Friday, May 30, 2014
I was returning a weed trimmer to our local Wal-Mart because it was broken. Upon entering the store, I walked through the striped area of the parking lot marked for pedestrian crossing. The white stripes and big yellow signs instruct drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians.
An elderly lady driving a late-model Cadillac was speeding through the main lane of the retail parking lot. She was moving at a higher-than-normal rate of speed, and upon entering the white markings of the pavement, she refused to slow down. Never eased off anything. There was a family walking behind me, and I decided to step toward her car with my hands out (as best I could) and instruct her to please slow down and stop.
She did not. In fact, she wheeled it into a handicapped parking space perpendicular to the store and slammed on her brakes without ever breaking her speed, likely in excess of 20-25 miles per hour.
I walked away and into the store, making no further comment except to the family next to me, expressing "wow" as I cruised into the shopping center.
About three minutes later, I am standing in the rear of the customer service line and I see the same lady, wearing bright pink from head to toe, going full throttle with a shopping cart on a mission. She's looking for me. She looks left, sees me standing in line, and makes a deliberate fast walk with her cart toward customer service. I have about 30 seconds to prepare for the impending argument before she starts yelling. I never make eye contact, seeing her out of peripheral vision.
"You can shut your mouth is what you can do," she said. "You're a little young smart a--, that's what you are, a little young smart a--."
Without raising my voice, I said "Ma'am, I did not have my children with me, but others do. That area is marked for you to stop for a reason. You were driving way too fast and all I asked you to do was slow down and stop."
She yelled there was no stopping there, that she was entitled to park in that space whenever she wanted because she was "handicapped" and again called me a vulgar name at the top of her voice.
At this point, all I could think of was the many times in the past I would have enjoyed a loud argument here. I thought of my shirt, representing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the words "unashamed." I saw the people around me, none of which I knew, until I noticed the attention of Vashon, my favorite clerk at Wal-Mart who routinely checks my family in the cashier line. She was working customer service about 20 feet away. Vashon always refers to me as "pastor" and has become a family friend. Later, she treated me no differently upon checkout.
The lady continued to yell and cuss. I had my back turned and politely asked her to stop, and go away. She would not back down. Even the lady behind me in the line was fed up with her and came to my defense. She later defended my actions to a Wal-Mart manager who came to the customer service area.
At this point, I said to her "ma'am, I just asked you to slow down and stop. Now let it go."
She yelled again.
"Ma'am, if you run into a child in this parking lot, calling me names is the least of your problems."
She yelled again.
Without turning around, I said "Ma'am, I'm done. Please go on."
I repeated this phrase three times until she angrily slung her cart into a check out aisle and walked away.
It's therapeutic for me to share this story, but it has bothered me much today to know that others may have seen the incident from the inside only, and not known why she was upset at me in the first place. Perhaps I came across rude, or insensitive, but to anyone who viewed the entire incident, I would hope I was patient and did my best to offset her anger and let her show the bad example.
Jesus said turn the other cheek. And that's hard enough by itself. To do so with our mouth closed is even tougher.
It's a reminder - our words can get us into trouble, even when we are innocent. Taking chances to do the right thing might result in angering others who do not feel their actions are in the wrong.
I would have gladly taken that car to my legs to keep someone else's children from being hit. Thankfully, that did not happen.
But being called a smart a-- did, and being a pastor does not alleviate me from the temptation to argue back with the most insensitive person I have met today. To her account of the story, I'm sure I have not been painted in the most positive light.
When I lay my head down to sleep tonight, I have to know I did the right thing, and I hope Jesus is pleased that I represented what's in my heart even better than what's on my shirt.
And if by chance you're the woman that made a scene reading this, it's not wrong for me to tell you to slow down before you kill someone.
Your handicap sticker may give you the rights to that space, but it doesn't give you the right to break the law. So in the name of Jesus, slow down.
And watch your mouth.
I just have to be sure to watch mine.
I love you all and these are my thoughts. I hope you have better encounters today.
Friday, May 9, 2014
I will get an opportunity to spend Mother's Day in 2014 with my family, because my family came to my rescue. If you've never heard the full story and would like to take a few moments to read, I've never really shared it. So here's my first account of my second chance.
Thursday night before Mother's Day, Noah had a game on field five at White House City Park. I was not his head coach and had not been pitching, but on this night I was asked to pitch and felt great. Immediately following the game, the church softball team was on field 6 and I played a doubleheader. My body felt awesome and I showed no signs of physical problems. At the close of the game, I stopped at McDonald's drive-thru and picked up food and headed home. I was tired, and fell asleep on the couch almost immediately.
Friday morning, I was scheduled to meet Chris Alsup at Lowe's to begin purchasing items to fill a shipping container heading to Jamaica, which was sitting on the church property and had to be loaded by Saturday. Except that when I awoke, I was so sick about 5 a.m. that I could not get up. My blood sugar was elevated because I had fallen asleep and not added the proper dose for my food at bedtime. So I took insulin, thinking in a while the levels would settle. But I told Jen I did not have the strength to get up.
By 6:30, Jen and the kids were gone. I found the strength to get to my phone and text Chris that I was not going to make it. Missing appointments is one of the most embarrassing things for me in life, but I simply could not go on.
Before 9 a.m. arrived, I had made around 15 trips to the bathroom, many times vomiting while on the toilet. I slept for 20 minutes on the bathroom floor because I did not have the strength to return to the living room. Once, I am pretty sure I passed out on the bed and woke up when I was sick again. At this point, I know something is deathly wrong but I cannot find the strength to even get to the kitchen counter where my phone is located.
Here comes Corey. He's my brother, and he was working a night shift. So long about 10 a.m. I can faintly remember the Price is Right in the background on the television and Corey coming into the house to check on me. I really don't remember how or why he got there, whether I called someone or it was a chance happening. I was seizing by now, muscle spasms and speech slurred.
Corey contacts my mom. She arrives, tries to help but nothing is working, so she suggests a trip to the hospital. I was defiant, and I had a speaking engagement scheduled in White House at noon. I was supposed to give the introduction and invocation for Captain Jeff Mingledorff at the Civil War Memorial trail marker dedication.
While mom and Corey were in the other room, I told them I was going to the bedroom to get ready. I collapsed twice while laying out my clothes. After a third collapse, I began shaking uncontrollably and developed a high fever. I covered up in the bed until I had to vomit again. I found my way to the phone where I looked up the number for Captain and called him. Truthfully, he seemed to be in a panic that I could not come, so I offered to find a replacement.
Pastor Phillip Wright of White House First United Methodist Church, who is my good friend, offered to fill the slot even though his time was short. Captain was ok with this, but did not seem to understand the severity of the situation. At this point, I had not even called Jennifer.
Mom enters the room.
"Did you just cancel your event?" she said.
"Yes, I can't go. I just can't go."
"Have you EVER cancelled an event like that?" she added.
"No, in 16 years I have never missed a speaking engagement anywhere."
"Then we're going to the hospital," she said. "Get up. Corey will take you."
I felt like it took over two hours to get out of the house. Corey drove my truck, and I stumbled out of the house and down the steps, and my momentum carried me to the passenger seat where I collapsed. My muscles were still seizing and I was freezing cold.
Going out of the house, I told Corey to get my phone. He did, and it dropped on the concrete porch and shattered the screen of a white iPhone4. I was so sick I couldn't even be mad.
We arrived at the emergency room at Hendersonville Hospital and I was immediately taken back and placed on a table. My vitals were horrific, checking in with a blood pressure of 65/21. I was placed flat back, stood up on my head, and dosed with heavy medication to raise my blood pressure. There was a friend of ours working in the ER and she was doing her best to take care of me. Jen took my phone away and I told her not to post ANYTHING about what was happened except to pray for me.
After a couple of hours, it was nearing 4 p.m. and there were seven people outside of my wife in the room in the ER. I was in a private room, not a curtained one.
"We know what he has, but we don't know why," I heard one of them say.
So I asked if I was dying. They lied to me.
"No, no, honey, you're doing great," they said. Bunch of liars. ;)
STAGE FOUR, SEPTIC SHOCK
I will never, ever, ever forget those words. I heard them clear as a bell while having a muscular seizure on the bed. They had turned my vitals screen away from me so I could not see it. I was literally an hour or less away from death if this did not improve.
I would find out later that my chances of survival were about 50 percent, and that 1 in 4 patients diagnosed with this did not recover and fatally reached the end of their life when organs shut down.
As a diabetic, this was even more scary because my immune system is weak and my organs are not at full capacity like a normal healthy person.
They took blood cultures, hooked me up to as many as 14 wires and IV lines at one time, and tested me nearly naked for insect bites or ticks. They evaluated everything I had eaten for the past 24 hours and took every precaution to make sure they found the source.
I got the call to move to the critical care unit. The emergency room had made the decision there was nothing else they could do. Without serious medical care immediately, I was likely going to die of septic shock. The seizures in my arms and neck and head were so violent now I could not lie still.
As Jen was being prepped about the move, one of the nurses came in.
I will never forget this, and I don't even think I have ever told Jennifer.
She grabbed my hand, cried, and told me she was sorry she couldn't make me better and then she prayed for me and left. I never spoke a word. She was crying as she walked out the door.
I got upstairs in CCU. The first few hours were tests and medicine. About four hours in, I started releasing some of the medicine from my body and it took three people to get me to the bathroom and hold all of my medical equipment. Basically, modesty was out the window at this point.
My last visitor came in at 9 p.m. My next visitor came in at 9 a.m. I laid wide awake for nearly 12 hours with no contact except the night-time nurse checking on my vitals. I seized all night long. It was the longest night of my life.
By morning, I was barely improving but my blood pressure had stabilized. I had gained 14 pounds of fluid overnight from the medicine. I needed two bags of magnesium and I think I took potassium but there were so many things I can't remember. The magnesium drips were like steel rods being jammed into my veins. By Saturday afternoon, the seizing finally stopped.
I moved into a regular room. I got into a heated argument with a nurse because the doctor at Hendersonville refused to let me put on my insulin pump and take any insulin, despite the fact that my blood sugar was high. I finally sent Jen home to get my pump and against doctor's orders, I put it on myself.
Amazingly, my blood sugar returned to normal. Imagine that.
By Saturday night, I was in a room and visitors were coming heavy. I remember lots of people coming by. I remember one person telling me I looked fat. Well, I was. My kids were almost in shock and didn't know what to say. Madison had been on a field trip that Jen was supposed to be on and didn't go.
"You're superman. You have to get out of that bed because you're supposed to be the one taking care of us."
I can still see the tear-filled face that spoke those words. For the first time in my life, every bit of superman in me was gone. I was helpless, I was hurting, I was empty. The reality that I almost died was sinking in, and I was not out of the woods.
Sunday afternoon late, I went home. On Monday, I saw my local doctor. I had a Jamaica trip in four weeks already paid.
Pastor Joe preached on a moment's notice that Sunday after coming Saturday to see me. I never had my phone for three days. He and a crew loaded the Jamaica container without me there. I was so blessed to see people step up.
At the doctor on Monday, I knew he wasn't even going to discuss the Jamaica trip until we ran tests on my organs.
And guess who shows up? Traci McAughty.
I'm leaving the doctor's room, having been told that I might have suffered major damage to my kidneys and that I needed to wait until the results came back. So here comes Amy Harper and Donna Brigance, who work at CrossRoads Medical Group, and Traci is back in their office (I think Mary Beaty was there, too). We prayed and Traci offered me encouragement, and here she was coming off treatment herself.
My lab work and organ tests showed no major damage.
My blood cultures never revealed the source of the infection, other than a bacterial infection which could have been food, insect or environment borne.
And I went to Jamaica. I was weak, and I still to this day have not recovered the muscle mass I lost in my legs and arms over a three-day stretch.
Why is not a question for me to answer, though it was a proving ground that I did not have to be superman anymore.
God has surrounded me with some great people.
I am learning I cannot be everything to everybody.
I'm just thankful for every person who he sent to be there for me. So to my brother, thank you. To that nurse, thank you. To the hospital staff, thank you. To Pastor Joe, thank you. To all the people who came, thank you. To my church, thank you.
Had I stayed home two more hours, the doctor later told me at best I would have been on kidney dialysis the rest of my life. At worst, I would have died and those chances were high.
To my mom, the best thank you I can say is that I will see you Sunday.
Without you, I would have never had that chance.
So why don't the rest of you join me on Mother's Day at Revolution?
I have some making up to do.