"PLEASE LET ME DIE!"
By: Dan Revoir
THE CRUSHING PROCESS
After discovering small outcroppings of rocks with traces of gold, the next step is digging a mine shaft. These were usually equipped with narrow gauge railroad tracks on which donkeys pulled carts filled with ore-bearing rock from the depths of the mine. The next process was using huge machines to crush the rocks. Modern day prospectors dissolve it either in mercury or in cyanide solutions to extract the precious metal. Gold-bearing rock with as little as one part of gold to 300,000 parts of worthless material may be worked at a profit.
The dead leaves and mud of fall had now been covered with a mantle of purest white. And the Scotch pine, white pine, and Colorado spruce were resplendent in beauty, decorated by God's handiwork. Everything dazzled in the sun, clean and fresh in this pristine, frosty wonderland. The cold was brisk and invigorating.
I was now walking about three miles a day. There was no angina (chest pain), no pain at all! I could not have been happier with my new lease on life. The doctor was very encouraged and told me if I survived for five years after surgery that my mortality rate would be the same as any person my age. I was determined to do everything possible to strengthen my heart. It was so good to be able to walk as fast as I wanted. In fact, my dear Martha had to jog to keep up with me. My attitude was positive and I was so happy to be serving the Lord to the best of my ability and His power.
It was Sunday, the twelfth of December 1982, and after the morning service we had our dinner as usual. About an hour later it was time for my daily constitutional, which I jokingly referred to as making a payment on my life insurance. Martha decided to go with me. We walked on the black-topped road which was covered with snow because there are no sidewalks. We were walking, rather I was walking, Martha was jogging, when a young boy about twelve came down the street past us on a snowmobile. This seemed strange since it is against the law to ride snowmobiles on the roads. We continued walking at our regular pace, laughing and talking, enjoying the brisk cold air. Suddenly I sensed something was wrong. (Like the feeling when creepy music is played on a television show).
Grabbing Martha and pushing her into the ditch, I screamed, "Get off the road!" I became aware that the danger I sensed was the sound of a snowmobile engine going wide open. The boy had turned the machine around and it was running full speed! As I turned my head to see where he was, he hit us! Then it seemed like everything was happening in slow motion. Martha was floating up in the air about seven feet and she slowly drifted back to the ground landing on her neck. She just laid there, not moving, not speaking. I wasn't even sure she was breathing! I instinctively ran my hand down my right leg because of the awful pain. I could feel about three inches of bone sticking out of my leg and my foot was turned 90 degrees from my leg. I fought off the shock because of my concern for Martha. Finally she spoke, saying only, "Dan...Dan...Dan." That her neck was broken was my first thought, and in my mind's eye I could see her living the rest of her life in a wheelchair or the possibility of losing her. I asked her to please try to move her fingers. After about fifteen minutes she began to move them one by one. Overjoyed that she could move her fingers, I offered a prayer to my Father. This was the essence of it. "Father, I love you and I thank you we were not hurt more seriously. God, we have given our lives to you and you have allowed this to happen to us. Father, I know there is no unconfessed sin in my life; please let this bring glory to Your name for I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
Now at this point there were several people gathered around us and they all seemed to be in a trance. My sweetheart was going into shock and no one would help us. So I began to give orders to those around us, telling one man to go call an ambulance for us, NOW! And another to get some blankets for Martha, or to hold their body against her to keep her warm.
One man suggested that they pick her up and get her out of the snow. In panic I cried for them not to move her as her neck might be broken. Then I asked for two sticks and some rope or tape to splint my leg. That was of no avail; no one heeded my request. After about 45 minutes the ambulance arrived. The nurse was very concerned because they had told her I was a heart patient. I told her that I was stable, but Martha was going into shock.
The nurse took one look at Martha and said, "You are right, doc, she does need help."
As they loaded us, one of the men carrying me, accidentally pushed my foot back up to a vertical position. Jamming my leather glove into my mouth and biting it as hard as I could, I tried not to scream. The pain was literally indescribable; I thought that I would pass out. (A very dear friend of mine stepped on a land mine in Vietnam and both his legs were blown off. He said he never lost consciousness! It is unreal the amount of pain the body can withstand).
They transported us to Kalkaska Medical Center where they started an IV in Martha to stabilize her condition. We were transferred to Traverse City and later that night at Munson Medical Center both of us had surgery. Martha's left leg was broken and both bones had compound fractures. My leg was smashed with the bone sticking out about three inches. God was going to use the crushing process to extract the gold of my faith and remove the worthless material. Later the surgeon told me the leg was completely shattered and the only thing keeping it intact was the Achilles tendon which runs down to the heel. He had considered amputation but decided to screw the pieces of bone together and wait about six weeks before removing the leg, if it was necessary.
Contrary to policy, they put us both in one room so we could be together. It was the first time in the history of Munson Medical Center that they had co-ed rooms! A great number of passersby looked in as they walked past, only to come back and look again, in utter disbelief.
The doctor started with a full leg cast on both of us, and after approximately a year of casts and crutches, my leg healed to the point where I could limp on it with a cane. Martha, however, was not that fortunate.
It was June 1983, time for Martha's checkup and as the medical assistant was preparing to remove her cast, he held the circular vibrator, which cuts the cast, against his hand, assuring her not to worry, it wouldn't cut her. But that little saw had cut my leg when they removed one of my several casts. She gave him very explicit instructions about being careful as he removed hers. Dr. Esslinger, the orthopedic surgeon came in to examine Martha's leg. It was a relatively simple test: he grabbed her ankle in one hand and just below the knee in the other, and bent the leg sideways like you would bend a stick. What a sickening sight! The leg literally wobbled back and forth sideways, as if it had gristle in it. He explained it was a non-union: the bone develops but it does not harden. This condition occurs in about one out of 100 cases with broken bones similar to Martha's. He advised us of the need to operate again. Only this time they would take a bone graft out of her hip and put an electric bone stimulator implant in her leg. I will never forget the look on Martha's face.
It was the same look that I had seen 16 years before when we received a call late in the night from Dayton, Ohio. I had answered the phone and a cold voice stated that they were calling to tell us that Klein Powell had just died.
That isn't possible. You must be mistaken. That can't be! My mind raced. Not Klein; he is only 50 years old! He is in perfect health! He plays basketball with his young son, Chuck! He is in Dayton, Ohio at a seminar for General Motors. Again, came the voice bearing heart-rending news of death..."Mrs. Powell needs her family. Can you bring them to Dayton right now?"
"Yes," I replied, hanging up the phone. Martha was there in the kitchen listening to the incoherent phone call with that same look on her face. And I had to relay the terrible message that would tear a wound in her heart that still has not healed: "Honey, your dad just died." We have suffered the grief of losing our loved ones; Martha, her mother and dad, and I, my father.
Martha was stunned now by the doctor's words and her lower lip began to tremble as she tried to fight back the tears. We had spent months in terrible pain, sleeping only three or four hours a night. But she bravely told the doctor, she was ready to get it over with as soon as possible.
On February 23, 1984 my leg began to swell and it was streaked with red marks. After an examination by Dr. Esslinger, he recommended admittance for surgery. The leg was reacting to the hardware and it was imperative to remove the screws immediately. This required opening the leg completely again. And once again the irritating, clumsy crutches became a reality in my life for the next two months.
Martha's leg was examined again in August 1984, with the same prognosis: non-union, the bone still was not hardening. Dr. Esslinger referred her to Dr. Kaufer at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, reputed to be the surgeon's surgeon! So we made the trip from northern Michigan to Ann Arbor. Upon seeing Dr. Kaufer, he advised immediate surgery again, this time putting in a stainless steel plate, approximately nine inches long. This involved another bone graft from her hip which compounds the pain associated with bone surgery.
Once more, there was the stunned look of unbelief and tears sliding down her cheeks. Sick in my soul and spirit for my sweetheart, I cried out in silent prayer, "No, Father, please deliver her from going through this agony again! lease God, let me suffer for her. Let me have the pain! God, I can stand it better than she can..." Each one of us has a cross to bear and she was bearing hers with unflinching courage.
We had to return to the University of Michigan Hospital in late October 1984. Martha was suffering from nerve damage, either from surgery or from the cast which had been put on her leg. I have never experienced nerve pain but she described it as though someone was jamming an electrical prod in the bottom of her foot. She was literally convulsing in pain...nothing stopped it. Morphine and other drugs were ineffective. The doctor said that it could take several months before the pain would start to subside. Even now, however, once in a while she will jerk and grimace from the nerve pain.
On a cold, snowy evening in northern Michigan, the vast expanse of the Great Lakes makes sub-zero temperatures miserable. The frigid air burns the lungs with every frosty breath and chills one to the core. As a constant reminder of the forces of nature which show us how very fragile we are, frostbite and hypothermia are the rewards for being careless in this environment. The snow crunched under our feet like the sound of tearing apart styrofoam; everything was in the death grip of winter.
What a sight we were as we trudged through the snow and ice in Traverse City to make a necessary trip to the mall. Martha and I both had cumbersome, full leg casts and the click of our ice-studded crutches added to the cold, bleak sounds of winter.
As we approached the Sears store, we were delighted when a man rushed past us to push the door open. One's faith in humanity is restored even in this little gesture; we received the milk of human kindness. Wrong! Not only did he almost knock us down trying to get in the store, he let the door shut in Martha's face--literally. The door hit her crutches and because of the ice and snow in the entry, she started to fall.
The doctor's last warning was not to put any weight on that leg. That was the only thought in my mind as this heart-rending scene developed. In sheer panic, I acted by reflex, grabbing Martha to stop her fall and at the same time slamming into the glass door with my head and shoulder to keep the door from hitting her and possibly doing great harm to her leg! There we were, clutching each other like two homeless orphans, crutches scattered all over the entry and no one to help us. But it was a great comfort to see that the insensitive, uncaring man had turned around to see what was causing all the commotion.
We were to find that this would be the order of the day. For instance, imagine trying to push a grocery cart all the way through the store on crutches. The procedure's painfully slow and very tiring; walking on crutches is very fatiguing. Then as you try to push a fully-loaded cart a foot or so at a time to reach the checkout, someone cuts in before you can reach the aisle.
The effort to just get into a car with a full leg cast and crutches while being bundled up in sweater and goose down seems akin to the effort of those who built the Mackinaw Bridge. Obviously, to reverse the procedure presents the same problems. But thanks to concerned, caring legislators, most civilized places have handicap parking which greatly facilitates getting in and out of your car in closer proximity to buildings.
God, in His great wisdom allowed us to go through the crushing process with the result of finding some gold nuggets of faith in our lives and removing the hard stones of ignorance, and maybe even apathy about getting involved with other people's lives and problems. I have a ministry to suffering people whether it be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. God has given me a great empathy for those who are hurting. And possibly the greatest reason I can help them is that I've been there. I understand the frustration of casts and braces, and of crutches that rub your skin raw. We must extend every possible courtesy to those who are handicapped, being extra patient as someone fumbles with crutches or tries to get a wheelchair out of their car.
It's sort of like the woman whose car stalled at the stoplight and as the light turned green, the man behind her started blowing his horn. She frantically tried to restart the engine but to no avail. Again and again the man blew his horn until the lady got out of the car and went back to his car.
"Let's make a deal, you try to start that stupid car and I'll sit and blow the horn for you!"
SOMETIMES THE HUMAN SPIRIT IS STRONGER THAN STEEL
Near the end of November, 1985, Martha was shopping with a friend in Traverse City. The cast had been removed from her leg and she was walking on crutches. As she was walking, while trying to do some Christmas shopping, she heard something snap and immediately she had agonizing pain in her leg. The next day I took her to Munson Medical Center for x-rays. The doctor told us the last thing we wanted to hear, that the plate was broken, the bone still had not hardened, and that we should contact the University of Michigan Hospital right away.
Dr. Kaufer told us to come to Ann Arbor as soon as possible. They would work us in for an appointment. After his examination he stated that it was necessary to do surgery again to replace the broken plate and do another bone graft. It had been three years since our accident, this was the fourth major surgery on her leg and we were back to where we started. Once again Martha was scheduled for the seemingly unending rigors of surgery.
Now, let me brag just a little about my sweetheart! Proverbs 31 portrays the perfect woman, "Her price is far above rubies. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all." Martha is the embodiment of that Proverb. She is the perfect woman and God gave her to me. She is my wife, my lover and sweetheart, and she is my best friend. In all the four surgeries, electrical implants, casts, braces, crutches, and unspeakable pain I have never heard one complaint from her! Not one harsh word about the boy who caused all of that suffering. he is a brave and compassionate woman who loves the Lord Jesus Christ with all of her heart. And it seemed that God was using this new experience to shape us and mold us according to His own will.
I thank God for the lessons He has taught me. They came at a very costly price, and I hope they will not be soon forgotten. But these experiences drove me to God's Word in search of the answer of how God uses pain to mold us so we will be more Christ-like.
I have found four "Cs" of affliction during my experience and the first one is that of conforming.
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