Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
July 17, 2011
Eight years have rolled by since Dr. Jim Whatley replaced both of my knees at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. A progress report seems in order. My Titanium knees are just fine. Since my recovery from surgery I have never had one problem with my knees.
I did have a major medical problem immediately after surgery – a blood clot that almost punched my ticket to heaven. This surprised my doctors for they had not anticipated a problem. Though it is not minor surgery knee replacement is routine and complications are rare.
In retrospect I realize now that I made a poor decision to have both knees replaced at the same time. The problem is that the next day I did not have a leg to stand on. It was not a heroic gesture on my part; it just seemed wise since both my knees were worn out and walking had become very difficult.
My surgery went well. My recovery seemed normal the first day. 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 realized I was in trouble when all four of my sons, and their wives, suddenly appeared in my room. Anxiety hit me, like a two by four between the eyes. Instead of going home in a day or two, I might be going home to the Father’s House.
Informed by my doctor that I faced a life-threatening situation, I braced myself for the tests necessary to confirm my condition. I remember praying, “Lord, if you will 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.”
To prevent further damage from blood clots, or emboli, my doctors quickly inserted 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. The procedure worked and I began to recover.
After this surgical remedy 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. 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 works in this unit.
There are no more wonderful nurses anywhere than those who serve on the team at EAMC. I will never forget the gracious way in which they cared for me. Weak and unable to do hardly anything for myself, I was entirely dependant upon my nurses. I was humbled by the professionalism, and the sweet spirit, of these nurses who met my every need and nursed me back from helplessness to strength.
My confidence in my doctors never wavered, even during my most anxious hours. Jim Whatley, Mike Lisenby, David Scott, and John Thomas are the best. I owe them a debt I can never repay.
At my weakest point I realized how blessed I was by the love of my wife and my family. They stood by me, encouraging me to believe I could recover. My sons and their wives dropped what they were doing 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.
After a few days regaining strength I was moved to the Skilled Nurses Facility to resume physical therapy. Finally I was released from the hospital to continue therapy at home. It was there that I came under the care of Dr. Tyler Hale; his expert therapy got me back on my feet. Since then Tyler and his family have become dear friends for we worship in the same church. Last year it was Tyler who provided therapy for my wife following the replacement of her second knee. Now she is walking like a champ.
Six months after surgery I began serving as an associate pastor at Saint James United Methodist Church in Montgomery. For eight years my Titanium knees have served me well. I am counting on them carrying me eleven more years so I can retire again at age 90. I just hope the rest of me can hold up as well as my knees!
During most of my hospital stay I was unable to have visitors. Later I discovered that dozens of my friends had signed a list on my door and stood outside offering a prayer for me. Few things in my life have been more humbling. I remain profoundly grateful.
Someone told me that I was a lucky man. Actually I am not much into “luck.” I prefer the idea that I am a blessed man, blessed far beyond my deserving. New knees and a filter have allowed me to continue serving my Lord. The love and prayers of family and friends provide joy and courage for living each new day. Yes, I am a blessed man! + + +