What Dr. Luke has to say about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Today Dr. Luke will talk to us about SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. This virus has caused medical, economic and psychological upheaval all over the world but especially so in China where the greatest numbers of cases have thus far developed. Dr. Luke will start by telling us a story about a lady who developed SARS.

Xu Li was a 51 year old Chinese lady who lived in an area of China which had a large number of cases of SARS. She and her husband had their own business and due to the business traveled a lot. One day Xu Li had returned from a business trip. She has taken a train to return to save some money. The train was crowded as usual. The train station was crowded as well which she did not like.

Three days after returning from the trip she develop a fever, had some chills, muscle and joint aches and soon a non productive cough and a mild amount of shortness of breath.  It was this last symptom which bothered her the most.  She felt really bad and went to see the doctor at the local hospital. The doctor listened to her story, examined her, and did some blood work and a chest X-ray. 

After the results were back the doctor told her that she had pneumonia. He asked her to stay in the hospital but she wanted to return home for the treatment which the doctor agreed to. After she returned home Xu Li actually go no better and even got worse. Three days later she returned to see the doctor again who was puzzled as to why she was getting no better in spite if a good antibiotic. He again asked to put her into the hospital and she agreed this time.  Despite several other very good antibiotics she continued to get worse.

The doctor was so concerned he told his husband that he thought Xu Li would die. He did not know what to do. During this time the doctor also heard in his area of China other cases like this with patients who had pneumonia who were not responded to antibiotics. He wondered what it was and what to do.

Xu Li even had to have mechanical ventilation to keep her alive. Slowly after several days of being on the mechanical ventilator she improved and was taken off the ventilator. Slowly also over time her symptoms improved and she was able to leave the hospital and go home. When she went home she was still very weak.

The doctor told her to take it easy for the next week or two and then see if she would be able to return to work. Xu Li’s doctor later learned that Xu Li had been one of the early patients who developed SARS. The doctor was to see more in the coming months.

Upon returning home a friend of Xu Li’s came to see her to see how she was doing. Though very weak Xu Li said she was just glad to be alive. Xu Li told her friend that she was recovering but she would probably need two weeks or so to be completely well. Her friend asked her how she felt emotionally. Xu Li responded that she was not feeling as well so she was worrying about her work, husband and son and how this was affecting them.

Her friend told Xu Li that she knew the time was hard but glad Xu Li was recovering. Her friend asked her if she could share with her some things which had helped her through a hard time. Xu Li was glad as anything would be helpful at this time. Xu Li’s friend opened her Bible and read, ‘the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.   Though I walk through the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalms 23).’ 

Even though Xu Li had never read the Bible she was fascinated that this was almost like what happened to her and her emotions. She did think she had walked through the valley of the shadow of death with this SARS illness. She was also very interested in how her soul could be restored and have goodness and mercy all the days of her life and dwell in the house of the Lord forever. She thought after she died her life would be nothing.

Xu Li’s friend told her that after she died there was life but only through the person of Jesus Christ and the Bible tells us how to have this life. Xu Li asked her friend if she could tell her more about how to have this life. She turned to another place in the Bible which said, ‘to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth for you are good, O Lord (Psalms 25).’

Xu Li’s friend noted that it was important the come to see and believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and that God forgives our sins through Jesus Christ. Xu Li wanted to know what sin was. Her friend explained that it was our going against what God wanted for us to do.

Xu Li was tired and needed to get some more rest so her friend left and she would return when Xu Li felt better. Xu Li’s friend left her with a Bible and said she would return in the future.

Xu Li returned to the doctor several months later and the doctor how she was doing. She asked the doctor if he knew for sure the SARS virus would return in her body. The doctor said that most people who developed SARS returned to normal life and did not have relapses. There were a few people who might have relapses but this is not entirely clear.

The doctor told her that there is a blood stool and urine test which can be used to help doctors know if a person still has the virus or not. This test is called a ‘PCR’ test. It is a little expensive but can confirm or not the presence of the virus in a person. The problem is that doctors are not entirely sure today if the presence of the virus indicates infection or not in all patients. This is still being studied by doctors.

Xu Li asked the doctor if there were any medicines she could take now. The doctor told her a vitamin and eating well and trying to slowly increase her exercise would help. She should try and not to push herself to fast.  There are some Chinese Traditional Medicines people can take but since it is early in the course of understanding SARS they are a bit unsure of how to use these medicines.

Xu Li also asked the doctor if she needed to be quarantined. The doctor told her that since she had already been asymptomatic for months she did not need to worry about being quarantined. Certainly if she developed a recurrent cough or fever she needed to contact the doctor immediately.

The doctor went onto tell Xu Li that SARS was caused by a new virus in the family of virus’ which cause the common cold. Unfortunately the SARS virus was more potent than the common cold virus. At present about 6-7% of people who contracted the SARS virus die from the virus. Xu Li thought this was quite high. She even asked if this was the most potent virus on the face of the earth. The doctor told her no. In fact without medications 100% of people with the AIDS virus die. Furthermore the common pneumonia which people get has a mortality of up to 14% of all people who get this type of pneumonia. However, the SARS virus needs to be taken seriously.

Xu Li also asked if the SARS virus has caused more illness than any other virus. Again, the doctor said no. In fact malaria kills 3,000 children a day.  Thus far only a little over 6,000 people have contracted SARS and a little over 400 have died. In perspective in just two days more children die a day from malaria than the world total of SARS patients in six months.

Xu Li’s doctor told her that all in all she was doing well and should be glad she was alive given she had been so sick and was on a ventilator. This last statement got her attention and made her think more about life and death.

Later in the day she called her friend and they got back together. She asked more questions about this person Jesus Christ. She told her friend what the doctor had said and she was very interested in knowing how to come to know Jesus Christ as her savior so if she died she would have eternal life.

Her friend again turned to another place in the Bible which said, ‘but now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3.21-26).’

Xu Li friends told her that first this place in the Bible tell us that righteousness comes from the God and not anything we do. Second, all people have sinned and fallen short of what God wants for us to do. This is what sin is. Third the sins we committed before God were taken by Jesus Christ on his body. Finally all we need to do is to believe in what Jesus did.

All of this shows God’s love for us. In another place in the Bible it says, ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3.16).’

Furthermore we need to come to see not only did Jesus did for us but that he rose from the dead to show that he had victory over sin and death. In another place in the Bible it says, ‘that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with you mouth that you confess and are saved.  As the Scripture says, ‘anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’  For there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile,- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10.9-13).’

Xu Li’s friend told her that all of this means that if we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord our lives because he died for our sins and when he rose from the dead he showed that he had achieved victory over sin and death. If we believe all of this then we will be saved. Saved now and forever. We now will have new purpose in our lives and assurance of eternal life. What a promise. Xu Li wanted this new life given her recent brush with death.

Xu Li’s friend asked her to pray the following prayer to have this eternal life. ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have done wrong and I know that I need you to save me from my sins. I ask you to come into my life and give me new life by saving me from my sins. I believe that after you died for my sins on the cross you rose from the dead and are alive today. Thank you for being my savior and my Lord. Amen.’

Xu Li prayed this prayer and received a new life with new purpose and meaning and the assurance of eternal life with Jesus Christ. You to can have this same life if you will pray this pray and mean it just as Xu Li did.