Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Megan’s Story (part one)

A Gift to God for Christmas

When Megan was 19 years old, she joined her friend’s family as they did something special for Christmas. On a small piece of paper, they each wrote something to give God for Christmas, wrapped it in a box, and set it under the tree. Megan—an effervescent teenager with a wide smile and a bright future—decided to give God her worries.

Megan color

Only a year before she had changed her major at San Diego State University to International Security and Conflict Resolution, a small major dominated by older retired military men. She thought this was the direction God had for her, but was still not sure. She grew up around the military and diplomatic community, but how could she know God’s purpose for her life. Worry was easy.

That Christmas, however, it was going under the tree. A gift to God. He could have her worries from now on.

A Horrible Discovery

Two months later, in February, Megan woke up to find she was blind in her right eye. She went to work anyway. The whole day she had an excruciating headache; her eyes would not dilate properly. The next day, a Friday, she went to see the doctor. He gave her an antibiotic and told her to come back on Monday if it doesn’t get better.

Over the weekend, the pain increased, so on Monday the doctor sent her to see an eye-specialist—the first of three she would see that day. None of them knew the cause of the blindness or the pain. The last doctor, a retina specialist, ordered some blood work and ventured a hypothesis: “I can’t tell you what this is until I have your blood results but I think you have a parasite called toxoplasmosis. If you do have that, I will need to put you on really strong medication so you can gain as much of your sight back as you can.” The blood test confirmed the doctor’s suspicion. That day she started the same treatment given to cancer patients.

She practiced not worrying. “Ok God, if you want to give me back my sight, I am OK with that, but it is up to you.”

The two-month treatment lasted five months. It was excruciating. She could not hold down food, yet she consistently gained weight. Without warning, her legs would buckle; her muscles were often unresponsive. She had trouble sleeping and experienced hallucinations. For months, her little sisters had to comb her hair because she did not have the strength to do it herself.

During the entire treatment, Megan continued to go to school and to work where she tutored at-risk kids at a local high school. She reflects back on that time, “It was horrible but it was worth it. It was neat to see the impact of my experience on the teenagers I was tutoring. I did not go through this just for myself, but for them as well. It was worth it because I learned so much and others have been affected by my story.”

In the end, Megan only regained 10% of her sight. For that, she is thankful. “It lets in enough light that I can still drive.”

Summer in Sarajevo

By May, Megan was wrapping up her semester at San Diego State with exceptional grades and the parasite was dead. She convinced the doctor to let her continue with her plans to intern with the Swiss Embassy in Sarajevo over the summer despite the fact that she needed to wean herself off the medication (a process as horrible as the medication itself).

Photo credit Megan Trachsler.

Photo credit Megan Trachsler.

Despite the effects of withdrawal she experienced, her summer was extraordinary. She felt a sense of purpose and gratefulness for the life she was given. One of the projects coordinated by the Swiss Embassy is training the Bosnian military how to handle and dispose of old Yugoslav-era weapons. Megan used her language skills—fluency in French, German, English, and Swiss-German—to help coordinate these trainings. She was ready to move on with her life and live out the plan God was laying before her.

{Read the second half of Megan’s story}

 

Megan’s journey began when she gave her worries to God for Christmas. What might God want from you this holiday season? [Comment below]

 

[a preview of the second half of Megan’s Story]

Following her summer in Sarajevo, Megan planned a semester of study abroad in Zurich, where her family lived before moving to California when she was 14. On the way from Bosnia to Switzerland, however, she began to experience symptoms that were different from the withdrawal attacks she faced all summer. On arriving in Zurich, she went directly to a specialist for an examination.

Upon hearing her symptoms, the doctor’s expression changed. “We will do a CT scan to confirm this, but it does not look good. It is time to say goodbye. From what you have told me, you don’t have a long time to live—maybe a month or two.” The CT scan showed that the parasite had moved to her brain and now covered 90% of it.

About Josh