This is a letter I sent out to our church, the hospitals and friends.
The Power of Prayer
To all our family and friends,
Joie and I would like to extend a very warm and heartfelt thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.
From the time of my accident until even yet today, the over one hundred cards, the God only knows how many thousands of prayers, the visits, the texts, the calls, and the thoughts are all overwhelming and bring tears of joy to my eyes when I think about it. These, I have no doubt, brought me home in good spirits with an amazing, if not miraculous, recovery.
When I reflect back and think of all those who care and believe in a higher power of healing, the first responders, the amazing surgeons and doctors, those very caring nurses, our pastor, my children and grand kids, and most of all, my soulmate and wife, these people along with all of you, brought the power of the Holy Spirit into my body and mind, brought me back and made me well again.
Now, we all know that God is the one who made this all happen. Somehow, He assembled all of these people to come together at a time and place in history when I needed them, and what a job they did.
As my recovery is still ongoing, and going very well, Joie and I appreciate all your prayers and thoughts more than you will ever know.
Thank God, and again, a Big Thank You.
Steve and Joie
This my story and why I wrote the letter of thanks above.
November 27th 2015.
Just another day at home, the Friday after Thanksgiving. I had decided to try and repair an electrical problem on my skid steel (bobcat) It was raining so I parked it under the lean-to behind the barn. The roof was to low to put in place the machines mechanical hydraulic stop to keep the boom arm from coming down. No problem, I’ll just put a 4x4 post under the boom instead, besides the boom cannot come down unless the machine is running.
I was leaned over and working on the machine when I saw a slow movement out of the corner of my eye, THE BOOM WAS COMING DOWN, Don’t panic find something to place between it and the machine. Times up could not find anything in my reach and within 2 to 3 seconds it had me trapped right across the back of my hips
At this point nothing was broken on me, however each time I moved or wiggled the 500# boom got tighter and tighter. No one was home and I remember thinking, my neighbors who could have helped were out of town.
I decided to start the machine and lift it off of me. I could easily reach the controls and I would make sure I went the right way with joy stick control. This proved to be my biggest mistake, I went the wrong way.
The pain was immediate by far the worse I had ever experienced. I heard bones break. I screamed out to God NO GOD NO GOD, HELP ME, HELP ME, IWILL NEVER WALK AGAIN, MAKE THIS BE A BAD DREAM. It was no dream. Trapped, I thought I am going to die here. Not knowing what if any thing I could do now. I thank God, I found my phone and called 911. (I thank god for creating the minds that created the cell phone). I remember not being very polite to the 911 dispatch lady. (I now realize what an important and often thankless job she has).
Within three minutes a police officer was at my house. She encouraged me to hang in there and wait for the fire department, they have the jaws of life. I’m thinking I am really smashed now and going to pass out at any moment, I really did not have any faith that the jaws of life could cut thru the thickness of steel that held me. I told her I was going to start the machine again and this time be sure to go the right way and lift the boom off of me, If it worked for her to drag me away from the machine. Thank God this worked. I fell to the ground and she pulled me to safety
Within seconds I heard a siren and the EMT’s arrived as well the firemen, even sheriff Paul Bailey himself. (It is truly amazing how fast these people react to an emergency, how calm they are and how well they do their job.)
By this time I am out of it, in shock, and given medication.
Reflecting back I don’t ask, why did God let this happen to me. I knew the proper precautions to take, and I short cut them like we all do so many times. I paid a heavy consequence for my short comings. “Saftey first PaPa, safety first”, as my grandson Aiden would say.
The rest of my story is how God put me back together and saved my life by using all of his people including you. I have realized only a fool would think that they are all they need to get thru this world. To get thru to what! With out God and each other what is there?
What we need is each other and better yet we need each other to understand with the kind of love, grace, forgiveness and willingness to help that Jesus Christ had shown to us. Put that together with the power of God, the God-given talents we all have, honed in the practices and lessons of Jesus and we become what we all need. Oh how important is it to teach these lessons to our children and the young.
After remembering the EMT’s taking control of the situation, my mind was racing everything went bright white. I remember thinking this is it, I’m dying, I’m on a journey to somewhere I have never been, it was calming. Then the bright white turned into black with millions of bright stars as if I was in outer space, then I went into what I can only describe as warp speed, the stars buzzing by, then all was calm. Probably it was the drugs, the trauma and my belief that there is life after death.
For the next 4 weeks I was put in and induced coma at the Bronson Trauma Unit in Kalamazoo. I had seven different surgeries to repair the broken pelvis bones and the other internal damage. I of course do not remember any of that nor any pain associated with it. I do remember crazy hallucinations about what was going on and who was going to pay for it while my whole family was on a tropical vacation until I got better. This of course could not have been further from the truth. The devil made me think it. He did not win this soul.
As I began my slow ascent into consciousness I saw my very dedicated, tenacious, beautiful, incredibly strong and positive love of my life Joie and my children Jake and Rita. Although I did not feel well I was alive and going to live. They were there by my side, telling me how much they loved me and that I was doing good. Joie was very firm and confident that we will go on from here, no looking back. I never once saw her cry at the hospital, see was positive happy and smiling, so strong. She did scold me to do what I was told, follow direction and work hard to come back home to her and the kids. Rita played a big part as some of you know in keeping you posted of my progress on face book and visiting me ( I always love to see that girl she makes me smile). Jake made several trips home from Montana to be with me and help and comfort his mom. Joie says he was a big, big help to her. My parents, siblings, pastors, Chaplin’s and friends all were a big help in encouraging me to get better, we need you and life is good, things will get better.
Pastor Brad you are very good with words and putting together very meaningful prayers. And Pastor Ken you asked me if the world changed since my accident, I had to think and said no not really. That made me realize how small I was in the scheme of things, but yet how important I must be to God. Thank you both.
I have to give tremendous thanks to all who work so hard to learn so much to be able to save my life. Of course we think of the surgeons first, extremely dedicated, intelligent, hardworking, giving individuals. I had the luck to end up with two for certain I know served in Afganistan or Iraq with our military. They were educated, trained trauma surgeons who had seen a lot of bad trauma. I met and talked to all of these men and they all can tell you that God almighty can do more than they can. They are modest, for without their God given drive and talents there would not have been enough of me intact biologically for God to physically save. What they are saying folks is that they know enough to know they don‘t know everything. They do their human best and then its up to the patient and their faith, their god, to recover. They see unbelievable recoveries more often than you think and some cannot be medically or scientifically explained.
The nurses the caring nurses and nurses aids. While under their care, it became apparent to me how most all of them truly care about the patient, about all of us in need. They feel our pain, they keep us comfortable and clean, give our medications, contact doctors to give them updates and voice concerns about out heath and make us feel important and worth caring for. They have to pay close attention to us sometime delirious patients to figure out what we need and don’t need. They are angles and saints sent from Heaven above. It makes me very proud that my daughter and many in this congregation are in that profession.
The therapists. Oh do have I to do that again, yes if you want to get better. As much as they like to act tough and push you to the limit, it’s because they know if they don’t you will not recover as well. No pain no gain. And what a blessing when I realized the I could move both of my feet.
The therapy group at Lakeland in Watervliet was my destination after trauma. Joie checked on a few places and decided that was the best place for me. For about 4 weeks I recovered there. What a great staff of therapist and nurses, very organized, very caring and determined to get me home as quick as I was able. The lead nurse even gave me a hair cut.
The therapists, however for my sake,where a bit pushy. I will never forget my male occupational therapist who liked to hunt and fish like me. We became instant buddies and when I said I don’t think I can do that, he would say you mean I will try to do that. Then there was Cindy. She was the one there the day I was given doctor’s ok to try and walk. Cindy is a tall, big, strong woman. Heck she grew up as a lumberjack’s daughter in the northwest. The other therapists said she was really tough. That morning she came in smiling with a walker and said ok you ready to walk. What, I said, you just want me to get up and walk, yep she said, I’ll catch you if you fall. I got up with her help and we walked, I have never felt so tall. I smiled and everyone there shared in my jubilation. Thanks everyone.
Lakeland Home Care followed me home and for the last 10 weeks have come by with more therapy and wound nursing. They are all great personable caring professional.
Why was I so blessed that all of these people were where and when I needed them at the very instant I needed them? Pastor Ned Elsass taught us to ask and wonder why me, why now. Because Jesus Loves Me With his teachings ( and other religious teaching like his). Whether it was you who sought him out yourself or those before you who showed you the way, this is what help mold and make all of you into people who care and want to do good.
The real reason I am up here today to tell my story is all because of Mr. Bob Widdis.. I shared this next part of my story with him and Kevin at HFS tractor. Bob convinced Paster Brad Ross to ask me if I would share it. Of course it’s the least I can do for all of you who prayed and cared for me.
Nurse Donaldson the unexplainable miracle;
Back when I was in and out of consciousness and recognizing loved ones and trying to communicate with them and doctors and nurses, as I could not yet talk because of the tracheostomy, life was miserable. I was in pain and I think I knew what I needed but I could not speak. My motor skills to write have always been bad, now they were impossible. I thought when my Dad came he would understand me, because my wife sure could not or would not. Dad listened and said yeah it will be ok. What kind of answer was that to my jibberish. I was even trying to tell the doctors how to fix my legs so I could drive the tractor again. That work was long done. I’m sure I was amusing to some but they always looked sincere and promising at me and what I was saying. To say the least I was a mess, lost and becoming impatient. Right honey.
Enter the day I had given up on being able to communicate and was getting depressed. Joie said if I did not try harder and do what I was told the hospital would move into our home and set up shop to care for me, that’s what I remember. And she would not like it one bit. The next day they did, they moved in. I was laying on the floor in the basement on a make shift bed with my neighbor Dean and his dad and a couple his uncles I never meet, that’s what I remember. They stayed to watch a playoff game, drank beer and fell asleep. Dean was under my covers when nurse Donaldson came in for the first time to see me. Nurse Donaldson was very nice but very serious and seemed to be all knowing and very much in charge. He told me I needed to try harder if I was going to get better. I told him I was doing ok and to leave me alone for a while and he said he would be back in a bit. I tied to kick Dean and wake him up and get him out of here but I could not.
It was then I realized Dean was not there, he never was. I realized I was not ok and needed help.
I could hear Joie upstairs and called for her to help me, but she was so mad at me she was not talking, (remember I am in and out of consciousness)
I saw Nurse Donaldson walking past the window and looking in on me. He was mid to late 60’s, soft spoken, a little taller than most , average weight, clean shaven, sandy gray groomed hair. He looked like he came from a military background. He came back to my room and we talked a little he asked if wanted to watch tv and what did I want to watch, I did not really,I said, he said how about a ball game. He turned it on said he would be back and left. Over the course of the next few days we talked more, he coached me on what I needed to do and to learn to breath better so I could learn to talk again with the traech. I remember him sending me to one of his professional friends for some breathing counseling, it was by the ocean, it was cold and we learned from the whales. No joke it helped me. . Besides talking He read to me a book that Joie had given me “Killing Reagan”. I think he read about two or three chapters. I always asked the nurses about themselves to carry on conversation. Nurse Donaldson did not reveal much of anything about his personal life. I felt very close to Nurse Donaldson and considered him to be a real friend. He understood me and could communicate with me, like no one else could. Just like that, he was gone.
I asked Joie and the nurses to have him stop by and see me again, he did not. One night Joie started to read me “Killing Reagan again and as she did I told her, no not that chapter Nurse Donaldson read that to me already. I asked the nurses to have Nurse Donaldson stop in and they said they did not know a Nurse Donaldson. Nurse Lacy even went and got the hospital directory and showed me there was no Nurse or Doctor Donaldson in it. Well maybe I got his name wrong!
It wasn’t until several weeks later when I was home that Joie and I where having dinner and talking about my ordeal that Nurse Donaldson came up in our conversation. He was so real to me I told her. We both looked up at each other and started to cry. I did get his name wrong.
Joie said it and I thought it at the same time, It was my guardian angle sent by My God. I believe that with all my heart and I thank God and all of you for your prayers, for sending him to me in my time of need.
Imagine in a lifetime of work how many people’s lives are saved and comforted by those of you who care. Thanks to the word of God and the teaching of Jesus, life is good and God is Great
What a friend we have and How Great Thou Art.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon