[notice]Sharlene Stafford, 34, of Pietermaritzburg experienced a taste of hell and a touch of heaven 20 years ago. Since then, Sharlene, who teaches dance and drama at her local church, has shared her powerful healing testimony all over the country. But until now she has never published her story. She has recently started writing a book that includes the events of 1996 and she sent Gateway News an account of that extraordinary year which we publish below.[/notice]
My name is Sharlene Stafford and I am currently living in Pietermaritzburg. I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour at the tender age of seven… Serving the Lord had brought me so much joy and fulfilment, a real getaway from the troubled home in which I grew up. In 1996, being 14 years old at the time, I was babysitting my aunt’s two kids. Basically I was having a good time and there was nothing out of the norm that weekend.
While playing with the kids the strangest feeling came over me. It started in my left arm and went through the rest of my body; uncontrollably I collapsed. I was awoken a couple of hours later in the hospital, confused and scared of what had happened. I was told that I had had an epileptic attack and I was kept overnight for further observation. I was discharged the next day with nothing more than, “Sharlene have a nice rest, take it easy”. I was not really worried about my sudden attack because I was told that it is very common among children and that it happens at least once in a person’s life. The next day I had another attack, but this time I had three one after the other. Now we knew that there was something wrong. Just like before, I woke up in hospital with no memory of what happened during the seizures. This time blood tests were done and to our amazement there was nothing wrong. Since my first attack I had not yet returned to school. It was now a couple of weeks that went by and there was no improvement despite the fact that they had put me on medication.
I was discharged again, this time going home was very scary for me because of my past experiences. Two days later while running a bath that same weird sensation that I had felt the very first time came over me again. Before I could make my way to my bed I collapsed. This time it was different — my mind did not switch off immediately but I could feel my hands twisting in different directions. The skin on my face started pulling like it was about to tear, breathing became difficult and then a cold chill slowly moved from my toes up my body and towards my head. I could hear my family calling my name in the background but I could not respond. In and out of hospital was a norm for me thereafter. Every test possible was performed on me, CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs etc but nothing was found. The terrible thing is that I had no medical aid and every time I needed a procedure done then I would be placed on a long waiting list which was so scary because I thought that I needed help ASAP and it was not coming my way soon enough. In the meantime my condition deteriorated rapidly. The vision in my left eye started diminishing, my arms and legs would move involuntarily, I could no longer walk without the assistance of a person or by holding onto the furniture, I became very forgetful, I did not recognise family members, it was very hard to complete a sentence — expressing myself verbally became a huge task which I did not have the energy to do. I became weaker by the hour, worse by the day. Many people were praying and fasting for me and daily prayer meetings were held at our house. I was grateful for the many that were standing in the gap on my behalf but I also hated the fact that they would stare at me so much. I had lost so much weight at this point that I became very uncomfortable with being in the company of other people.
Eventually it was discovered that I had a brain tumor, the size of a five cent coin on my medulla oblongata. It was shocking that this was found at such a late stage, however the doctor that was handling my case said that he did not think that it was the tumor causing the problems I was experiencing and that I could have being born with it. So as soon as this new discovery was made, plans to have an operation to remove it were in the pipeline. At this stage we had no money at all, my mother was the only bread winner at home and my father found refuge in a beer bottle. I know my mom even considered selling our house to pay for my operation because if we waited for the government hospital to put me on the waiting list then it would be too late for me. I remember a pastor came to see me and he knelt by my bed and prayed for me. He said that regardless of how I was feeling that I must tell people that I am fine. I thought that he was crazy but I simply agreed to do so…My condition just got worse.
One day my mother got me all cleaned up and made me look presentable. I was wondering what was going on because the whole situation just did not add up. Anyways to my surprise I was visited by the local priest along with some members of the Catholic Church which I did not belong to. The priest prayed for me, blessed me, the room was filled with that incense that they burn, I was then baptized, had my first Holy Communion, confirmed and I was given a godmother which I have never met. (Apologies but I am not bringing down any religion or belief system, I am simply speaking of what I had experienced.) I was wondering what was all that for. I could not even question the reasons behind all of their doings because I could not talk at the time. Once the whole ritual was over the priest started discussing my funeral right in front of me. I mean guys even though I was sick that didn’t mean that I was already dead – weren’t we told that if we had faith as big as a mustard seed that we could speak to a mountain and say be thou removed and cast into the sea. I was shocked, my mother was sitting in the corner of the room crying. To make it worse they started discussing the price of my coffin and who was going to assist with the funeral. I know they meant well but they just left me more discouraged than anything else. Later on I was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. I started acting out different personalities and sleep was a luxury that I did not have for weeks at a time. I would cry for hours pointing at the clock and mumble ‘Time is running out’ as my speech would come and go.
One evening I woke up in a strange room. Everything was completely white, there was a single bed with a cupboard and a small window above the door. I was feeling very drowsy but I thought to myself that I needed to get out of there at once’ so I climbed the cupboard and managed to jump through the little window above the door. I was so thin that I fitted through with ease. I landed on the other side quite safely and there I was standing in a long passage which was dark except for a dimmed light at the end of the passage. When I got there a nurse shouted at me for being out of my room. “My room? I didn’t even know where I was”, I thought. I was then placed in a time-out room where there was a punch bag and a mattress on the floor. I was put into a straight jacket which I easily slipped out of. I did not know that I had been placed In a mental institute because of my ever changing personalities. There was a nurse who would tie me up with a sheet onto a chair and try and force feed me, leaving blue marks on my cheeks and a swollen jaw… I think she thought that I came from a home where my family did not care about my well being and therefore thought that she could do with me as she pleased. Lets just say that she got a real surprise when she was suspended which led to her resignation. I was sedated on a daily basis. The other kids were terrified of me as I never slept and I would wander the hallways at night and sometimes I would go as far as trying to choke them in their sleep. Yes, I became very violent. Sometimes I would try and drown myself when it was bath time but a nurse would always get me out of the bath in time. I was experiencing a war within my body; an inner voice would tell me to do certain things that I did not want to do and that did not make sense and then there was another voice who kept telling me that I was going to be okay and to continually plead the blood of Jesus. I would sit on my mother’s lap when she visited and while she cried I would tell her, “don’t worry Mummy, Gods going to heal me”. Regardless of my confession my condition deteriorated….
A month went by and my mom was invited by her Christian boss to a crusade which was held in Pinetown as they knew the situation she was in. After all, what did she have to loose? It was a Sunday night when the preacher prayed for my mother. She said she collapsed and she felt such a peace come over her. Little did she know that as she stood proxy for me, God was performing His own operation on me in Pietermaritzburg. That night I tossed and turned on my bed; something was happening and I didn’t know what it was – I was feeling different. I awoke the next morning a different person. I had all my wits about me and the first thing I wanted so badly was a plate of food. I then went to have a bath on my own and this time I did not try and drown myself. I could have a normal conversation again…what had happened? Immediately my doctor was called up to check me up and then I was sent with a nurse to a Durban hospital where the professor who was overseeing the case had to run some more tests. I sat opposite him in his office and I can still hear him say, “But Sharlene who ever said that you had a tumor?”. The nurse that escorted me on the trip took out all my x-rays and showed them to him, he was shocked – the tumor had disappeared. I was completely healed and the doctors and the nurses could not explain it, they thought that there was some kind of mistake. I am now 34 years old, a living testimony of the power of the God that we serve. No, miracles did not stop in the New Testament, they are still happening today, for the God that I serve is the same yesterday, today and forever.
I have being so grateful for the second chance of life that I was given. Many people receive their healing while many don’t as well. We will never know the reasons as to why, but because I have been given this chance I will do my best by sharing and testifying to whoever I come into contact with about the awesome God that I serve. God’s timing is perfect, He is never in a hurry, neither is He ever late!!