Friday, May 29, 2015

If I Lived

You may have read this statement before:

“After my accident, January 1, 1991, I developed pneumonia and the doctor put me on a ventilator. He told Earl if I lived, I would be brain damaged, ventilator dependent and bedridden for life, and he was too young to be stuck with an invalid wife. Then, the doctor offered to let me die—comfortably.”

Earl remembered his wedding vows and had me transferred to Shepherd Spinal Center for rehabilitation.

Hospitalized with pneumonia eighteen years later, I lay in bed for thirteen days. Earl had me discharged. At home, he kept me to my normal daily routine.  I saw my doctor two weeks later and he said, “Do you know we couldn’t see your diaphragm on your x-ray when we sent you home? Today’s x-ray shows your lungs are clear. What did you do?”

Four years after that, I had three non-susceptible to known antibiotics bacteria in my pressure wound. I never heard a diagnoses but my infectious disease doctor wouldn’t deny it was osteomyelitis. I had a PICC line then a Groshong and Earl did three rounds of multiple hard-hitting IV antibiotics at home over three months.

I came to my senses in ICU before we finished the antibiotics. Admitted for “Changed Mental Status,” I was malnourished. [I don’t eat much.] The eighth day, Earl requested a feeding tube. It was placed in surgery. Then he asked my doctors to discharge me. A few hours later, I was home.

Four months passed and I was recovering well and doing active exercises to increase my strength. Suddenly I was back in the hospital with sepsis. Day five started well with full intention of going home. One doctor wrote the order early that morning. 

At eleven-thirty, an aide started my bed bath. When she rolled me to my left, my sinuses drained and mucus blocked my airway. I panicked. Earl put me on my back and my airway cleared. I continued to gasp for air. He put me on oxygen at 2L/minute (O2) then set up my BiPAP and switched me over.

My O2 saturation was critically low and I heard someone say, “Raise it to six”. A while later I became aware of a large number of people in my room. I told Earl, “Need. Quiet. I can. Relax. Breathe.” He told them and most left. I rested and felt better. 

When my admitting doctor came in a short time later, we told him what happened and that we still wanted to go home. He wrote the order and we arrived home at seven p.m. [Earl told me later that the group of people in my room was the “Rapid Response Team” waiting for me to code.]

Earl’s response in each situation was foolishness in the eyes of many. I heard the questions addressed to him. “When are you leaving (her)?” “She IS a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ isn’t she?” “Don’t you want to make her a ‘DNR’?”  “Sign this. It is an agreement that you won’t abandon your wife while she’s here.” “What do you think your wife wants?”

My paralysis is hard work for Earl and me. In the beginning, I thought it would be easier for everyone if I died. I succumbed to depression – I asked God to take me home.

With Earl’s insistence, I began ordering my medicine, calling my doctors and scheduling appointments. He encouraged me to write devotions for church newsletters, teach adult Sunday school classes and lead Bible studies.

Earl and I are running the race set before us and fixing our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-2). We pray people will know we belong to Jesus by our words and our actions.

I share my testimony and tell what God has done for me everywhere I go. Earl’s sermons are always Holy Spirit powered. He wanders through Wednesday night meals talking to everyone there. He takes every opportunity to be with the children and youth.

We know Satan has our names on his short-list. We bind and cast him and his demons out as we pray out loud. [Satan cannot read your mind.] We praise God and remind Satan we belong to Jesus and he has no power over us.

The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:15 NIV).

 In Christ,
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015


When I woke up in the hospital, Earl told me about my accident and that I was on a ventilator. Paralyzed from my neck down, I couldn’t move. I could see a black ring around my forehead and what looked like two bolts sticking out. “What?”

“It’s a halo brace. You have four screws in your head,” He leaned toward me touching them two at a time and said, “These two in your forehead and one behind each ear. They hold the black ring you see in place and four bars connect the circle to a leather vest. It’s to keep your neck still so the broken bones can fuse.”

Though I had no pain, we called it my “crown of thorns.’”

After wearing it three months, a doctor came into my room and said, “Your x-rays show the bones in your neck are fused so I’m going to take your brace off.” When she loosened the bars and the vest, muscle spasms shot through my neck in searing stabs that felt like heated daggers. She put a cervical collar around my neck but I still had to lay back in my wheelchair to let the headrest support my head.

As the doctor prepared to remove the screws, she assured me it wouldn’t hurt. When she began unscrewing the screw from my behind my right ear, several strands of my hair tangled around it.

Unable to speak, I had difficulty communicating my distress and my hair began tearing from my scalp. When I got the doctor’s attention, she cut the remaining hair.

A young Christian, I couldn’t understand why God had allowed this to happen to me. I had recently accepted His forgiveness for a sinful past and was daily growing stronger in faith. As I sat in tears, God reminded me it was Good Friday.

Traditionally the day Jesus’ Crown of Thorns pierced His brow – mine was removed.

When I see the scars in my forehead, I remember Christ’s sufferings and how He gave me a new life filled with love and joy, grace and blessing. I live for Him wherever I am.

My crown of thorns was insignificant. His Crown of Thorns was my healing.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV).

In Christ,

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SnapShots: Devotions from Life

Monday, March 23, 2015

I Begged God

I remember the first person I saw in a wheelchair. I was at the doctor’s office for my kindergarten physical. Who was in the wheelchair? My doctor. He’d had Polio as a child. 

Then, there was Dale, a young man who slobbered and walked funny. He taught me to dance the two-step. He had Cerebral Palsy. At the time, I didn't know the diseases nor did I know they were disabled. They were my friends.

In seventeen years as a nurse, I saw a multitude of persons with physical disabilities. Some had accepted their disability and functioned well in society, like my childhood friends. Others hadn't. They were angry and depressed.

In 1991, an automobile accident injured my spinal cord paralyzing me from my shoulders down. Three months into an ICU stay, my neurosurgeon spoke to Earl. “Mr. Dickerson, she’ll be bedridden, ventilator-dependent and have brain damage. You're too young to be saddled with an invalid wife. We can let her die comfortably.”

Earl remembered his wedding vows, “…in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live.” Earl chose life for me and arranged my transfer to a spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

Once stable, off the ventilator, and using a power wheelchair I went to the gym for therapy. My neighbors and I sat in wheelchairs and struggled to feed ourselves. We encouraged each other. I fit in.

Back home no one was like me. Strangers and friends patted my shoulder and called me a “poor thing.” Many stared, ignored, yelled or treated me as a child. I became angry and depressed.

I begged God to heal my spinal cord injury or at least my hands. Nothing. I turned to God’s Word through Bible study and read about Paul’s “thorn in his flesh”.

God’s call for me is to be Christ-centered and bold in my faith as I share what He has done for me. My disability continues but I am a healed child of God first and forever for “By His Stripes, We are Healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Henri J. M. Nouwen described this type of ministry in his book, “The Wounded Healer.” Stephen Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine at Asbury Seminary, and author of “Wounds That Heal,” told me, “His wounds have healed you. Now He's using your wounds to heal others.”

“‘I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me’” (2 Corinthians 7-10 NIV).

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).

In Christ,