She was the picture of health. But on an early February morning in 1998, the skier, cyclist and hiker awakened to a living nightmare.
I woke up and I couldnt move my arms," LaVerne Hays recalls the snapshot in time when life turned upside down. It felt like bursitis in my joints and I couldnt walk.
Instead of a day skiing with family in the Washington Blue mountains, the young mom would painfully languish in bed until doctors in Seattle could diagnose her condition.
When the results were finally known, the forecast for the 38-year-old was bleak. She had the most serious type of lupus, Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE), that can affect the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, blood and skin. According to the online National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is no cure for SLE.
I was extremely tired with horrible body pain, my hair fell out and no energy to do anything, remembers the once-active LaVerne who only wanted to sleep constantly. We tried all kinds of medications, but I kept going downhill very fast.
Eventually stabilized somewhat by medications, the Kennewick woman trudged through each dayand each year. The side effect was a family lifestyle dramatically changed as the wife and mother struggled.
It was very traumatic for my family, the mom of two comments with emotion. All of a sudden the life we had together just quits and you suffer a lot of frustrations.
Monthly travel to doctor appointments replaced trips to bicycle, boat or dirt bike with husband Rick and teens Hollie and Jordan. Being in the sun was out of the question because of lupusand even driving to the secluded bower of green at their cabin left her exhausted.
Lavernes world was like a faded photographone that had once been vibrant with color. But in the twelfth year of her illness a friendship clicked that changed her future.
Around the first time my husband and I went to Bethel, I met an older gentleman with a cane in the foyer of the church, recalls LaVerne about meeting 87 year-old Elwin. I just walked up and gave him a hug, and from then on we had a friendship.
It wasnt long before Elwin questioned her occasional absences from church during that year, times when her sickness took its toll. Learning she had lupus, the elderly man confided that he believed he had the gift of healing mentioned in the Bible.
So he asked if he could pray with me, LaVerne says about his deep concern for her health, and he told me that I really needed to believe. He said it was God who had the power to heal, not Elwin.
Together they read biblical promises and then Elwin took her hand and prayed.
Within three months of that initial prayerand many more sent heavenward during Elwins long days in assisted livingLaVernes condition dramatically reversed.
I went off all my medications after Elwin prayed for me, LaVerne confesses with a shrug about not telling her doctors. They couldnt explain what was going on and I said that I was in the process of being healed, referring to the changes in her blood test results.
The lupus, along with rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma markers, disappeared. And within that year the 50-year-old regained her strengthand an even stronger faith.
I never regret having lupus, LaVerne says with a catch in her voice. When things are really rosy, its easy to serve God. But when everything is taken away, she pauses in thought, it became my greatest blessing because the most important thing is God.
These days, LaVerne Hays cycles 22 to 30 miles per day and is in her third year of remission. Shes the picture of healthand the picture of a miracle.