Priorities and Gratitude

Karen Scribano   -  

If you are someone who is used to being in charge, and the one everyone can count on to step up when things get stressful, it is incredibly frustrating to find yourself unable to take care of the ones who depend on you. Relying on everyone else for even your most basic needs is a difficult proposition.  And yet this is exactly what happened to Nate Sammler earlier this year. 


“It started as tingling in my hands, which I thought was carpal tunnel. Then I noticed that my feet were always cold, and eventually I lost feeling up my legs. I had to stop driving when I realized I couldn’t feel when I was depressing the brake or the gas pedal.”  Tests were inconclusive, but as the loss of feeling in his limbs continued, Nate was admitted to Methodist Hospital, and soon moved to University of Iowa Hospital. He lost the ability to walk, use his arms, and couldn’t feel or move below his waist. He spent a total of 50 days inpatient, undergoing a barrage of tests and intensive physical and occupational therapy.  A diagnosis was elusive, and his family was extremely worried.  When he was finally released in May, he required a wheelchair and daily help for bathing and dressing.  


The stress to his family did not end there. He had been out of the hospital only a few weeks when his dad passed away.  Then, before the memorial service could be held, his mom ended up needing triple bypass surgery.  His best friend’s wife began a battle with cancer. And when his diagnosis finally came in July, it was for autoimmune sensory ganglionopathy—a very rare condition with a huge price tag for twice-a-year injection treatments that will kill all his white blood cells while attacking whatever it is that is attacking his nerves.   


He was very irritated that he couldn’t physically help his family during this difficult time. “For a small amount of time, I was really angry at God, and full of self-pity.  But I am generally a positive person, and my faith was strong enough to know that God wouldn’t abandon me even when I prayed angry prayers.”  


Nate’s favorite Bible verse is John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.  “I feel like this has been a year of giant blackness, but there have always been glimmers of light.  My wife, Kim, has been amazing through all of this, with her faith and the impact she’s had on me. My kids have kept me focused on the lessons I want to pass along, including that this condition does not define who I am as a person. Family members have supported me with faith and humor. Pastor Bob came to visit me while I was at Methodist, and assistance from the St. Mark Pastor’s Fund helped me get the wheelchair and other equipment I need during my recovery. Care ministers have called and sent grief packets.  And pharmaceutical companies have offered to cover my treatments.” 


“This has been a big year of humility for me – I have had to let God help me through my family, my friends, and my church.” Nate’s body is recovering, and he focuses on staying positive. “A lot of my perspective has changed in terms of my gratitude.  I am thankful for all that my parents sacrificed so that my siblings and I had the opportunities we did as we grew up.  And I try to now put energy into my girls to help them explore what their passions will be.  God provides a lot that people take for granted; I just need the basics. I start each day reading the Bible and just talking to God. I am prioritizing my life with family and faith.  I see that the more Christ-centered my life is, the better my life is.”