Debbie Wilhite – Africa’s Ambassadors

We as a family are indebted to the numerous people who sympathized with us and prayed for us during my recent eye trial. We are also very grateful to our church for their love, and especially the Jim Hall family for putting me up–and putting up with me!–in such a sweet hospitable way. I shall take this month’s opportunity to share what occurred, trusting God may be glorified in the account.

Space does not permit me to enumerate on the specific timely verses the Lord gave during these past three months. As I have journaled my devotions, I can look back to see the hand of God. At the onset of our difficulty, I read Psalm 28:7, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”  Luke 8 was the New Testament reading with verse 48 being especially poignant: “…be of good comfort…faith…go in peace.” What an encouragement God’s Word is!

Two days before my scheduled return to Africa, I experienced a rare attack of Acute (Narrow) Angle-closure Glaucoma, a result of the angle between the iris and cornea closing.

Sunday evening, November 13, 2011,  began  the appearance of what I assumed to be a migraine. Despite the strange distraction of an unusually dilated pupil and the appearance of haloes around lights, the evening was a blessing. It was a privilege to sing “The Haven of Rest” with my sons, Jon and Derek, and enjoy my “last” service at LVBC.

The next day, though, when I awoke “snow” blind, I sought the Lord in His Word and prayer. I knew this demanded immediate medical attention.

The Lord brought to mind our optometrist.  Dr. Wichryk recognized the problem, although he had not seen a case in 10 years, and that only once. He prescribed an oral medicine as well as administered eyedrops to lower the sudden rise of pressure. My normal eye pressure was 16; now it was 45. Then he promptly referred me to Dr. DeRose, a glaucoma specialist in the area.

Because optic nerve damage and often irreparable vision loss can occur within hours of the onset of the problem, Dr. DeRose labored all day to restore and save my eyesight.  Finally he deemed it necessary to perform a laser procedure to burn a small hole in the iris, hoping to get the intraocular pressure (IOP) within normal limits.

My checkup the following day revealed the pressure still remained high. The doctor again treated the errant eye, which had not responded as well as needed, and successfully did laser surgery on the other eye as a preventative measure.

During the next two weeks in a series of followup checkups, the symptoms remained that of a far-advanced case of angle-closure glaucoma. My eye appeared red with a steamy, clouded cornea and a fixed, nonreactive dilated pupil. With the IOP up to 50, as a last resort we began preparations for surgery.

Finally, On November 30, I had cataract surgery on my right eye.  This replaced the swollen lens with a plastic artificial one, relieving the pressure on the cornea and allowing the liquid to drain more adequately.

In spite of some scarring, the eye seems to be responding well with medication. Although the intake of light is great because of the enlarged, stretched-out pupil, a contact lens helps to somewhat cut the glare.   My vision is 20/20 for intermediate range. Sunglasses also are a benefit, especially in sunny Africa.

Follow-up visits showed an amazing recovery–all to be attributed to God for the answers of much prayer by His people. To think of how many prayed over this one situation when there are people who suffer worse trials, often daily or lifelong, with so few to pray for them, was humbling. Here were Christians from every hemisphere — from western California to the far eastern Australia … from North Pole, Alaska, to Chile, South America, and our dear South Africa — joining us compassionately in our concern!

My 4-week-stay had been extended to 13 weeks away from my dear husband and 7 of our children.  How we missed each other! It was a joy, however, to have unexpected extra time with our other children and the 6 grandkids as well as a surprise visit by Jerry just in time for my last surgery. The Lord graciously kept each of us. He also taught us so many lessons personally. There are not enough words to thank the Lord for His care in the timing and provision of this need.

Had this attack occurred at any other time I’m confident I would have attempted to “sleep it off” and be permanently blind today. The Lord allowed this to happen at such a time when it was imperative to seek help. Perhaps He also let it be an extreme case where His working through impossibilities would bring Him greater glory. What a joy to be able to meet and tell others of the goodness of God–no matter what the outcome would have been.

Rejoicing in the Lord,



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Comments 2

  1. Debbie, I had not heard about your eye problem. Will be praying more specifically for this. Our son, Jonathan, just returned from Ghana on a mission trip there.
    Always good to read your updates.

    In Christ,

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