[This blog article is the first of a series on this topic. Other articles will be completed at later dates.]
October 9th, 2020: That is a day that will live in infamy, so the saying goes, in my life as long as I’m on this earth. We may be dimly aware of how our lives can be altered at a 180 degree turn, but until we come face-to-face with the experience, it remains only a shadowy piece of guesswork. On the morning of 10/09/2020, I got out of bed and discovered that m[y life may very well have changed in ways that will not go back to what we call normal. As I stepped out of bed, I suddenly became aware that I had lost all sense of balance, couldn’t stand up without leaning against the wall, and had totally lost the ability to walk. Just over a year has passed now sense that day, and although the goal of this article and the one that will follow next month is to tell my story, the ultimate goal of my writing this narrative is to highlight and place in the forefront of thought the powerful providence of a Holy and loving God.
The Comical Version
I found out the hard way the truth of the adage that I can either constantly cry about things that happen to me or laugh about them. The real truth is that’s not an either-or action; it’s a both-and. Although I’ll describe that morning with a few laughs, don’t think that I take what happened to me lightly. Most of the funny stuff comes through the thoughts that popped into my head as I struggled that morning to get out of bed and eventually call 911. As I stated above, when I climbed out of bed, it hit me that I couldn’t stand up as I reached toward the wall to keep myself upright. I tried to take a couple of steps, but my body wasn’t having it. Thought: Something’s not working right here. This thought was made even funnier because I said it out loud to myself.
At this point, I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew I was going to have to call 911. Vanity of vanities, says the author of Ecclesiastes. Thought: I don’t want the EMC’s taking me out of here in my underwear. I noticed my jeans and a tee-shirt lying in a chair that I had in the bedroom, so somehow I had to get them on. I stepped toward the chair, had to drop to the floor, and I leaned against the front of the chair. In that position, I struggled to pull my jeans on and then with some effort reached up, grabbed the tee-shirt and managed to get it over my head and on correctly. I thought about shoes, but my body said no way. It was at this point that I felt the left side of my face going numb and the left side of my mouth drooping some. Thought: I’m having a doggone stroke. Later that would be confirmed by an MRI and a CAT-SCAN.
In an instant nausea hit my body, and I felt for sure that I was going to throw up. Vanity of vanities, says the author of Ecclesiastes. I had just moved into the apartment, which had been thoroughly furbished with new carpet and tile that resembled hardwood floors. I didn’t want to mess up the carpet or any of the floor, so I lunged into the bathroom that was adjacent to my bedroom. I hit the wall where the handbasin set, lunged backward into a cubicle where the toile set, hit the far wall of that cubicle, slid down the wall to the floor, and lunging forward one more time, somehow I ended up right in front of the toilet. Thought: Later when I reflected on this move, I remembered how I used to love to play pinball years ago when I was in Junior College. I reminded myself of a pinball that miraculously ended up in the slot where I belonged. But all was for naught. I had the dry heaves, so I wouldn’t have stained the carpet or floors.
The time had come to call 911. My cell phone set on a table on the opposite side of the room from the bathroom entrance. I knew I couldn’t walk over to retrieve it. So I decided to crawl on my hands and knees. Nope. My body wouldn’t have it. Playing army all those days as a young kid paid off, so I begin to battlefield crawl on my belly across the room. I was actually pleased with the speed at which I could crawl. About halfway across the room I stopped. I didn’t laugh, but – Thought: If someone were to take a picture of this, it would really look strange and weird.
I made it to the table and called 911 on my cell phone. When the woman asked me the nature of my emergency, i told here that I needed an ambulance because I was having a stroke. She responded, What makes you think you’re having a stroke?Thought: I really don’t want to have this conversation right now. Actually, she was great and very professional. I immediately thought of my numbing face and told her that the left side of my face had lost its feeling and that I couldn’t stand up.
How they did this I do not know, but at the very second that she and I hung up, the EMC’s were knocking at my door, which was locked. I lived in a studio apartment, and thought I was going to have to fall down some fairly steep stairs to let them in. But they got in. I asked them how, and they said they got in through a window. The windows in that apartment were locked or sealed. I decided that I didn’t want to know how they got in. Everyone should be thankful for how the EMC’s work efficiently and professionally. They are top grade at what they do.
I was glad to be taken out in the stretcher in my jeans and tee-shirt rather than just my skivvies. But once in the transport vehicle, one of the EMC’s said that I have to loose the jeans and shirt. Thought: If you only knew what I went through to get these on. Next came the infamous and notorious hospital gown, which I would get to know intimately for the next 43 days..
The EMC took me to Denton Presbyterian Hospital, and I began then what would become a long haul of 43 days in hospitals and rehab clinics. The people at Denton Presby were wonderful, but I didn’t get to stay there long. A couple of days later, I was transferred to Fort Worth Harris, known for its neurological specialities. Denton Presby transferred me to Forth Work around 8 o’clock one evening. I remember a sermon given by Tommy Nelson, pastor at Denton Bible Church, about how he talks with people who come to him, telling him they have a serious illness or diagnosis, that God is taking them on a venture. The issue becomes how people respond to the venture. As I lay on my back on a transport stretcher heading down I-35W from Denton to Fort Worth, I thought of all the times I had driven that stretch on my own. I could see the streetlights and exit signs even though it was a foggy and cloudy night. Recalling Tommy’s sermon, I thought here I am on the venture that God has chosen for me. At that point all anyone can do is just go along for the ride, trusting in God’s lovingkindness and providential care.
Although I used some humor in this article, like a friend of mine said, a stroke is not for the weak of heart. She too had experienced one in her past. I don’t know about not being weak of heart, but I was scared much of the time that I was in the hospital. I recall when I was in a men’s group for a short while at a Bible Church in Austin when the leader of the group asked what kind of experience would challenge our faith the most. I said if I lost the physical ability of my body, that would usher me into some deep doubt. Praise God that I didn’t lose sight of prayer and the desire to cling to him during those times. I confess that when I wasn’t sure that I was going to get better or have any healing, I prayed that God would take me home. But I was on the highway of the venture he chose for me. As stated, at that point, all one can do is run the highway. Over the 43 days I was in the hospital, God’s grace abound in many different ways. Whether we realize it or not, we are steeped in his providential care. To know him intimately makes level the highway and gives meaning to the venture.
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./November 14th, 2021