Emily Widman, a senior, loves to play the piano. When she wasn’t able to play due to sickness, her faith was tested and she struggled with her dream of playing the piano. She struggled with identifying what was causing her so much pain, then finding a doctor, she didn’t know if she was even meant to be a piano player. Then, she got an answer from God, or rather, a piano from God.
“I loved piano so much. It started out with loving it because of my mom. When I was little I would pick out little songs on the piano. When I started, lessons, I loved it so much that I would practice it an hour a day, which is crazy for the little pieces I started out with” Emily said.
Her mother, Elizabeth Widman saw this love for the piano in her daughter.
“Right away, Emily was excited about it, she would practice for it for an hour, and she went through 4 books in 2 years. At the end of the 2 years, the teacher told us “Emily has gone as far in piano as I ever did, I can’t teach her anymore.” “I never once had to tell her to practice, which was nice.”
She then took lessons from Dr. Kathryn March at Morningside and absolutely loved it. Playing the piano became a major part of her life, by the end of high school, she was at the level she should be and started doing piano competitions and tied for first. She decided to college at Morningside for piano as a music major. “Literally, I would practice four hours a day in the practice room. I would lose track of time because I would just be there having so much fun. My good friend was an oboe major as well. Everything with music was so amazing in life. In a matter of about 2 weeks, life completely changed.”
“I went from 4 hours of practice to nothing in two weeks. My arms felt so heavy to hold up and the chest pain started, and it was like a continuous thing. I couldn’t do it anymore.” Emily says. She got to the point where she would get mini-seizures, which wouldn’t allow her to drive, so her mother started driving her to school every day her first 2 years of college. She ended up taking two different semesters of two different years of college off to get better because she would just be in pain during class.
As they were trying to figure out what was going on, different doctors had a variety of diagnoses. Her mother said, “We went to 5 different doctors, they absolutely didn’t know what was wrong with her. At that point, she started falling. One doctor told her she was pregnant. We said that she was falling, and he said that she needed to eat Greek yogurt every day, and walk 2 miles 3 times a week, and that would take care of her problem. Another one wanted to put her on psychiatric medicine and said it was all in her head. We just went from doctor to doctor and we weren’t getting any answers.”
Then they heard about Lyme Disease and found a 400-page book in the library on it. Emily had most of the symptoms described, so they sent a sample of her blood to get tested in California that the book recommended, and it came back positive for Lyme Disease.
According to the CDC.com, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Now, finally getting some answers, and a name to what was causing her so much pain, they were able to find a doctor 5 hours away. She started taking treatments and was starting to feel better. Just as she was starting to get better, though they received a letter that her doctor wouldn’t be able to see any more chronic Lyme Disease patients because the Medical Association in Iowa didn’t recognize Lyme Disease can last more than two weeks, so she had no one to treat her.
Crushed, they were on the hunt for a doctor who could treat her. They ended up finding the Minnesota Lyme Disease Association, called and left a message explaining their situation. Their office called them back the next day and scheduled an appointment. When they came in for their appointment, the assistant was amazed how they were able to get an appointment at all, and pointed out there is a 250 patient waiting list for this doctor, this doctor sees patients from 32 states and 5 foreign countries. It was a miracle.
She started to see major changes for the better after getting treatments from this new doctor. “Going to that doctor, one thing that was the biggest change was that he realized how much I love piano, and wanted to help me get back to being able to play. Around that time I was up to being able to play like 5 minutes at a time, and I remember writing for piano juries at the end of semesters, that what I learned was to be thankful to even be able to play for 1 minute at the piano. It was a gift. Strength to do anything comes from God, because I never knew it until it was gone. It coming back slowly, it was the coolest thing” said Emily.
Through all of this, many times Emily explains that she feared she was really not meant to be a piano player, and that God did not want her to play. One day, she opened her parent’s email, which she explained was strange for her, because she never checked her parent’s email. She saw an email from an old gentleman in Vermillion who wanted his grand piano to go to someone who loved music as much as he did. “I had always dreamed of a grand piano, but there are extremely expensive and so I never thought it would happen” Emily explained.
She called to say she was interested and went to go check out this piano two-days later.
“I played the piano, and it was the most wonderful thing ever. He bought it brand new, took amazing care of it, had it tuned twice a year. And then I went and met this Max in the hospital nursing home afterward. He was the nicest old gentlemen ever.” She says they talked about their love of music, and she found out he was a Christian, so they talked about their faith as well. At the end of their visit, he said he would sell it to her for $2,545, so naturally, Emily went home to count her money. She explained how she didn’t really spend much growing, up, or really any from graduation.
The crazy amazing thing is that she had just enough to buy the piano. “I had $2 over what he asked. I had talked to Dr. March about this amazing situation, and Dr. March said ‘you should get off the phone right now and buy this because you couldn’t even buy an upright that had paint on it for that price.’” She bought the piano, and Dr. March helped them move it to their house because they would have had to pay more than what they paid for the piano to move it.
“When Dr. March got it to our house he says my dad ‘you realized, this piano is worth $22,000?’ Max knew what it was worth, but he knew that I couldn’t afford more than that, because I bought it with my own money. So, this piano is sitting at home, and literally, I am thinking I don’t know how in the world there could be any bigger of a sign than a grand piano just showing up because that story does not happen. It was really cool. There was a point where, I tell this part in my radio feature, on KWITT, that I was sitting in front of this piano, and crying and realizing that God still wanted me to be a pianist the whole time, even though I couldn’t for a little bit. “
She is now doing much better, and most of her symptoms are gone. “Especially in the last year, I’ve been feeling 10000 times better than I have felt in years and I just feel normal and life is great, but the biggest…. I now would describe having gone through Lyme disease as biggest, kind of blessing in my life that could happen. I hated the pain and when I was going through it I didn’t want my parents to see how much it hurt. I would hide stuff, which is probably not good. Now, what I want people to see from my going through this it’s how amazing God is through hard times. And I would say even if I still couldn’t play piano, he would still be good, and there would still be something out there that could make it work eventually.”
As Emily gets ready for her recital, she continues to be very active in school. One of her friends Rachel Dejong who also enjoys playing piano, commented how she noticed Emily using her gifts balancing playing the piano and schoolwork. “For Christ connections last year, she played quite a bit which is pretty amazing because balancing piano practice on top of schoolwork is a big commitment, one which I can’t keep up with. “Last year, we went to her house for the pizza party, and I saw this gorgeous grand piano in her house and I was super jealous and we talked about it for 20 minutes.”
As Emily gets ready for her senior recital, she is as happy as can be. She is truly thankful that she is able to play again because she knows pain, and what it is like not being able to do what she really loved. Like she said, through all of this, God blessed her and wanted her to be a pianist the whole time, and now she loves it even more.