A testimony of healing and faithfulness from Heather Cheney, interviewed by Melissa Meyers
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. -John 1:5
I had the privilege of sitting down and interviewing Heather about how God walked her through a dark period of her life that involved a curse and a health crisis during her time in Kenya. Heather graciously assured me that talking about it helps her heal. So here is her story.
Four years ago, in the month of December a curse was placed on Heather. A cornhusk doll with a ponytail and a baby tied on its back appeared in their house. Heather and Adam knew it was meant to represent her, as she was the only one in the village that wore her hair up in a ponytail. They showed it to one of their workers, who affirmed that is was, “really bad.” The worker advised them to get rid of it.
Shortly after that, Milan, her daughter contracted malaria. She had had malaria before, and this time it wasn’t as bad. They started to treat her with some medicine. Soon after though Heather, who had never had malaria, started to run high fevers of 104 degrees. Adam was visiting Mombasa and it was a long trip home. Heather grew sicker with nausea, vomiting and endless diarrhea. Adam came home and after three days of constant sickness, Heather told him, “I need to go to the hospital.” The hospital was not an easy place to travel to and there was a clinic nearby. The clinic which did not have any running water was able to give her I.V. fluids, but there she tested negative for malaria.
She was so sick at the hospital that she soiled all her clothing and had nothing clean to change into, and there was no way to clean up. That’s when they decided to go to a tourist hospital nearby. The tourist hospital wasn’t much more than a glorified clinic, and they ran no tests. If she tested positive for malaria they would have to report it to the country’s health department, and it would be bad for tourism. After Adam took Heather there, he decided it would be a good time to go get their youngest child, and Ellie, a nurse teammate. When he arrived back at the tourist hospital, Heather was unconscious.
Adam told the staff, “she is unconscious.” The doctor said, “No, she is just sleeping.” Adam had been a paramedic for ten years and understood the difference. “No, she is unconscious.” Adam and Ellie, the nurse, tried to wake her up. She would not respond.
They started texting out prayer requests for Heather.
Adam’s mom and Heather’s mom booked an immediate flight. Forty minutes later, when they had sent out the prayer requests she finally woke up and then was terrified to find out that her mom was coming. She didn’t want her to see how they lived. Adam knew they needed to get Heather to a place that could properly care for her. She reached out to African Inland Missions (AIM), a service much like Mission Avian Fellowship, that flies to remote places. This would be a personal flight though, and Heather’s uncle graciously stepped in and said he would pay for it.
Heather was put on the plane and flown to Nairobi and then the plan was to transport her via ambulance to Kijabe Mission Hospital. On the flight, Heather was having trouble breathing so she focused on the prayers of the pilot. He prayed about a bombing that had happened in Nairobi that day, and that they would be able to land safely. Later she would reach out to thank the pilot for his prayers and for flying her. He shared with her, “I wasn’t praying out loud.” Heather knows God allowed her to hear his prayers to help her to calm down and focus.
When they arrived in Nairobi, she still had a grueling ambulance ride through congested traffic in the capital city. It took them over an hour to get to the Kijabe Mission Hospital. There she was quarantined, but in a room with her own bathroom and running water. A host of test were started along with wide spectrum antibiotics to try and fight whatever was wreaking havoc on her body. When her mom arrived, she took one look at Heather and said she was unrecognizable. She had gained over 35 pounds in fluid. Heather had a dangerous condition called third spacing. Her kidneys and other organs were no longer filtering the fluids back into her blood stream. Her body was shutting down.
She continued to run fevers for days and continued to vomit. As the days went by with little improvement one night, “the Lord woke me up,” she said. Heather woke up struggling to breathe. She couldn’t reach the call light to let the nurses know. She finally reached up behind her and found the call light. When the nurses came in they took her vital signs and her heart rate was 30. She was transferred to a bay setting ICU, and hooked up to cardiac leads and a pulse oximeter. Heather struggled to be in the ward setting because of being able to see what they other patients were going through. She remembers a man screaming all night long. They gave her medications and fluids and finally were able to normalize her heart rate.
Heather spent three weeks in the hospital in Kijabe. She kept fever cycling. Her fever would break during the day and then come back at night. She never tested positive for anything specific, but she did say they finally started her on doxycycline and that’s when her fevers subsided. She doesn’t know if it was just a coincidence or was just her illness finally running its course.
After three weeks of being so sick, it took her months to feel normal again. The Cheney family were able to go to a retreat place and recover, and she was finally able to walk more than 15 minutes without fatigue. She was afraid to return to the village where they had been living. Adam suggested that they needed to return at least so the people could see she was still alive. Heather agreed to return for two weeks at a time. Four months later, in April they returned.
They heard people saying, “She’s alive!?! She was given the death curse.” Adam was able to share that God had been with them, that God had healed her. Some said, “We see that your God is bigger, but we still can not become Christians.” In real life, we don’t always see the reasons for why things happen, the impact of a situation is not always clear to us in the moment.
And so we pray and continue to trust that God’s light will penetrate into the peoples’ hearts, through the testimony of God’s victory over a death curse, in a village by the sea.
Melissa Meyers is co-editor of The Stir, wife to John, and mother to Malcolm (17) and Emily (14). She is a Neonatal Nurse and Creative Writer. She is the author of, Beneath the Ancient Dust: Inspirational Stories from Nine Years in Afghanistan. At Calvary, she enjoys teaching on Thursday mornings at Renovare. Her hobbies are coffee, reading, and taking long walks. She will accept an invitation out for coffee anytime.