Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

For July 6, 2003


Crawling back from the edge, with a grateful heart


            The results are in. The election is over. I did not win. I was not elected Mr. Congeniality among recent surgical patients at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.

            Actually I lost by a landslide. Even my sweet wife did not vote for me. She insisted I was a most difficult patient.

            She should know. She stayed with me through some rough nights and days. She saw me at my weakest, and my worst. She remained by my side to the point of her own physical and emotional exhaustion.

            I entered the hospital June 16 for routine surgery – the replacement of both my knees. While not minor surgery, the procedure is highly successful so I was not apprehensive.

            I opted to have both knees replaced at the same time only after considerable research, thought, and prayer. The idea of appearing heroic never crossed my mind. It just seemed the smart thing to do since both my knees were worn out. Walking at all had gradually become very painful and difficult.

            The time had come to bite the bullet. Have the surgery. Endure the rehab for a couple of months and give myself a chance to walk without pain for a change.

            My doctors assured me that I could handle the challenge. Many people older than I am are having both knees replaced simultaneously. So I decided to go for it.

            My surgery went well, as planned. My recovery seemed normal during the first few days. Then something went wrong, something that happens to only three percent of patients having this surgery. Blood clots went from my legs to my lungs, impairing my breathing. I was in trouble.

            Informed of this life-threatening situation, I braced myself for the tests that followed, to confirm my condition, and to allow the doctors a chance to determine how to help me. Anxiety hit me, like a two by four between the eyes. Instead of going home to be with my wife, I might be going home to the Father’s House.

            As best I could, I began praying prayers of faith. I remember praying, “Lord, if you can give me a little more time in this world, I will use it all to serve you. But, if not, have mercy on my soul and take me home.”  

            I had no idea then that already hundreds of people were praying for me. Now I know that God heard their prayers and spared my life. I am still deeply moved by God’s mercy to me, and even writing this sentence causes my eyes to be filled with tears.

 I am not a lucky man, as someone told me; I am a blessed man, blessed far beyond my deserving. The visits, cards, prayers, and calls of so many dear friends have touched me more deeply than I know how to express.

            To prevent further damage from blood clots, or emboli, my doctors quickly decided to insert into a vein in my neck a Greenfield Vena Cava Filter. The filter is permanently implanted in the vena cava where it will prevent pulmonary embolism by capturing blood clots before they can reach my lungs. Now I am one of more than 300,000 people in whom this filter has been implanted.

            After this surgical procedure I spent almost a week in the Cardiac Care Unit. These were days of observation, breathing treatments, waiting, and the slow recovery of my strength.

            They were also days of pain, mostly stomach pain resulting from diarrhea. I figured my nickname among the nurses must have been “Diarrhea Dan.” But it was in the care of these nurses that I discovered what a great team is in place in this unit.

There cannot be any more wonderful nurses anywhere in the world than those who serve on the team at EAMC. I will never forget them or the loving way in which they cared for me.

            Weakened to the point that I could do hardly anything for myself, I was entirely dependant upon my nurses. I was deeply humbled by the professionalism, and the sweet spirit, of these nurses who graciously met my every need and literally nursed me back from helplessness to strength.

            At my weakest point, I realized how thankful I am for my wife and my family.

They stood by me, loving me, and encouraging me to believe I could recover. My sons and their wives dropped what they were doing in order to be with me and hold my hand. I found it incredibly comforting to awaken during the night and find my wife, one of our sons, or one of their wives, sitting in a chair beside my bed, watching over me, and praying for me.

            I had the best team of doctors anybody could want. Jim Whatley, Mike Lisenby, David Scott, and John Thomas are as good at what they do as any physicians anywhere in America. My confidence in them never wavered, even during my most anxious hours.

            Last Monday my condition had improved enough for me to resume physical therapy. So now I am in the care of another great team of nurses on the fourth floor, in the Skilled Nurses Facility. They are helping me regain the use of my legs so that I can continue therapy at home for a while.

            I have been to the edge. By the grace of God, and with the help and prayers of many people, I have managed to crawl back. I am still crawling, but I am moving in the right direction, and I will walk again – in the service of my Lord.

            Never have I had a more grateful heart. + + + +