Our home at this time had one big drawback: air pollution. We were further down in the bowl of mountains, and smoke-filled air tended to settle there. There were also the buses standing across the street at their last stop and they often had their engines running, continually spewing diesel fumes out into the air.
In addition, at least once a winter there would be an inversion, where a cold air front came over the mountains and trapped the warmer, exhaust-filled air down in the city. The pollution then just kept building up.
When this happened, at times the air was literally a green fog that made it impossible to see more than a few yards. Then the heating of homes would be forbidden. Driving was restricted according to license plates: the odd numbered ones could drive on odd days, and even on even days.
This pollution was a major factor in my having severe sinusitis attacks several times each winter. I had high fevers, weeks of weakness, and took lots of antibiotics.
Through this I learned that if you are sick as a teacher, you still have to go out to the university, visit the clinic there and get confirmation that you are actually unable to work. Then you can get a day off. Since this process takes several hours, you don’t have much chance to get well in a day!
One winter I was feeling so bad that I decided to try another doctor. The new specialist put me on a different antibiotic. After a week, however, I was no better, and went back to see him again.
This time he had me sit in a chair like a dentist’s and told me to lean my head back. He sprayed something into my nose and went away. Shortly he came back with a huge spike in one hand and a hammer in the other.
Without giving any explanation, he put the spike up my nose and began to hit it with the hammer! Once, twice, three times.
“My, your bones are really hard,” he said as he gave it a fourth and bigger whack. The nail broke through into one of my sinus cavities, and out came a whole flood of poison.
Once I got over the shock of that treatment, with my sinuses now able to drain, I recovered quickly and went back to work. That was not the end of my bouts with sinusitis, but they came less often.
As time went on, the Lord began to show me other causes of my frequent illnesses. The first was that I was doing too much.
My dear wife pointed this out a good number of times before I caught on. “Why do you have to do a study with him every week? Try it every other week!” she would say.
But I was here to do outreach and I wanted to do more, not less! However I didn’t take into account the fact that I had three full time jobs: teaching, fellowship initiating and my position as leader for our large team .
Eventually the Lord got through to me with the message that I should pray more and do less, that I should work smarter, not harder. That definitely helped as I expended less energy and got more rest.
A second factor to improving my health was learning the importance of keeping hydrated. The heating system in most homes makes the air really dry in the winter. Then that dry air sucks the moisture out of our respiratory systems, making us much more vulnerable to all the germs floating around.
After grasping this truth, I began drinking lots more water, even though I didn’t feel thirsty. This helped a great deal. Now I am convinced that the most I can do for my overall physical health is to keep hydrated.
The last health factor i needed to do something about was the increased air pollution at our present location. In 1986 we finally moved to a cleaner section of town, and from then on I was rarely sick with sinusitis. In my x-rays doctors could still see it sitting there in my sinuses, but unless I got very tired or really stressed, it did not come out to get me.
So the Lord freed me from my self-imposed illnesses and in the process taught me to value prayer over activity.
Picture: little Nat with a new “friend”