In the Fall of 1969, I was 12 years old. My Dad had hired several RAs to rake our back yard. RA’s (Royal Ambassadors) is an organization of pre-teen and teen boys from our church. We had a large back yard so they had a lot of leaves to rake. All of the leaves ended up in a large pile at the back of the yard. I came home at sunset and saw that huge pile of leaves which looked inviting. I ran over to it and jumped to land belly first in the pile. Before I reached the ground I felt something hit my face. I got up and noticed my glasses were missing so I started to look for them. That was when I noticed a lot of blood on the surface of the leaves. I was confused, I could not figure out where all the blood was coming from. I put my hand to my face where I felt the bump when I landed, looked at my hand to see blood all over my palm. What had happened was as the leaves were piled up; there was a tree stump that was buried. The stump was about 4 inches in diameter and jagged at the top. Apparently this tree had died and rotted before someone pushed it down leaving about a foot tall stump.
I ran into the house and yelled for my Mom. When she was standing in front of me I moved my hand to show her my face, the frightened look she had really scared me.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. My Mom opened the door and let in a good friend who was the local High School Coach who had brought over something to give to my Dad. Mom was sort of panicky and told Coach Reid that I was hurt really bad. Coach Reid had been trained in first aid so he sort of knew what to do. He started pulling pieces of wood out and tried to clean up the wound to see how serious it was. My Mom called our family Doctor and said we will be heading over to the clinic.
My Mom, Dad and I arrived at the emergency entrance of the clinic and our Doctor, who we knew as Doctor Joe, was there along with a nurse. After a quick exam Dr. Joe said that I needed to be taken to the hospital and needed surgery immediately, possibly plastic surgery. I recall him asking my Dad if we wanted to go by ambulance or did he want to drive me there himself. Secretly I voted for the ambulance, like any 12 year old boy back then would have. My Dad said he would drive me. We drove home first to let my brothers know what was going on. We took off for the hospital which was about 15 minutes away. All during this time I don’t recall if I was in any pain, I was just enjoying the out of ordinary circumstances, and wishing I could have taken that ambulance ride.
Dr. Joe met us at the hospital and I was taken directly to an operating room and was prepped for surgery. Since I had bronchitis they could not use general anesthesia but had to deaden the area locally. I recall them asking me if I wanted a mirror brought over so I could watch the surgery, I declined. Just before they started they put a large piece of paper over my face but left an opening for my left eye so I could see the people in the room. Funny how I can remember the small things but not the big ones. I don’t remember arriving at the hospital or how I got to the surgery suite, but I remember hearing Dr. Joe hum as he worked, and asking the nurses for different tools. Dr. Joe was a cool character under pressure. Sometime during the surgery I actually fell asleep. I started dreaming I was riding a motorcycle and as I was crossing a ditch, I fell. I woke up when I fell in the dream and I must have winced because Dr. Joe asked me if that hurt. I did not feel anything so I said no, I did not hurt. A few minutes later, Dr. Joe asked me if I wanted a dimple. I asked what a dimple is. He responded, “I will give you one, girls love them.”
The next day in my hospital room that I shared with other patients I woke up to find that my Dad was sleeping in a chair next to my bed. Mom had gone home the night before after I was brought to my room. Later that morning, Mom came by to bring Dad and me home. She even brought my glasses that one of my brothers found. We first stopped by the clinic where Dr. Joe worked because he wanted to see how I was doing. He pulled the bandage off slowly to reveal about 20 stitches. The stitches were in the shape of a large 7 under my left eye. As Dr. Joe was examining how the wound was doing he said, “You know, this is a miracle. Had you hit a little to the left of where you did, it would have permanently damaged the nerves that control the side of your face. You would have had no control of the muscles on that side of your face for life. Had it hit higher, it would have damaged your eye socket and possibly be blind in that eye. Had it hit a little to the right it would have damaged your nose and you would have to have your nose reconstructed. Had it hit a little down, it would have damaged your upper jaw and that would have taken several surgeries to fix. It is as if God directed where you hit the stump… I could not have placed it any better on your face. God was looking out for you.” For a 12 year old boy, I did not comprehend what all he just said but I can still hear him telling us this all these years later.
I got to miss school for a few days which for me was a big plus. When I did go back to school our class had a Halloween party and since I did not know to bring anything to dress up as, I pulled the bandage off my face and said I was Frankenstein. The teacher made me put the bandage back on since it upset some of the kids to see my bruised face with all those stitches.
After another week or so, I went back to see Dr. Joe at the clinic where he removed the stitches. He told my Mom that I needed to put castor oil on my face to help the scar heal. When we got home I went to the bathroom to look at my face, I did not have the nerve to look before now. What I saw in the mirror was a large backward 7 on my right side of my face under my eye. Someone else would not see the backward 7 but a 7 in the right direction under my left eye.
As I look back after all these years I can see God’s protection many times but this one stands out to be a definitive point in my life. The next Spring, March 15, 1970 to be exact, I accepted Christ as my Savior. I was Baptized at our church the following Sunday on March 21st and I have not been same since. I trust God in everything I do and He watches over me and my family. I have been through a lot since that Fall day, even survived kidney cancer, but I always know He is there when I call out to Him.