Birmingham, and Ella picked up straight away. Ella is a retired GP, and her calming voice drove away what remained of our fears. We spent the next couple of hours sitting up in bed watching a Clint Eastwood film dubbed into Italian. It didn’t improve my Italian much, but it took my mind off things, and by the following morning I was almost back to my normal self.
You may be wondering what lessons have I learned from this episode. I would suggest the following (although not necessary in this order):
1. Don’t eat clams in Venice
2. God can and does heal today
3. If, while in some foreign clime, you find yourself in need of a doctor’s advice, you can always phone my sister in Birmingham!!