Thursday, November 16, 2017

Angels in Street Clothes


As I shook hands with the gentleman in front of me, I keenly noted his firm hand grasp, wide smile, and clear Southern accent. While talking and laughing together, it was hard to believe this was the same man I'd seen just two weeks prior. Two weeks... My mind wandered back to that eventful day.

It was a gorgeous autumn morning at Fall Creek Falls. We had just finished our worship service during Apison SDA's annual church campout. As the weather slipped from crisp morning to blistering afternoon, I headed to my car to change into something more weather appropriate. My friend Jonathon Duman, who was still with his wife Elizabeth at the main campsite, happened to see cars stopping along the road that curved past and decided to investigate. Looking down over the hill he could see a bicyclist lying in the middle of the lane. "Someone must have hit him!" he immediately thought. He ran down to where a group of people were standing around the bike. "I'm an ER nurse, what can I do to help?" He took a quick visual note of the scene. The man lying on the pavement was ashen gray and struggling for breaths. He looked to be middle aged, decked out with pro biking gear complete with a helmet. His bicycle was lying close by. "We just drove up on him like this; man I'm so glad to see you!" one of the bystanders exclaimed. Jonathon quickly knelt down and felt for a pulse. Nothing. Immediately he pulled off the man's shirt and began CPR. His wife soon joined him as others pressed in to see what was going on. “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5…” they counted rhythmically while continuing compressions. Five minutes pass, still no pulse. They continue compressions, praying with each stroke that their efforts would keep the blood moving. Somehow. Someway. Ten minutes seem like ten hours as the cycle continues, 100 compressions a minute, deep, constant. Jonathon tries not to think of the last time he performed CPR, just a couple days ago. As an ER nurse, codes are common but often don’t end well. “Please God, bring his heart back to life!” “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7…” “Can anybody else do compressions?” Elizabeth could feel her arms begin to weaken. Instantly people sprang forward from the crowd of onlookers. A retired ER nurse. Church members. An Erlanger nurse who happened to be driving by also jumped in to help keep the compressions going.

Meanwhile, church members at the campsite had a special prayer meeting. They knew how grave the situation was and interceded with God on his behalf. A siren pierced the organized chaos down on the road as a park ranger truck pulled up to the scene. Quickly he unloaded an AED and connected the pads. Everyone backed away as it methodically scanned the heart rhythm. “Shock advised. Stand clear of the patient,” the familiar words ordered. A powerful shock was administered and CPR was resumed. “His color is looking better,” someone remarked. Feeling for a pulse, Jonathon could feel a strong thumping in his carotid artery. “He’s got a pulse guys. He’s got a pulse!” After fifteen minutes of CPR and one AED shock, he now had a pulse and was beginning to breathe on his own. Another siren filled the air as the volunteer fire department arrived, quickly putting him on oxygen and starting an IV in his right arm. Minutes later the ambulance arrived and a quick report was given to the EMTs as they log rolled him onto the backboard. Driving him a few miles down the road, the ambulance met a LifeForce helicopter which airlifted him to Erlanger Heath System.

Fast forward two weeks. Having learned of his miraculous rescue through family and friends at the hospital, John and his wife Gale were finally able to track down the people who helped rescue him. They wanted to thank them in person. So here they were, visiting our church as alive and healthy as ever. I was in awe as we talked about how many circumstances played out so perfectly to make this miracle a reality. Having the heart attack right next to our campsite not only gave him close proximity to several nurses and doctors, but also a bicycle shop owner who was able to find contact info from the registration on the bike. There were several places he could have ridden in the state park where he’d have lain without medical aid for several minutes. Tears of thankfulness and joy were on every face as rescued and rescuers thanked God for His endless mercies and intervention.

P. S. I received express permission from John and Gale Blount before posting these pictures and story. I'm extremely proud of my friends for their heroic work but they want people to know it was a group effort with many people involved and ultimately God is responsible for this rescue.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

25 Years of Wisdom

It's hard to believe I've been around for a quarter of a century now. That cluster of words has a certain ring to it which bodes well with knowledge and experience. So much life behind. So many experiences had. Yet somehow, I still feel like a redheaded newsboy standing on Broad Street calling to passersby for a penny in exchange for my little paper of knowledge. A bit of dirt smudged on my cheek. Grimy hands. Knowing my corner of the world like the back of my fist and yet realizing that out beyond, there's a world full of wild and crazy just waiting to be explored. More newsboys. More papers. More knowledge being spread. More people making the world go round and round and round.

The other day, someone asked what wisdom I had to share after 25 years. On a whim, I simply said, "Never go to bed mad." This world is too full of hurt and anger and disappointment. But everyone knows that. I tried thinking of something unique, something insightful, something that only I had discovered during my 25 years of living. An equation. A light bulb. Wings. Have I really spent so much time simply sucking up the life around me without giving back? Then I remembered a patient I had the other day. During an illustrious career, he'd worked with NASA as a mechanical engineer in the control room during the Mercury and Apollo missions. A brilliant man, his name is noted in history for the work he accomplished during some of the most triumphant years of our country. Yet now as I cared for him, he could do nothing but smile and respond with yes/no answers to my simple questions. He was surrounded by a loving family who cared for him and even in his old age, his stalwart dignity was hardly faded. He may not have invented the rocket, but his intellect helped put man on the moon.

Every day, we're faced with opportunities to give back. We're given chances to show that our life is not just a time waster and space taker. We were created for more; to be a hero in a world of need. Heroes don't have limits. There is no set entrance exam. Heroes deliver the mail every day. Heroes empty our trash. Heroes keep drains unclogged and floors swept. They build buildings and fly planes. They teach. They inspire.

Only when we realize the world doesn't need us can we begin to understand how much it wants us. Chances are, if you were to not show up to work tomorrow or decided your favorite restaurant wasn't that great anymore, life would go on. New employees would come, new customers would buy. We're such a tiny piece in a massive puzzle. We make ourselves feel important and then worry when things go wrong. We feel life is hopeless without money and pointless without love. But once you realize everything you have is an opportunity - a privilege, not a right - your entire reality begins to shift. You appreciate people more, you laugh at corny jokes just because, you spend time doing things that interest you because life is an opportunity, not a chore. You become a wellspring of life to the people you come in contact with.

So here I am, calling out to you as you scroll past in your busy day. My posts are cheap; free in fact. After 25 years, I don't necessarily have anything radical to share. The knowledge is mainstream; you can get most of it by reading the world around you. Yet I share because I have to. If I didn't, I'd be begging for sustenance while life paid me no heed. Take the paper - or leave it. It's your choice. All I ask is that you don't read for my sake.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Iceland

Stillness. Complete stillness save for the hissing of steam somewhere off in the distance. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a place this devoid of sound. A few months ago my girlfriend and I decided to plan a trip to her native country so I could meet her family and see all the places she’s adventured. Consequently, we landed in Iceland for a few weeks before heading to Denmark to visit even more family and childhood haunts. As many of you know, I spent several years growing up in Alaska and Iceland reminds me of the Last Frontier in more ways than one. It has a lot of wide open wilderness. There are more animals than people. The weather is cool and inviting. The feeling of isolation is quite surreal.

Iceland is unique for more reasons than its difficult language and steam vents. My favorite part was the fact that every town had a pool. And each pool was geothermally heated so it didn’t matter whether it was raining or chilly or whether the sun was out, the water was always comfortable. However, each pool was different in regards to size and how many slides it had which made us “need” to try as many as possible. We even got to swim in Iceland’s oldest pool, a basin of water walled in by concrete on three sides with the rocky mountain completing the fourth.

Everything is quite expensive compared to prices in the United States, which I’m used to. Most things cost about four times as much. After a recent financial crash, Iceland’s money has grown stronger and with the current boom in tourism, the country is doing quite well monetarily!

Crime rates are surprisingly nonexistent. Young children can always be seen riding bikes down the sidewalk or chatting in groups on the local playgrounds unsupervised. It reminded me of what a typical neighborhood in the mid-1900s would have looked like in the U.S.

Although the only way for you to truly experience what it’s like to be in Iceland is to actually visit the country itself, I’m linking my two Facebook albums on here so you can see my pictures of our trip.



As a bonus, I’m also going to link a video I put together of a 15 mile hike across the Eyjafjallajökull volcano which disrupted all of Europe’s air travel for a couple weeks. You can watch that trip here: https://youtu.be/g8qMRyEBnQ4

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Giving Up On Dreams

It was getting to be early evening and the sun was already on its way down. My girlfriend and I had just spent a productive day touring around Copenhagen, Denmark and wanted to check out the beach before heading back to her family’s house. The sky was softly spitting rain and a stiff breeze was blowing in from the grey blue distance. I’m honestly not sure who had the idea first or whether it was a brilliant spark of adventure which hit us both at the same time, but suddenly we needed to dive head long into that refreshing ocean water. Or at least gingerly step our toes in... To say it was refreshing is an understatement, as we soon found out. Thankfully Agnes had thrown her bikini in the car earlier that day, but I had only my boxers with which to enjoy the chilling dip. After swimming for a bit, we decided to end our exciting escapade and head for the warm showers. It was too cold to dress by the ocean so we ran for the car instead. Agnes jumped onto my back and as we passed by one of the RVs, we could see an older couple sitting inside laughing goodheartedly. Anything’s possible in Denmark of course, but it had probably been awhile since they’d seen a couple quite like us, me running in my soaked boxers with my girlfriend on my back, towel streaming behind like a superwoman cloak. While driving home on towels thrown over the seats, we laughed at all the random adventures we get ourselves into. Honestly, we both have a knack for being spontaneous which makes life so much more exciting. As we kept driving, my mind slowly wandered back to the older couple we’d seen in the RV. I wondered if they were ever as adventurous as us. Were they as crazy in love as we are? I wondered what tales they have to tell, and what all they’d done. Did they fulfill all their dreams? Perhaps seeing us had made them start reminiscing back on the good ol’ days.

The other day I was deep in reverie and asked Agnes, “At what point do you think people give up on their dreams?” The question was purely rhetorical of course, but it made me stop and think. When we’re kids, the world is our oyster. Especially as boys, we dream of being an astronaut pushing further into space or fighting fires to save the damsel in distress. We imagine ourselves as the next Bond hero, Indiana Jones adventurer, or fearless pirate conquering islands hidden deep in the seven seas. As we lay in bed at night, making out treasure maps in the ceiling texture, we dream up all sorts of fantastical adventures and fall asleep trying to imagine what life must be like when we finally turn 20. And then somehow, without us even noticing, life changes. We realize there is no Taco Bell in space and that idea was simply too far out there, so we settle for being a ship captain. Ideas come and go like the phases of the moon. We realize what we once wanted to do doesn’t seem so exciting anymore and what we now want to do, takes a whole ton of work. So we enter this period of indecision that usually hits full swing during freshman year in college. Careers seem illusionary. It only takes one or two heartbreaks before we give up on fairytale romance too. Our perfect fantasies aren’t playing out as we had expected, dreamed, anticipated.

And here is the great divide where I’ve seen so many people give up. When expectations don’t equal reality, they settle. They settle for the easiest degree, the fastest job, the mediocre relationship. Instead of revisiting their childhood dreams, extracting the elements which create the core of each one, and devising a method to make those themes a reality, they post FB updates like “I don’t like adulting.” There’s nothing wrong with not liking it, and believe me, there are days when it takes a lot of work. But when I’m elderly and thinking back on the life I’ve lived, I want to remember it with as much enthusiasm as I dreamed it up with as a kid. The nice thing is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re 5 or 95, you still have time to live your dreams. Make those adventures happen! Life is built around the stories we tell and the wisdom we share. Make yours invaluable.
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