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Notes for Presentation to Florida Hospital – Waterman,
Board of Directors, 28 September 2005
 
1.  Good morning. I’m Mike XXXXX and was a patient at your hospital for an extended stay in June of this year. Ken XXXXXXXX asked me to present a devotional about my experience. What happened to me certainly transcends my full understanding, but it may prove to be meaningful to you. It concerns faith and prayer and maybe a minor modern miracle.

2.  On the morning of Tuesday, 14 June after a bad night of back and kidney pain I decided to skip work, call my doctor and find out what was wrong. I drank a cup of coffee with my wife, Sandra, showered and shaved and lay down on our bed, waiting the time when my regular doctor’s office hours began. Suddenly I had an overwhelming need to get to the bathroom and quickly got out of bed and headed there; Sandra fortunately heard me get up and headed for our bedroom as my needs changed and I felt intense heat internally - as if I were melting. Just like that I knew I was in trouble - beyond my capability to control - and decided to get to the floor before I collapsed. Thus began for me a remarkable journey. The feeling of melting inside reflected the spray of blood as my aorta ruptured, and though I only knew I was in serious trouble, I was in a race for life that normally results in death in a few minutes.

3.  I closed my eyes as I got to the floor; Sandra grabbed me about the chest – told me not to leave her and then called 9-1-1 and told them I was dying. My memories of the next 45 minutes or so are sketchy, but some are most vivid. At the same time as emergency medical personnel were dispatched to me some interesting things were happening at Waterman. Your Emergency Room Doctor was monitoring the emergency frequency and began forming his opinion about what might be happening. Also, your surgeon, Doctor David Bjerkin and his surgical team were completing an early morning operation. In all there would be about 50 medical and hospital personnel assisting me over the next few hours.


4.  Sandra and I moved to Lake County just 3 months earlier and we still have not completely oriented ourselves within the county. We had seen your hospital here on highway 441, but had not really taken notice of it. In fact, a few days into my stay I asked Sandra, “where am I – where is this hospital located?” Our house is about 14 miles and 10 stoplights away from Waterman. So, as I heard Sandra talking with the 9-1-1 Operator and heard her tell me that she was going to open the garage and door to the house and talk with the personnel in the ambulance, my mind idled and evaluated her actions…”yeah, that will be OK I guess…and then, why should I care? After all things are beyond my ability to control.”

5.  The emergency team arrived and shouted their arrival and my next memory shifted several miles down highway 44…as we turned south to 441 I remember clearly thinking….”better hurry up, guys, because I’m not doing so well and am really in trouble now.” I also remember a constant stream of talk that Sandra told me was information being transferred to the hospital emergency room. Then we arrived and there was the flurry of noise and then I was inside and entrusted to the care of many people.

6.  Three things happened while I was being received that speak to a well-prepared and rehearsed hospital. Sandra was whisked out of the way by Faye, your Chief of Pastoral Services and asked about my faith and offered an initial prayer. Dr Meneses, the Emergency Doctor on duty that morning came and told Sandra that I was in real trouble and he thought he knew what it was; the only chance was that the surgeon assume that diagnosis, as there was not time to verify all possibilities. Sandra, ever willing to make decisions, gave him the go-ahead. And, over the next few hours my children arrived at Waterman, one from another hospital where she had undergone surgery the day before. Faye was to provide a consistent touch-point for my family that focused their faith in prayer.


7.  As I was being prepped and intubated there was a final moment where I had a distinct feeling that I “was in the hands of angels”. That is the only way I can describe the feeling. It was as if, internal to my body, everywhere simultaneously, soft hands were touching me - and then there was certain knowledge that “there was nothing for me to fear.” 

8.  Some hours later I woke to find myself in critical care with plenty of things going down my throat and nose and into my arms. Sandra was there and she quickly understood that I needed to know what happened, so she told me. Soon Dr. David Bjerkin arrived and told me what he had done and that the next 3 days were critical and I still had less than 50% chance of survival. Had I been able to talk, I would have told him that I had certain knowledge that there was nothing for me to fear. Instead, all I could do was give him a “thumbs-up” signaling I understood him.

9.  A day later, tubes gone but still in critical care, a young technician came to administer an ekg and, when he realized that I was the man who had the AAA told me his wife worked in the emergency room; he also told me that there were plenty of folks who added me to their prayer lists. I appreciated that. I also told him I wished I could thank them for their work in helping me. Thus began a slow but steady progression of visits from people from the emergency and operating rooms – people, my angels, who got me through an extraordinary medical problem. I met people who told me that my vital signs were “inconsistent with life” when I arrived. I met folks who told me their individual contributions were to place a certain tube in me or get me under oxygen or some other action.


10.  Two of those visits are worth commenting on: One nurse commented just before she left to return to her duties that while she didn’t know what I believed, she wanted to tell me for certain that what happened could not have happened by just good luck or chance or the skill of Dr. Bjerkin, who she said was the best surgeon she had ever worked with. She also said she prayed for me even as I was being operated upon. The second visit was from a doctor and we discussed what I remembered and when and I told him about the feeling that I was “in the hands of angels and knew I had nothing to fear”. He left and then returned – with a question…”did you see any bright light?”, he asked. “No”, I replied. “I told you - my eyes were closed…”

11.  The final vignette concerns a young Technician who helped me before I left. As I did with most of the Nurses and Technicians, I asked her when she came to the hospital and she told me an interesting story. Chris said she had been working here for a year and a half. She applied on-line and was notified to come in for an interview. She arrived early, but became confused inside. A man spotted her confusion and came over to offer assistance. She said he knew exactly whom she needed to see and led her there. As he said goodbye, she noted that the President of the Hospital had assisted her. Then she said something remarkable. She said, “I’ll never leave here. I get to work with some of the brightest and smartest people in this area of the state. The facility is modern and wonderful. And I get to work in a God-fearing atmosphere. What is there not to like about working here?”

12.  So, that is my story. Except for a big “zipper” down my belly and some damage done to my kidneys I appear to have weathered the experience well. I can’t tell you how many folks here expressed the common thought that God has something more for me to do and who added me to their prayers. When that time comes, I hope I am worthy and up to the task.


13.  An old Army buddy asked me why/how I survived the experience. I told him that I figured it was just my good, clean life that got me through…he replied maybe a little too quickly, “No. That’s not it.” So then I told him that when I was a young soldier I was certified as being “bulletproof”, but he quickly pointed out that I didn’t dodge this bullet, so that wasn’t it. Finally we figured out what happened. I must have died, we agreed, and in the murk of my memory I remember reporting to the Golden Gates and saw Saint Peter. He asked my name and then opened the book of life and found it and then exclaimed, “There is an asterisks here! …What does this asterisks mean?” So he paged to the back of the book and said, “here it is…the asterisks…it says… Fisherman; God does not subtract from the allotted lifespan of man that time spent fishing.” And then he said to his angels, “You have to release this one. He won’t be ready for some time yet!” 

14.  Thank you for the time you gave me to relate my story. Now if you would join me in a brief prayer…

15.  Dear God Almighty, thank you for caring for me through your servants here at Waterman Hospital. Thank you for their faith and devotion to your work here on earth. May you protect this institution and the people who work here that attend and serve the ill and infirm.  In Christ’s name I pray.      Amen

Michael XXXXX

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