Thursday, March 14, 2024

My Electrifying Existence

The house was hushed and the lights were dim as I walked away from the bedroom where three of my children slept. Holding the toddler in my arms, I grabbed my laptop--might as well watch a show while putting her to sleep, I figured. I grabbed the charging cable too, since my laptop would not work unless it was plugged in. 

Still holding my child, I started to plug the laptop's charging cord into the outlet. A slight shock briefly jarred me, and stupidly, I thought I had put it in wrong. Grasping the cord, I carefully tried putting it in the outlet again. 


A surge of electricity pulsed into my hand. I dropped the cord and--still holding tightly to my sleepy toddler--leaped away. "DEAR GOD, PLEASE HELP ME!" I yelled as the waves of electricity pushed up my arm. They rolled through my chest, into my other arm, and briefly down towards my waist. 

My breathing was quick and panicked. What should I do? What should I do?

I flung open the front door and dashed outside. My bare feet sprang across the path and into the soft dirt. Small patches of snow glistened nearby, but I forced my feet to stay in the grass. 

I don't know what to do, I thought again. But, if hippies are onto anything with their practice of "grounding," maybe this is worth a try? I paced back and forth, feeling comforted by the sight of neighbors going in and out of their house nearby. 

I ran back into the house for a moment as I let my feet soak up the warmth and so I could grab my phone. Then, back outside I was, my toes sinking into the cold, wet earth. I typed hurriedly, sending a string of panicked text messages to my husband (who was on an airplane, heading on a work trip, at that very moment). My feet felt cold, and sleep was beginning to tug at my toddler's eyes, so I hesitantly stepped back into the warmth house.

After laying my child bed, I remembered that our insurance company offers an emergency nurse line. Gratefully, I called and within about fifteen or twenty minutes, was connected with a kind nurse who patiently listened as I sobbed into the phone and rambled on about how my husband was out of town, my four children were all in bed, and should I wake them up so we could go sit in the emergency room all night? 

I thoughtfully answered the nurse's questions (no, I didn't have burns. I hadn't lost consciousness, and my heart wasn't pounding out of my chest-but I did have an adrenaline rush because I was FREAKED OUT OF MY MIND). Finally, her voice gently broke through my sobs. I just want to reassure you that it sounds like you are okay. She continued to listen and verbally comfort me until I finally realized that I wasn't going to drop dead any second. 

The next few days slipped by in a mix of peace and anxiety. I was not exhibiting any of the symptoms the nurse had mentioned--in fact, I dutifully checked my arms every day for any weird burns or rashes--but I kept replaying the incident in my mind. The vivid sensation of those electrical waves gripped memory with fear. Finally, just a few hours before my husband was due to return, my lower arm began to feel sore and tingly. Our health care provider's office was already closed for the weekend, and I convinced myself that this was all in my head. I was fine, right? 

The next morning, my arm changed. 

We attended Saturday morning Mass as a family, and I served my kids breakfast while my husband shopped for groceries. All of a sudden, I happened to glance at my arm to see a dark red burn appear. My insides screamed in panic. It was small--just under an inch long--but it had just appeared, with no forewarning. My head felt light as I looked at that patch of red. I teetered over to the couch where I sat until my husband walked in, his arms laden with groceries. "I need to go to urgent care," I declared. 

Several minutes later, I walked into the urgent care clinic and felt ridiculous. My arm had a small burn and a slight tingling; but I felt fine otherwise. This was a waste of time! However, when the doctor entered the room, the atmosphere changed. He listened to me describe the saga of the week, and he checked my range of motion. He listened to my heart and examined my arm--concern wrinkling his forehead.

 "So, where are your Marvel superpowers?" he asked. 

I laughed. "That's exactly what my sister-in-law said!" 

The doctor said he needed to leave for a moment, to "check on some things," but then he paused at the doorway. "You are blessed," he declared. 

A short while later, he returned to confess that he would feel a lot better if I had an EKG. The nurse came, hooked me up for the EKG, and showed the doctor the results. After declaring that I was fine (but still should follow up with my primary physician), the doctor sent me on my way. 

A few days later, after enjoying a leisurely afternoon lounging on the grass with my kids, we were eating dinner. Suddenly, I felt a stabbing sensation in my back. Instinctively, I rapidly shifted my body against the chair. However, in the chaos of mealtime, I quickly forgot about it. Finally, late at night as I got ready for bed, I thought I'd glance in the mirror. What had caused that stabbing pain in my back?  

There was a perfect, small, dark red circle. I called out to my husband, and declared that it looked like a spider bite. Since we found a Black Widow spider close-ish to our front walkway sometime in the last year, my mind flew into a panic. As my husband clicked through photos of spider bites online, looking for a match ("what you have looks like a cross between a Black Widow and a Brown Recluse bite"), I shook my head. It was all too much to take in. "I just need to go to bed," I declared. "I'll call the doctor in the morning." 

The doctor's office got me in the next day, and after getting examined, I was reassured that I was perfectly fine and healthy, with nothing to be concerned about. After using the prescribed medicine two or three times, the spider bite vanished completely. 

While I slept one night a few weeks later, I had a vivid dream that a scorpion stung my toe. In my dream, I said something about how God is basically trying to tell me that I'm destined to have Marvel superpowers. It's a sentiment I've joked about many times in the past month. After all, for a person who never visits the doctor or has medical issues, to have two incidents in the span of just over a week is...weird. Yet, I haven't been able to zap anything with electricity. I do not have the ability to shoot webs. I don't have a scorpion tail (thankfully-I have no desire to be a supervillain).

However, I have something so much better than Marvel superpowers: I have the gift of abundant graces from God, offered in the Sacraments.  

As I learn about the sacraments, I'm grow even more convinced that we all need to more intentionally live out the gift of our Baptism. Baptism is not just a one-time event, a formality that is done "because that's what Catholics do." Instead, Baptism makes each of us into a new creation. Through this sacrament, God transforms us and offers us so many graces. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that: 

"The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace [...] giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit" (CCC 1266)

There's a lot we can unpack regarding Baptism, and this Catechism chapter on Baptism is well worth reading and pondering. In just a few weeks, myself and other Roman Catholics across the globe will celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. At the Easter liturgy, we have the opportunity to renew our Baptismal promises before we are splashed with holy water. 

Our Baptism was not a one-time event, stuck far in the past; it's a reality that we are invited to live out each and every day. As persevere through the final weeks of Lent, perhaps we can all take a moment to pull out the Bible and page through the Catechism and reflect on the gift of the sacrament of Baptism. 

It's a gift that's even greater than any superpowers we can imagine. 


  1. Oh my word!!!! I’m so glad you’re ok! How terrifying. I currently have a weird spider bite like the one you mentioned 😬

  2. Wow!! I’m so sorry this happened to you, def sounds scary but so happy to know all is ok. It was a thrill to read all the unfolding of events! I could easily imagine it with your descriptive storytelling.

    1. Thanks for reading, Elisabeth! It was not a fun experience to go through (I was completely and utterly terrified) but I'm glad there's the silver lining of it being a great story to share :) It was a fitting way to begin Lent, that's for sure!