In the fall of 1971 Cathy and I were living in Valdosta, Georgia where I was completing my military service obligation in the United States Air Force. We had already made the major decision to move to El Dorado, Arkansas to begin our life there and for me to begin my surgical practice. Our son John was 4 years old and Mary Kay was 1 1/2 years old. Ginny had not yet arrived. We were very excited to make this transition so we might have more stability, since up to this point it seemed we were always moving and unsettled.
During the transition we found a very nice 3 bedroom house on the north side of town we could rent at a reasonable price. It was owned by friends who lived 2 doors away, which offered the added security of having them as neighbors . They had recently done some remodeling to the house, and it was freshly painted. Our new home was located in the neighborhood in which I spent my childhood and was 3 blocks from my Mom’s home. The whole situation was ideal for us.
My brother Berry Lee (Bubba) had offered me space in his medical office to establish my referral surgical practice. He had practiced family medicine in El Dorado for 14 years; the first 5 years had been with our Dad (Pop) and the last 5 years he had Dr. Grady Hill, a family practitioner renting space in his office. Their practices were separate. Initially this arrangement with Bubba seemed ideal for me, because I would get all of his surgical referrals, and his patients could be seen immediately by me.
Approximately 1 month following our move, Cathy and I each had lingering upper respiratory illnesses which were beginning to improve after 7 days of aggravating symptoms. On this particular Monday morning upon leaving home for a scheduled surgical case, I told Cathy she should raise the windows in our bedroom to “air it out of any contagious germs.”
The procedure I was doing that morning was a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) which usually takes one hour, but this one was less difficult, and within 45 minutes I was in the recovery room writing post-operative orders. I heard the hospital operator page my call number and when I answered her, she said my wife was calling. I thought this unusual since she knew I was operating and wouldn’t be finished until mid-morning. As I answered she was almost hysterical saying she had cut her foot and needed me to come home as quickly as possible. My thought was she had dropped a glass and had stepped on a broken piece while trying to clean the floor; nevertheless I dressed as quickly as possible and drove the 7 to 10 minutes it took to get to our home.
Upon arrival I noted my Mom’s car and an ambulance parked in our garage, which gave me the first indication Cathy’s injury was greater than a simple foot laceration. As I entered the back door into the kitchen I will never forget the horrific scene I encountered. Cathy was lying in the middle of the kitchen floor holding pressure on her right ankle with a towel and despite her pressure, blood was oozing around the towel. The kitchen floor was covered with a large amount of blood (probably a pint or more), and standing there observing was Mom who appeared helpless and our Mary Kay staring wide-eyed wondering what had just happened to her Mommy. The ambulance driver also was at a loss because this was prior to EMT training and ambulance attendants then were nothing more than transporters. When I told Mom to get me a sheet to make a tourniquet and a pressure bandage, her only comment was, “But these are all new sheets.” Despite the fact she had been a doctor’s wife for over 30 years, she had not personally been involved in an emergency with blood loss such as this.
On the way to the hospital Cathy related she had tried to open the bedroom windows, but found they were stuck because of the recent painting. She lay on her back on the bed and tried to strike the window frame with her heel to loosen the seal. Her foot glanced off the frame, broke through the glass and when reflexively pulling it back, a large shard of glass severed her Achille’s tendon and the major blood vessels in her ankle. She said she could “look down in her ankle and see all the anatomy including the bone.” Thankfully, Cathy is strong by nature because had she fainted when seeing the extent of the wound and the blood, she would have bled to death within minutes.
The two senior surgeons in town, Dr. David Yocum and Dr. C.E. Tommey successfully repaired the injury, and Cathy began a slow recovery and rehabilitation process which took about 8 weeks. A number of things happened in our lives as a result of her injury and recovery, but the most significant changes occurred in us internally. Friends and family visited, prepared meals, sent cards and offered to help with things Cathy could not do because of her cast and crutches. A friend of Bubba named Dave Dawson, a Navigator from Greenville, Texas visited Cathy and me and spoke to us about our relationship with Christ and the necessity of making certain we knew Him. Cathy, in particular points to that visit as pivotal to her in later receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. Her spiritual journey is so intimately tied to mine that I, too believe Dave’s visit was divinely appointed for both of us. We faced the reality that our lives are fragile and uncertain when we try to manage life in our own strength and we began seeking the One who could help us.
It was several years before we surrendered ourselves completely to Christ, but we look back to those days when Cathy endured the pain and disability of a nearly severed foot and together we started on a path where we finally allowed God to make us into new creations. (II Corinthians 5:17)