On Wednesday July 28 at 7am I was scheduled for simple heart catherization of both sides of the heart. My Cadiololoist was being assisted by my Pulmonologist. A thirty minute procedure unless they found a blocked artery or 2, then it would be a scant 3 hour journey. Just like Gilligan and the skipper too.
The first stint went in as planned. But the second stint inserted proceded to tear the blood vessel, triggered a mild heart attack, and just like that I was off to Gilligan’s Island. Actually, I was off to Athens Regional Hospital, where the #1 Cardiac Surgery team in Athens was waiting to preform open heart surgery. They opened my chest about 3:45pm and as they were moving my heart to the cyronic operating chamber I had a massive heart attack. For the next 4 hours they alterated between operating on my heart and using emergency medical porcedures to keep me alive. They put my heart back in my chest and sent me to CCCU. This was my Gilligan’s Island which I entered by waking in a darkened room bound hand and food with a vent jamed down my throat. It felt more like the Isle of Dr. Moreau than Gilligan’s Island. That was on Friday July 30. How much do I remember of what I wrote in the last 2 paragraphs? Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
All I knew was that I bound hand and food, felt like I was drowning, and had no idea how I got there. This was the most terrified I have have ever been. On Saturday July 31 I became aware of who I was, where I was, why I was there and discovered a vast conspiracy. It was a conspiracy among friends, family, CCF Alums, campus ministers, pastors, people and churches all over the USA and the world. My baby brother Bryan flew in from the Republic of Panama, my brother Phil in Haiti began praying, my brother Scott, in Korea teaching, began praying, Sheila, my incredible wife was praying and leading the charge to get others praying. My daughters Melissa and Jennifer prayed and spread the word through their churches. Their husbands David Berry and Eric Rubio prayed, arranged childcare for my 7 grandsons and freed my daughters to take care of their mom and me. Our son John flew in from Maryland and began praying. My mother and daddy began praying and spreading the word. Sheila’s brother Boyd and mother drove down from their farm in N. Georgia. Melissa was given a task no daughter who loves her daddy should ever have: tell everyone there that my chance of survival was 50/50 at best. By now the group at Athens Regional had grown so large that the hospital gave them their own waiting room! Melissa made the announcement but then lost it. Her Uncle Boyd came to the rescue and just took over. He had everyone join hands and by all accounts delivered a stirring prayer. Miracles were happening but all I knew was that I felt like I was drowning and yet no one would pull the ventilator from my throat. I felt like I was on the Isle of Dr. Moreau but the truth was the armies of Narnia were on the move.
The conspiracy I discovered wasn’t new it was the conspiracy of faith in Jesus that will not give up.
The ventilator was removed from my throat on Sunday August 1st and I discovered the joy of ice chips. Sheila, Melissa, Jennifer and John began answering questions and filling in the gaps. Amazingly I was released from CCCU on Monday August 2nd and moved to the Cardiac Stepdown Unit. There I would begin to learn to walk and do simple tasks on my own. More significantly my time in CSU was when the conspiracy began more obvious. Angela Denton-Rachel came by one day and I discovered that she had taken my computer and sent Ken Leichty what he needed for the ACM National Student Conference. I was to rest and let them take care of the Conference. I retired in July so this was totally an act of love and loyalty. Of course I found that she was praying and spreading the word.
I would remain at the CSU until Monday August 9th. My time there was painful and wonderful. I got my stamina up to where I could walk 60 feet, which sounds like nothing but is quite significant. I also used my time there for prayer and to tell my story as a testimony to Jesus. One day I sat on the bed with 2 of my 3 surgeons and asked them questions. They gave me the details of the surgery I’ve given you. They also were quite un-surgeon like in their belief that my being alive was a miracle. Their word, not mine. As gently as possible they told me that not one team member believed I would leave the operating table alive. But I did. Once I was in CCU they believed that I might survive but not without brain damage. But I did (no more brain damage than when I went into surgery). They were amazed when I woke up, when I left CCU 1 day after the vent was removed, and that I could now walk 60 feet. It takes a miracle to impress cardiac surgeons. I thank God that he chose me to be that miracle. I know I’m not worthy but I learned a long time ago that this is the way of grace.
It is Tuesday August 10th and I have been discharged from the hospital into the Acute Surgical Rehab Center at St. Mary’s Hospital. I will have 3 hours of therapy a day here and learn about 35 essential life skills (like how to put on your socks without pulling your incisions open).
If you are reading this the chances are good that you are part of the conspiracy of those faithful who would not give up. Keep praying, I’m not home yet. But without you I would not be alive. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for loving Jesus. Thank you for loving me. I am the most blessed man alive!
Long live the conspiracy. The armies of Narnia are on the move.