Two Days in July

I knew almost immediately what was happening. That the thing I had been dreading for so many years was happening to me now. My right hand was suddenly limp by my side, and I felt as though I were in a fog. I learned later that one side of my face was drooping, too. I was having a stroke.

Audrey and I were spending the weekend at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Springfield. We are selling our home to take advantage of the boom in the real estate market and had lots of showings scheduled. An "open house" on Sunday, as a matter of fact.  I had a wedding at the church on Saturday night which she directed. We returned from the ceremony and enjoyed dinner at the hotel. I stayed to pay the check while Audrey went on up to the room. I followed moments later. As soon as I got in the room and took off my tuxedo jacket, it hit me. It was approximately 8:25 PM.

My speech slowed as I sat helpless on the edge of the bed. Audrey first asked if I was kidding with her, but she knew instantly what was going on.  She acted quickly, over my initial protest, and called 911. The ambulance arrived within ten minutes and the emergency crew burst into the room. They took me on a stretcher down the hall to the elevator and to the lobby. There was a wedding reception spilling out into that space and outside, and several of the guests there wished me well as I rolled by.

The ride to INOVA Fairfax was quick. I don't remember much of it, except that I tried to make jokes here and there with the EMT's. It was all serious business in the ER, though, as the staff there quickly assessed my situation, and I began receiving the TPA drug. There is a brief window from the time a stroke happens when medication is effective in minimizing consequences—and I had gotten there in time. Roger came and met us in the ER and helped make decisions about the church services just hours away.

I spent the next 48 hours in the ICU, receiving excellent care from my nurses: Sarah, Christina, and Alphonso. They woke me every thirty minutes to take my vitals and to ask the same questions: Did I know my name, and what year was it? My birthday, where I was, and why I was there? I felt pretty good and always had the right answers. As the night wore on, I started answering them before I was asked. I had to stay in bed the entire time. I passed the cognitive test one doctor administered—all but the math portion, which I would have had trouble with prior to the stroke.

Nurses have unglamorous jobs, for sure. Unpleasant tasks are routine. But I had the best. I heard the President say once, at a ceremony honoring the healthcare profession, that if there are angels in heaven, "all of them are nurses." I esteem them just as highly.

I think I encouraged them with positive words, blessing them as they blessed me. Late Saturday night, in the wee hours, I had a long talk with Sarah about life and death, and her experiences with both. She is a believer, too, and I shared the sermon I was to have preached the next morning at church. Interestingly, about how we are all going to die one day regardless of who we are (Psalm 49).
John-Mark and Daniela came up from Texas to be with us on Monday. That was the best medicine of all. And they are staying until Sunday.

I was released directly from the ICU on Monday night and am recovering nicely at home now. So thankful for the care I received at the hospital and for a quick-witted wife who got me there in time. For God's grace in bringing me through this experience and for God's people sharing love, concern and prayers on my behalf.

I'm going to rest up these next few days. Reed Bernick will preach for me this coming Sunday, and I hope to be in the pulpit the following week.

And oh, from my bedside in the ICU, Audrey negotiated the sale of our home. It sold in two days!




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