This is an account of a major event that occurred in my life in April 2015. It’s a little long but I wanted to be sure to include all the information I could so that I could more easily convey how much God has done in not only my life, but in the lives of my family and church family as I went through this period of my life. My purpose for writing this is to give God all glory and credit for the work that he has done in my life. I am humbled that God has chosen to show his power and faithfulness in my life. God has blessed me with a wonderful praying family and a huge church family that stepped up and prayed daily for my recovery. To God be all the glory forever and ever.
As I reflect on things now, I was probably headed for the problems I encountered, but did not see the trouble coming. That seems to be how things happen for us. We have signs of trouble but we ignore them and just keep moving along. Looking back to May, 2014, Theresa and I went to Myrtle Beach with my daughter, Hope, and her family. As I remember how I felt on that trip and looking back at some photos from that trip, it’s apparent that some of my problem was evident then, but I wasn’t smart enough or just plain ignored it to be able to get it treated. I had been feeling bad for a while and was getting to the point that I was just winding down. It’s like I was running out of gas and just couldn’t get my tank refilled. I wasn’t sleeping much at night so therefore I wasn’t getting enough rest. I have used a c-pap machine for around 20 years and it seemed that it wasn’t helping like it used to. There was just no way I could get rest. Since it was spring time in East Tennessee, I kept blaming allergies to explain the rotten way I felt. Pollen was everywhere and it was usually the cause of any problems I had with either breathing or tiredness.
It’s amazing how much God will be working in our lives, but we can’t see His work or won’t see His work in real time. But after the problems are taken care of, we can usually recognize the work that God was already doing. That’s how it is for me with this situation. I can look back now and see where He was already working even before I became aware of my problems. In the scriptures He is revealed as our shepherd. We are His sheep. That’s a perfect illustration since the shepherd is always looking after the sheep and sheep are always getting into trouble. Remember, I had signs that things were wrong, but like a sheep grazing in a field, I wasn’t concerned with any problems, until it was too late. That’s when my shepherd, Jesus Christ, stepped in and took over. I am so thankful that God is always watching over us because we can’t do that for ourselves. We are too busy, have too much to do, and just generally stick our heads in the sand when problems confront us. At least until we have to stop and deal with them. This is exactly the point I had reached at the first of April.
Easter Sunday, April 5- I teach Sunday school at Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport. Since it was Easter Sunday, the subject was the resurrection of Jesus focused on the power of the resurrection. As class time came to a close, I shared what I consider one of the most amazing things about Jesus death and resurrection. I believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man. That means Jesus was God in the flesh for the purpose of revealing Himself to us. And that means that it was God on the cross. So when it came time to die so his plan of redemption would be fulfilled, God laid it all on the line. He laid down all his power and strength KNOWING that he could pick it back up again. I’ve never really understood that, but I believe it. That would be like me being able to stop my heart and then make it start beating again, which we all know is impossible. But, with God it’s not a problem. What this means for us is a very powerful and wonderful truth that we need to understand and believe. The same power that could do that, lives inside of every believer who has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives inside us to comfort us and lead us into all truth. The same power that arose from the dead is alive and well inside me. PRAISE GOD! I went on to tell my class that no matter what kind of problems we encountered in the coming week, we could take comfort in this power and just remember that “God’s Got This”. That simple phrase would become our theme as I went through the hospitalization and all the things that went with it. Little did I know that I was the one who was about to face a major problem. I’m so thankful that “God’s Got This” and me in His mighty and capable hands.
April 7– This was just a regular day but I was extremely tired and was having trouble breathing. I made it through the day and went straight to bed when I got home. But I couldn’t rest. All night I was up and no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get any rest.
April 8- After a long night with no rest, I finally dozed off around 5 am. Just a little while later, my wife woke me up and informed me that she would be back in a little while. We babysit our granddaughter and she was going to go pick her up and then she would come back to get me. Then we were going to the doctor. I said I would get up, take my shower and meet her at work. But I couldn’t get that accomplished. I had come to realize that something was very wrong but didn’t have a clue. I prayed and asked God to let me somehow get in front of someone who could tell me what was happening. So off to the doctor we went. The first thing they checked was my oxygen level in my blood. It was down around 70 which is extremely low. The doctor wanted me to go to the ER but I argued that it was only allergies. After seeing the concern in my wife’s face, I reluctantly agreed. The first person who I saw when I entered the ER was Tammy. She’s the wife of one of my best friends and she took one look at me and told me to come on back. She knew I was in trouble. No time spent with paperwork, she just went to work on me. They suspected that I had blood clots because of the way I was breathing. I did breathing treatments, but it didn’t help. So after a short while, I was in an ambulance headed for Wellmont Hospital in Kingsport.
April 8- It’s now Wednesday afternoon on the 8th as we arrive at the hospital in Kingsport. They checked me in and started looking and testing to try to determine what my problems were. The next day, Thursday, they did an echocardiogram which revealed that I had fluid around my heart. So this brought in a surgeon to remove the fluid. They were also very concerned with my breathing and the possibility of blood clots being present in my lungs. I was also being treated for fluid which had somehow gathered in almost all of my body. I had noticed that I was getting bigger but I had no explanation for the weight gain. I was swelling up in my legs and arms and just generally everywhere. So they were trying to treat that before surgery.
April 10– Today was the day for my surgery to remove the fluid around my heart. It was supposed to be in the afternoon but I got bumped up to the morning. Just before they came to get me, I was reading the Bible on my phone. One verse in particular stood out to me and I bookmarked it. It was Philippians 4:5 which reads “Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” Just four words stood out to me but they are four very important words. THE LORD IS NEAR. I could remember that when I could remember nothing else. In verse 6 and 7 we read that we can have his peace to guard our hearts and minds through Jesus and it says not to worry but through prayer and petition with thanksgiving to let our requests be made known to God. But all that really seemed to matter to me at this time was that THE LORD IS NEAR. That was the part that really spoke to me. The surgery went well; they removed ¾ of a quart of water, which was a lot the way the doctors acted. They said I had a strong heart and the doctors were satisfied that the surgery and I were doing well. Then the next problem surfaced. During surgery, they usually use a vent to help you breathe since you are in such a deep sleep. Shortly after surgery, the vent is removed as you slowly wake up. This is where things went wrong for me. My problem was the blood clots that were in each lung. My lungs would not start working again. The vent was running at 100% and they also had to “bag” it to help. I’m not sure what that means but to me it meant that the vent needed help to get oxygen into my body. Of course I was out of it, but my wife and daughter and everyone else were just beginning to grasp how bad this situation really was.
Sunday April 12-This is what my wife refers to as the “darkest point”. She was told by the doctors that there wasn’t much hope for my recovery. All my vital signs of my heart, liver, kidneys, and every other bodily function were right where they needed to be, but my lungs were not working. As I understand, most of the time, our bodies will start to shut down in a case like this. But mine didn’t. Everything worked except my lungs. I now believe that God was maintaining everything else until He restored my lungs. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. They asked Theresa to sign a release so they could do a bronchoscopy. The doctors explained that it might help but that it could also make me worse. One of those kill you or cure you things. She called the church which was starting the morning service. They stopped the service and prayed for me. I thank God that I am part of a church family that prays. They did the bronchoscopy and the doctors said I made it through that OK. They cleaned my lungs out but they still weren’t working. Now we had reached the point of “there’s nothing else we can do”. As one doctor would tell my daughter “we just don’t understand why his lungs aren’t working. We have done all we can do. There’s no real reason for his lungs not to work. “ Having heard a doctor’s report like this before in my life on three different occasions, I can sympathize with Theresa calling this the darkest time. It usually means that someone is dying and the end is near.
April 13-15 – During these days, I was on the vent and there was really not much change. My family was only allowed to visit with me for short periods of time. During some of those visits, I would be partially awake and would try to communicate with them using a pen and paper. Most of what I tried to say or write was really hilarious as my skills of communication were not really that sharp. And each time they spoke with the doctors they would get the same reply. They would only say that they didn’t know why my lungs weren’t working. On Tuesday, the 14th, Todd Potter, one of our deacons from church, came to visit. During his visit my situation took an amazing turn. As Todd was standing by my hospital bed, I reached out and took his hand and placed it on my forehead. Then I cupped my hands as if I was praying. Both Todd and my wife knew I was asking to be anointed with oil and prayed for by the elders of the church as we are instructed to do in James 5:14-16.
“Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:14-16
At the time and for a while after I recovered, I would share this story and tell how I asked to be anointed. But after much thought and some prayer, I have come to this conclusion. I didn’t really ask to be anointed. I was in too much fog to see clearly let alone think clearly. Several people have mentioned that I must have a great faith to ask for the anointing and believe that my healing would come, but I have to admit, it wasn’t my faith, it was my Savior! God took my hand, reached over and got Todd’s hand, and placed his hand on my forehead. Then God cupped my hands as if I was praying. I really believe that I had no part in making the decision to be anointed or reaching over to take Todd’s hand and place his hand on my head. I believe it was God who did all that and He was saying “Anoint and then stand back and watch and wait.” I’m convinced that God was telling Todd to anoint me and pray the way the Bible teaches us to when we are sick. In obedience, Todd told my wife he would get this set up and as soon as possible they would come and pray for me.
The plans were made and the next day people came to the hospital to anoint and pray for me. Some were deacons and some were church family that just wanted to pray. I can remember some of them as they stood around my bed. I waved to some and even remember Paul, our student minister at the time, making a comment about the Dallas Cowboys. He knew I was a Redskin fan so he was taking advantage of me and making a good natured comment. I have since threatened him but haven’t followed up on that threat….yet. I know that he offered his time, comments, and prayers in love for me and for Jesus. I am thankful that the nurses and doctors allowed so many people to visit at one time since I was only allowed two visitors every four hours. But they came and they prayed according to scripture. Then my recovery started. My wife Theresa has told me that it was about 30 minutes later when my lungs began to breathe. At first they were slightly working, but none the less, they were beginning to work. The vent was adjusted from 100% to 90% and my oxygen levels stayed good. In the next two days we would see continued improvement. All this happened just as they were talking to my wife about doing a tracheotomy to move the ventilator. This is not something that my wife felt good about and it’s not something that I would have voted for. But God in His time came in right on time and revealed His power and glory to me and to all the other people who were working with me. He is truly an on time God. During the next two days we saw much improvement in my breathing and I was moved from CICU to ICU, which was an improvement. On the morning of the 7th day on the vent, they came and removed the vent and placed me on what they called “high flow”. I was still at 60% but was getting better. Later when I had been moved into a regular hospital room I would have two doctors tell me that they didn’t think I would make it. As one doctor said, “medically speaking I shouldn’t be talking to you today. We didn’t think you were going to pull through.” That kind of thing really gets your attention. I just simply pointed to our sign that proclaimed “GOD”S GOT THIS” and we both knew that without God’s intervention, I would have been a memory.
April 16-20 – I was in ICU and each day brought major improvement. During this time they were working to get the oxygen turned down and I made it to 30% and was able to come off the high flow and move down to a regular oxygen tube. Things were beginning to settle down in my system and I was starting to be more stabilized. One day they came in and asked me if I wanted to sit up since I had been on my back since the 8th of the month. They told me to just sit for a couple of minutes and that it would take time to sit up longer. I sat there for 5 minutes which really surprised the therapist. The next day I was able to stand with the help of a walker and a really brave but small lady therapist. She helped me to stand even though I was taller and lots bigger than her. I think I stood for a few moments and then sat on the bed for a while. My strength was gone and for the first time, I could not just jump up and walk like I have been used to for 60 years. I picked up the breathing exercise that I was supposed to use to help my lungs. It’s a plastic tube with a pipe on that I breathe in with and as I breathe in, it moves a round piece up a tube which has numbers on it. The highest number is 2500 and even though I really tried, I couldn’t get it to move. That really scared me because I could get it to 1500 when I came in, as sick as I was. Now I couldn’t move it. But God was working. On the 20th I was moved out into a regular hospital room. Each day brought new and unexpected improvement. The first time I was allowed to try to walk, I made it 165 feet using a walker. Doesn’t sound like much but for someone who was supposed to die, it’s quite a ways. I did have to rest during the walk, but I made it. The next day with the walker, I made the same walk without resting. I was tired but I was happy that I could make the walk and not go down. I didn’t know how to use the walker so I was picking it up and setting it down until they showed me how to move it without lifting it. I was just happy to be moving it at all even if I did it wrong. The doctors were talking to me about going to HealthSouth for rehab. At first I didn’t want to but I finally agreed and it was set up and on the 23rd of April, I left the hospital and moved into Health South. Only 8 days since the anointing. God is good.
April 23-May 1— As we were preparing to leave the hospital, I asked if my wife could take me in our van. So after clearing it with the doctors, they put me in a wheel chair and took me downstairs to the front entrance. I got out of the wheel chair and into our van. It was only a couple of miles to Health South but I was on vacation. I couldn’t believe that I had come that far in such a short time. We were continuing to see big improvements each day. The best estimate they gave me for rehab was 15 days. I left there on May 1, which was 5 days quicker than the doctors thought. When we started rehab I was able to do most everything that I was asked to do. First time on the walker I went 300 feet. The target was 50 feet. God was working overtime. A few days later, my daughter visited me during my physical therapy session. I was riding a stationary bike and she was seated next to me as we talked. Don’t miss that. I was riding a bike and talking at the same time. I rode the bike for 20 minutes as we talked about everything that had happened. She was trying to figure out what changes I had to make in my lifestyle to prevent all this from happening again. I had already asked where the blood clots came from, where the water came from and all that was said is that there was a 20% chance we would never know. I‘m under no dietary restrictions except for thickened beverages due to the vent being in my throat for so long. The vent caused some swallowing problems that are also healing up. So I looked at her and asked her this question. “What if all this happened for the glory of God?” No other reason other than for God to reveal His power and glory. In the book of John we read about a blind man who was standing along the road when Jesus and His disciples came by. The disciples asked Jesus who had sinned, this man or his father. Jesus said no one had sinned but that this man was blind for the works of God to be shown.
“As He was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him” John 9:1-4
It’s really easy for me to believe that all this happened for God to get the glory and to reveal His power in my life. I believe that God is in control all the time, not just when we need Him. And I concede that you can blame all sorts of things on me for causing these problems. But I ask you to consider a few things before you do. First, I stayed alive until I finally went to the doctor. I’m sure that the water around my heart and the blood clots didn’t just come into existence when I went to the hospital. They were there before and as I understand all that was said, I was in danger of a heart attack, stroke, or even the blood clots moving and causing my death. But none of that happened and that’s a God thing. He kept me alive and alert even when my oxygen level was below 70. Then with all that happened to me, I made it through this with zero pain. That’s right, no pain. They kept asking me where I was hurting and I kept telling them I wasn’t hurting anywhere. That had to be a God thing. Then consider that during all this, I was aware and can remember lots of things that I haven’t mentioned here, that happened during the time I was on the vent. And during all this I had perfect peace that it was all going to be ok. That’s a God thing. For someone like me who don’t really like being poked and prodded and stuck with needles, this was a major event in my life and I was so calm that even I wondered why I wasn’t upset. Again, that had to be God keeping me calm. Remember the four words from that verse that stuck on me? THE LORD IS NEAR! That’s all I needed to know and He helped me remember. For me to experience His peace, the peace that passes all understanding, was a major God thing. He gives grace and peace as we need it daily and He did a most excellent job during this time for me. I was told by one of the nurses that when someone who has blood clots in their lungs and they come from CICU to ICU they usually don’t live very long. It’s evidently quite common for the clots to move when the patient is moved from one bed to the other. Just simply moving their body can cause the clots to move and often results in death. Again, this was a God thing. And then consider the ways that God has used this event to grow me, my wife, my daughter and her husband, people in our Sunday School class and other church family members. He has used this event to change people for eternity. In the case of my daughter, let me say that she and I have a fantastic relationship. Her first mother died when she was two years old. I remarried and her second mother died when she was 9 years old. I have been the one that has always been there for her during her life. She has called me her rock. I have to admit that it’s pretty cool having a daughter that looks up to you so much and depends on you like she did me. But I had noticed that at times she came to me when she should have been going to God. As I have gotten older I became more aware of the fact that we don’t live forever. Whenever I would talk to her about this, she would quit listening if I said I wasn’t going to be around forever. I was trying to explain to her that I really hadn’t taken care of her, but that it was God using me to care for her. So, if I was gone (died) then the same God that had provided for her through me could and would continue to provide for her through someone else or some other way. She really didn’t have to worry but she couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to me. Then suddenly she was faced with this prospect. On the Sunday after Easter when time was the darkest for her and Theresa, they both were in the Chapel at the hospital, literally lying on the floor and crying out to God. Hope was pleading her case before God and explaining how that her daddy was her rock, the one she had depended on, the one that had always been there for her and she needed her daddy. Please don’t let him die. Then God spoke to her and He said “Your daddy is NOT your rock. I AM your rock.” God used this event to do something that I had been trying to do for a long time. I was in ICU when she told me that she didn’t want me to be offended but I was no longer her rock. She then told me the story and what God had done in her life. I don’t mind telling you that I was humbled, blessed and encouraged that God had done such a work during a stressful dark period of our lives. If that is the only reason I had these problems, then in my opinion, it was worth what I went through. We still have a fantastic relationship that is better than before and her relationship with God has moved to a whole new level. So I am grateful to God for working in her life. Theresa has experienced a new period of growth through this also. She has been encouraged, blessed and drawn closer to God through my sickness. So again, this makes it worth my time. As I look back and see how God gave me peace, took my pain, worked in my family’s life, and mine, and how that He has blessed people around me, I can more understand Paul when he said that we are to count it all joy. It wasn’t fun going through all the things that I experienced and I don’t or won’t look forward to doing it again. But there is joy to be found when HE IS NEAR. To God be the glory for all the things that He has done and what he continues to do.
This is just a small story about all that happened while I was in the hospital and after I was released. In the two weeks following my release from the hospital, I made visits to my heart surgeon and pulmonary specialist. I was released by the heart surgeon two weeks after being discharged from the hospital and don’t have to see him again unless something new happens. In fact they said the echocardiogram that they did during my office visit was better than the one that was taken right after surgery. This means that I am still getting better as time goes. My lung doctor won’t see me again until November 2015. So it appears that all is well and I am back on track. No worse for wear but greatly enriched in the power, glory, grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, then that makes us brother/sister in Christ and I rejoice in that fact. If you’ve never asked Jesus to forgive your sins and you’ve never entered into a personal relationship with Him, then let me encourage you to consider your future and your fate. We all stand in need of a savior and we all have sin that needs to be dealt with. And sooner or later, if we live long enough, we will need to have a personal physician that is all powerful. And I might add, there is no one but Jesus who can meet our needs. He is our only hope in a world filled with tribulation and problems. It’s my prayer that you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9-10
I hope you have been blessed and encouraged with me sharing how God has worked and been faithful in my life. May God bless and keep you forever.