It happened on January 3rd this year at 12.00 noon.
Back then I was staying at my mission base in France.
As in every first week of the year, no meals are served in the large canteen.
I happen to be one of the very few people on the whole base that day. I head downstairs hoping to find some leftovers in the cold room (large community fridge) where the food is stored.
I open the door which closes upon itself in order to keep the room cold. When I finally push the inside button to open the door, it does not open. I try repeatedly but for some reason it stays locked.
The light turns off. The switch is only on the outside. A rush of panic wells up in me.
When I realise what day it is (Thursday) and that there might not be anyone around before Monday morning, I know that the danger of ending up dead in the cold is very possible.
I start screaming for help, but it is of no help since the cold room is so tightly closed, no one would ever hear me. I cry out to Jesus. I’m banging constantly upon the door with my right foot.
I decide to take a risk to break the electric cable of the large machine that produces the cold. I can hardly see the wire. On the third try, the wire breaks and I get a terrible shock through my hands.
I am thankful that at least the room is not cold anymore. Unfortunately, my relief does not last very long as I realise that since there is no cold air there will probably soon be no air at all. The whole room is airtight.
That’s when the panic goes up even more. The anguish is so high I am afraid of passing out.
I pick up an aluminium plate and manage to make a very small opening on the side of the door. The plate bends and I get cut on my right hand. I’m bleeding but I don’t care as long as I can call for help from that tiny opening. At least some slight air flow is coming into the room.
With the aluminium plates I bang against pipes hoping that maybe if there is someone in the building, they might notice the noise.
After almost one hour, exhausted and shaking in fear I become aware that there are more chances of dying than coming out alive.
When the panic attack is at its highest, suddenly the door opens and in walks Philippe, the director of the Mission base.
I rush out of the room and run shaking uncontrollably.
I’ve just been through the most terrifying hour in my life.
A few days later I read in the news that in America 3 children were found dead in a cold room.
I really believe Jesus heard me when I called upon Him. ‘In my distress I called to the Lord and He answered me’ (Jonah 2 v 3)
When I left France a few weeks later to fly to Cambodia, I thought the painful story was behind me. I had some pain in my right hand but did not make a big deal of it.
Over the weeks the pain increased and spread from one hand to another. I saw 8 different doctors in Cambodia.
When the pain started in my feet, I realised I had to leave as soon as possible and get further treatment in France where I saw another 4 doctors. They took one blood test after another.
The memory of the cold room experience was so buried in me that I could not link it with the excruciating pain I was now going through in my body.
God used a Christian friend (who’s been for 8 years my Mum’s prayer partner) to help me look at another possible reason than physical to the suffering in my body. She met me several days ago. When we finally got talking about the cold room event, this Christian lady felt that this could very likely be the root of the problem.
Two days later I had to be rushed to the hospital because of severe pain. At the Emergency Unit, I saw a doctor, then around 2.00 in the morning a psychologist who, when hearing the story of the cold room, stated that I was certainly suffering from Post-Traumatic Choc.
He told me: ‘Facing death the way you did is one of the highest forms of trauma.’
My body has been reacting to the mental trauma I went through.
Actually a pastor friend who I has shared the story with back in January told me his concern: ‘Timothée, it is possible that when you go back to Cambodia, the shock of what happened to you will suddenly catch up with you and overwhelm you’. He was right.
Knowing now that the root cause of my pain has very likely been found has given me some relief.
Monday night I had my first interview for therapy. I believe I am on the right track now though I am still extremely weak and go through much pain at night.
I also believe there is a new future opening up for me. I will not be going back to Cambodia. The door is definitely closed. I landed in Phnom Penh when I was 26. I left for good when I was 46.
Your prayers are so much needed. Pain will not have the final word.
Timothée Paton, Tourcoing, France, June 18th, 2019.
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