24 August 2002

‘I always knew God would cure me,’ says Tristessa Drake of Regent Hall.  Tristessa DrakePage 5 - Contents of this issue

Tristessa’s story

THE past few months have been amazing for 27-year-old Tristessa Drake. She started the year reliant on the wheelchair she began using six years ago, but today buzzes about many places on foot. And she’d like to run the London Marathon in a couple of years’ time! She’s sold her wheelchair and used the cash to buy a digital piano – music is her great love. And she works full-time for the Schools and Colleges Information Service at the Army’s UK Territorial Headquarters. How on earth (or in Heaven) did this change occur?

Ever since she can remember, Tristessa has had problems with her physical health. She explains: ‘I had a neuromuscular condition that meant my nerves and muscles didn’t always communicate with each other as they were supposed to. I started having difficulty walking when I was about nine, and a few years later found it hard to keep up with people when walking.

‘It got worse and worse as I got older. By the time I was 21 I found myself in a wheelchair.’

Tristessa’s condition, diagnosed in the USA, is particularly rare and presumed incurable. She was prescribed a drug which helped for a few hours at a time, but many everyday tasks proved a struggle.

‘My arms, legs and breathing were affected,’ says Tristessa. ‘Talking was difficult. Everything was, really. Without the drugs I wouldn’t have been able to do anything at all.’

After leaving school Tristessa gained a piano diploma and studied at London’s City University for a BSc in Music and Technology. But doctors warned her that her piano-playing was causing muscle complications.

‘About 12 months after this I got a place at a music college to study tenor horn,’ recalls Tristessa. ‘I was there for less than a year before I was rushed into hospital and had to give up the course. Subsequently, I began using a wheelchair.’

Throughout these trying times Tristessa remained strong in her faith, never losing sight of God, whom she had come to know as a child.

‘There were occasions when I was scared, especially when I found myself not being able to breathe. But I learnt to stay as calm as possible. My biggest fear was not being able to do what God wanted me to do.

‘However, for much of the time I was ill I felt at peace, even though I wasn’t always happy with my situation. I knew God, and trusted him not to leave me.’

Tristessa acknowledges she never questioned her condition. ‘I figured God knew what he was doing. Even if he came down and explained why things happened as they did, I still wouldn’t understand it all.’

Spiritual, not physical, healing was a priority for Tristessa, and what occurred following this year’s Roots conference came like a bolt out of the blue.

‘I’d been to Roots and had an awful time, simply because I felt so ill,’ Tristessa recalls. ‘It had been hard sitting in meetings, and I couldn’t talk well, so it was difficult socialising. Additionally, just before the weekend I’d told the bandmaster at Regent Hall – where I soldier – that I would have to leave the band because playing made me too ill. This was a wrench, as it was something I’d always loved doing. At this point I really felt I’d messed up my life.’

After Roots, Tristessa returned to her home in north London. On the Thursday morning she woke up, alone in the house which she shares with her younger sister Shelley.

‘I usually try to move first thing in the day,’ she says. ‘But that morning, when I tried to move, my legs actually shifted! I lay there for half an hour or so, moving around, wondering if I was dreaming. I decided to get up to see what would happen.

‘I stood, and began walking, pushing my wheelchair in front of me, thinking that at any moment I would collapse. But I didn’t. I went and made myself a cup of coffee. Realising I couldn’t carry the cup and hold the wheelchair, I let go of the chair. I was in a daze!’

Next Tristessa picked up her horn. She could breathe easily. ‘I played non-stop for three hours. My lip was shattered, but I kept thumping out the notes! I shouted to God, "Is this real?" I knew it was.’

Tristessa rang her corps officer to tell him the news, before driving to Kettering, where her parents – also corps officers – are stationed.

‘I walked up the path, and my mum came out of the house,’ she recalls. ‘I can’t explain how it felt! There were tears of course. Dad rang everyone he knew. It was the strangest day ever!’

At Roots, Tristessa prayed with one of the delegates that she would receive God’s peace. Unknown to Tristessa at the time of her healing, on the Monday – the last day of the Roots conference – the delegate prayed for her again and received from the Bible the message, ‘Give me three days.’ Three days later Tristessa was healed.

‘I think this person expected a phone call,’ Tristessa laughs, ‘but didn’t anticipate the revelation would be so dramatic!’

Doctors have recorded Tristessa’s experience as ‘recovery believed to be due to prayer’. Tristessa stresses that she needs no confirmation from medical experts regarding these events, but neither does she want her experience sensationalised.

‘I don’t want people to look at this healing and say, "That’s who God is." He is the same as he always was to me. He doesn’t love me any more than he did, and I don’t love him any more than I did. I’ve always thought God is amazing!’

Tristessa is equally concerned about her inability to explain the extraordinary things she’s experienced.

‘God’s given me so many gifts,’ she says. ‘Central in my life is spiritual, not physical, health. It would be pointless to be physically healthy and not know God.’

Tristessa – once again playing in Regent Hall Band – is grateful to everyone who was there when she went through rough times, especially her family and friends at the ‘Rink’, and promises never to lose sight of her faith.

‘I always knew God would cure me eventually,’ she smiles. ‘I just thought it would be in Heaven. It’s simply happened a little earlier than I expected it to!’

This page created 23 Aug 2002
© Salvation Army UK, 2002