One night in the middle of June 1979, I retired to my bed. I remember feeling exhausted.  I was 7 ½ months pregnant with my third child. The week before I had completed teaching another year of early morning seminary but hadn’t yet caught up on the missed sleep.  My husband was frequently out of town with his work schedule, which meant that I usually had the care of our two little toddlers.  That also meant that many mornings when I taught seminary, I had to wake them both up at 5:15 and take them with me for our 6:00 AM class (Our class was 25 minutes away).  Class members would take turns holding my little daughters during the lessons.  When  we got home there was no catching a little nap, as they were now up and ready to go!

By the end of the seminary year, I had developed slight tremors in my hands from the lack of sleep.  By the end of school, the first part of June, I was more than ready to do some catching up on my sleep!

But that particular night, my two-year-old daughter, Dianna, awoke crying, in the middle of the night.  I suspected she’d had a nightmare.  I probably should have dealt directly with the nightmare, but being so tired, I simply laid down next to her and wrapped my arms around her.  She fell back to sleep immediately.  That’s when I realized that something was terribly wrong.

I realized that I had a fever.  My head was pounding with pain.  I extricated myself from my sleeping daughter and  tried to get up to walk back to my room.  To my surprise, I was unable to walk.  When I attempted to stand up, I was so dizzy I was afraid I would fall, and my head felt as if it would burst.  So, I crawled back to my room.

Upon reaching my bed, I wasn’t sure I could get up on the bed.  What in the world was going on??  I tried a couple of times to climb up but couldn’t hold my head up enough to get onto the bed.  I prayed for help.  Finally on the third try, I was able to roll onto the bed.

The crazy thing was that I was quickly getting worse.  I tried to call to my husband, who was sleeping.  When I tried to call out, the pressure of making a sound felt excruciating.  Unable to call for help, I simply laid in the bed in agony and waited for my husband to wake up.

I prayed non-stop. I feared I was dying. The pressure increased and the pain became excruciating.  I realized I couldn’t feel my legs.  Even closing my eyelids felt like it was creating insufferable pressure on my brain.  What in the world was going on?

Finally, at 6:00 my husband’s alarm went off.  As he rolled over to kiss me good morning, he could immediately tell that something was terribly wrong.  “Becky, are you okay?”  By then I couldn’t talk with more than a whisper, because of the pressure talking seemed to put on my brain.  All I could do was whisper, “my head . . . .”

John jumped up, quickly dressed in a shirt and tie, then laid his hands on my head and gave me a blessing.  I will never forget this blessing.  He rebuked the disease that had attacked me.  He promised me that I would live and have no lasting effects from this battle.  He promised me that our unborn baby would be okay.

John called for the Stake Relief Society President, who lived nearby, to come and watch the kids.  Then he rushed me to the emergency room.  (We couldn’t afford an ambulance).  By that time, I could not focus my eyes, nor move my hands nor feet.  When I arrived, I was taken in immediately.  The neurologist on call did a quick examination.  John later told me that as part of his evaluation he held up three fingers and asked me how many fingers he was holding up.  I whispered I couldn’t see.  He said, “You need to open your eyes.”  I was so out of it with pain, by that time, that I couldn’t even tell when my eyes were open or closed!

The doctor ordered a spinal tap.  I had heard that spinal taps were very painful, but due to the pain in my head, I don’t remember feeling it at all.  Sounds were excruciating.  I was put in the isolation area of the hospital.  I was getting worse, and I thought I could no longer bear the pain.  The doctor ordered 10 ccs of an opioid.  I tried to object, fearing for its effect on my baby, but I was unable to speak at all.  The opioid made no difference.

The doctor ordered ten more ccs.  John objected, “What about the baby?”  The doctor said, “Look, I’m trying to keep your wife alive.  At this point, that has to take priority.” Again, no effect.  I was feeling frantic inside about what would happen to my little child.  But I still was unable to communicate.  10 more cc’s were ordered.  Finally, I began to feel a little relief from the terrible pain, but I was sick with worry about my baby.

I remember the doctor coming in and announcing that they had received the result of the spinal tap. I had spinal meningitis.  The pathogen was the polio myelitis virus.  He conjectured that if I hadn’t been vaccinated, I would likely have had polio.  He continued, “This is the first time in my career that I’m relieved to get a diagnosis of spinal meningitis!”  He had suspected I had a brain bleed.

The next few days are a blur.  I spent ten days in the hospital with a fever hovering between 104-106.  I was in complete isolation.  The doctors and nurses all wore disposable isolation clothing.  Everything entering my room was burned upon leaving the room, even the food trays, had to be disposable.

Finally, after ten days, my fever broke, and I was allowed to leave the hospital.  The neurologist warned John that, due to all the medications and the high fevers, the baby would likely be adversely affected.

I was still in terrible shape.  I still could not focus my eyes.  I couldn’t walk, nor turn my head to either side.  For the next six weeks I laid in my bed at home.  I couldn’t even roll over without help.  I was not allowed any visitors.  I had to be cared for like an invalid.

All those weeks, I just literally laid on my bed.  I couldn’t focus my eyes enough to read or watch TV.  I couldn’t sit up. If I tried to talk to someone, I was so exhausted, I slept non-stop for the next six hours.  So, I laid and stared at the ceiling, day after day.

The Relief Society was wonderful.  Every day they came and got my two little girls, Amber and Dianna, while John was at work, and then brought them home again when John returned.  The Relief Society sisters provided meals for John and the kids every day.  They were my angels!  I was usually too weak to eat.  I could only sip a little soup.

One of the young women in our ward, Nancy, had lived with us for six months after she had run away from her home.  She had been one of  my seminary students. She had come to me to tell us she was running away.  I made her call her parents to tell them where she was.  They asked if she could stay with us until she felt like going home.  We eventually convinced her to go home after about six months.  Things had calmed down at  home for her.

Nancy was now in college.  She dropped out of her classes at college to care for me. Unbelievable!  She stayed with us during those six weeks of intense recovery and cared for me.  It was an incredible act of love!

Six weeks later my baby boy, Jay, was born.  He was beautiful!  And miraculously, he seemed to be healthy.  I normally have long labors, but mercifully, this labor was only an hour and 45 minutes.  It was a tender mercy from God!  My mother had come out from Utah to help care for me and the new baby.  She was there when I got home from the hospital.

The next few months were very difficult.  I gradually improved, but I didn’t have enough strength in my hands to hold my baby.  It took a long time before I could focus my eyes enough to be able to  read.  I couldn’t drive a car, because I didn’t have enough strength in my legs to push the gas pedals.  I also couldn’t turn my head in either direction.  I continued to have painful headaches and fevers.  Sounds continued to be agonizing.  Each time my temperature went up I worried that the meningitis was coming back.  But each time, John gave me a blessing and assured me that God would honor His promises to  me.  His blessings brought me peace and stilled my fears.

I had many visits with the neurologist following my release from the hospital.  When I complained about the partial paralysis of my hands and legs, he told me I was lucky to be alive.  He told me that there would likely be some small improvements, but that the weaknesses I was experiencing would probably be permanent.  He was stunned that the baby was so healthy. In fact, he called me “his miracle mama” and Jay, “his miracle baby.”  He told me he hadn’t expected either one of us to survive.

Epilogue:  Over the next 8 months I continued to gradually improve.  Our Stake Relief Society President was a naturopathic physician and she put me on an all-raw diet.  It seemed to help.  Bit by bit, I regained my strength and my former abilities.  Today, I am no different than I was before the disease.  I truly was blessed by a God who honored all the blessings He had promised me when my very life seemed to hang in the balance.

My son, Jay, at first seemed to be developmentally delayed.  But he also caught up both physically and mentally.  In high school, he was a fabulous wrestler and won third place in the State wrestling  tournament.  He graduated from BYU and then from Duke Law School, where he was on Duke’s racquetball team, and today is a very successful real estate developer.  Clearly, no residual effects on him!  We also had been blessed with the miracle of my daughter, Dianna, not catching the disease.  I had lain next to her when I was at my most contagious stage of the disease.  And yet, she was spared.

I have some friends who have struggled with their testimonies after reading this or that on the internet.  I don’t always have all the answers, but I tell them that personally, I can live without knowing all the answers to some of the accusations against the Church or against Joseph Smith.  I have faith that eventually all truth will be brought to light.

But one thing I know for sure: I can’t live without my celestial marriage, nor without the knowledge of our family’s eternal sealing in the temple of God.  I certainly can’t live without the Priesthood of God, and without my testimony of God’s restoration of His Gospel.  I can’t live without the joy of being a member of the Savior’s Church, whose members stand always ready to support and help me.

I know how fragile this life really is.  And I know that I don’t want to live it without the blessings of the Gospel.  I’m sure I will likely have many trials and challenges to face before I finish my race.  But with the Gospel and its many blessings I know can live this life with joy and peace, regardless of what comes.  Without it, I can’t even imagine living through the challenges of life with peace, and without fear.