[Special Guest Blog from Dr. Ron Powell, professor at Vanguard College. Ron blogs about youth ministry and parenting at Youth Ministry Unleashed.]
My eyes were open but I couldn’t see.
I couldn’t breathe either. I had been winded before but this was different. I really couldn’t breathe. All I could do was pray silently, “God I have to live. Anna is pregnant and I have to be there to help her bring up the baby.”
Finally I sucked in a tiny breath with searing pain.
I could see dimly. One shoe and my glasses were gone. I could hear myself groaning as people were pulling twisted shelves, cans and ceiling tiles off of me.
My mind reeled.
How Did I Get Here?
It was the day before our first anniversary June 21, 1992 and I was picking up a few items in the store at 9:00 AM. I stood in the pet food aisle watching a stock-boy mopping up water in the huge Loblaws supermarket.
There was a sound like thunder way overhead.
Now I was writhing on the floor as paramedics were trying to stabilize my neck. I looked up and saw that the entire suspended ceiling had collapsed on me.
Someone I couldn’t see was telling a police officer, “With all that water he must have been hit with 2000 pounds! If it were a senior or a child they’d be dead!”
Why Did God Let This Happen?
They set me up with a neck collar and slid a back board under me. On three they had me on a stretcher and rolled me quickly out to the ambulance. The siren stopped screaming as we pulled up to North York General Hospital. I was still sucking in little gasps of air–all I could manage with the pain.
The emergency area was over-crowded so it was hours before I went to radiography. I watched others suffering as I lay there. I wondered, “God I know you love me but why did you let this happen to me?”
An orderly wheeled me from x-ray to what looked like an ICU. I was in agony but I just wanted to go home.
It had been six hours from the accident and the head of orthopedic surgery spoke to me. “Mr. Powell, you have a compression fracture of your first lumbar vertebrae, and the thoracic vertebrae above it, is cracked. We will have to determine if your spinal cord has been impacted by the crushed bone in your spine. Unfortunately we won’t know until the bruising and swelling goes down.”
There were no rooms available in the hospital, so I spent the first night in the hall with Anna standing by until the nurses sent her home.
Because of the trauma, my muscles would violently spasm and my whole body would lift off the stretcher every 20 minutes. It frightened everyone around me. I was pretty scared too!
No Place For Rest
The next day a room came available in the geriatric ward. Friends and relatives began to visit during the days and nurses poked my feet with pins to test for feeling.
All day long I could hear patients on the floor calling out. At night it was worse. A hospital is no place to “rest up.”
Every few hours a nurse would give me an injection of Demerol. I had no idea that for some people, this pain killer gives them powerful hallucinations or nightmares. Each time I closed my eyes I would feel that I was buried alive. I didn’t tell anyone but I felt as much mental anguish as physical agony. The days stretched on.
The God Of All Comfort
Late on the 5th night, when physical and mental pain were at their worst, I reached for a pocket new testament Anna had brought me. I turned the pages, desperately looking for a passage that would give me some relief.
These words commanded my attention:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
These words were so meaningful because, like other people who suffer physically, I was also tortured with questions like: “Is this punishment? Did I do something wrong. God, are you trying to teach me something?” These verses provided the comfort I needed and maybe some reason why God would allow this to happen to me. It was so that he could comfort me and I would comfort others.
In that moment I raised my hands a little bit and invited the Comforter to comfort me. I began to praise Him and as I did, my muscles melted, my mind relaxed and waves of warmth seemed to wash over my body.
I was no longer buried alive. I repeated this prayer many times each night after the nurses would send Anna away from my room.
The Comforter continued to stay with me all night.
Comfort From The Comforted
Ten days in that hospital bed passed and they fit me for a body brace.
A physiotherapist brought me a walker so that I could see if I was able to stand and walk. When I stood, I could hear the elderly woman, Lilly next door to my room, who had constantly been pleading for help for the past 10 days. Thinking about that verse that said I was comforted so that I could comfort others, I began a half hour of inching my way out of my room and into Lilly’s.
I finally got to her bedside and she continued to plead for help. I asked her if I could pray for her. She looked frightened but continued her incessant pleading.
I leaned over my walker and put her hands in mine. I prayed that the comfort that God was giving me each day, would be given to her. And … for the first time in 10 days she was quiet. I don’t know if she felt peace but for a few minutes, I certainly did…
On the twelfth day I was released from the hospital.
It took me 6 months to recover to the point that I could take off the body brace and stop walking with a cane.
In a year I had completed my physio- therapy.
Sometimes I still have a little back pain that reminds me that the God of all Comfort has comforted me.
I hope that out of that experience I can still comfort others today.
APPLICATION: Please leave Ron a comment below.
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