Photo by Miquel Fabre.
At the age of seventeen I began working at General Wood and Veneer, a wholesale specialty wood supplier, as their shipping and receiving clerk. The owner named Ron was absolutely amazing, providing me with authority and independence. My job entailed keeping inventory, driving forklift and selling product while he was conducting business. Our company sold every imaginable specialty and exotic wood including Macassar Ebony, Indian Rosewood, Mappa Burl and the like. Business flourished and after eight months we hired another worker to help in the warehouse. The two of us kept very busy and maintained the habit of storing four-by-four posts behind the seat of the forklift, to be place under the lifts of hardwood and flitches of veneer. On one afternoon, my friend sped past on the machine, disappeared behind the lifts of lumber. While driving too close to a steel beam supporting the roof a post slid out from behind the seat and caught the beam, striking him in the back of the head. He let out a yelp as he was thrown from the forklift, then laid unconscious on the floor, while it continued to circle slowly nearby. He eventually recovered from a bad concussion, but didn’t return to work for a few weeks. At the same time I was attending St. Luke’s Anglican Church and actively participated in events with the other young people. On a Saturday afternoon, while playing floor hockey in the church gymnasium, I wedged my stick between the cinderblock wall and my abdomen, while aggressively chasing down the puck. I had really injured myself and chose to sit out for the rest of the game. A few days later my abdomen began to ache to a point where my mother drove me to a walk-in clinic, then the doctor referred me to a specialist that same afternoon. I laid on the backseat of my mother’s car, moaning while she sped us to his office. After his examination the specialist, Dr. Chhotalal Thakkar, ordered us to meet him at the Calgary General Hospital an hour later, where I would undergo an emergency operation for a ruptured appendix.
Later that evening I awoke in the recovery room, with drainage tubes protruding from two bandaged incisions that remained unclosed. A porter took me to the sixth floor of the C-wing, where a number of other patients were recovering from abdominal surgery. With my stomach aching from the procedure a nurse explained that I would receive 100 mg of Demerol intramuscularly every four hours, to control the pain of an inflamed peritoneum. After a few days I was able to gently work my way down to the end of the hall into a turreted sitting area, where I could take in the Canadian Rockies and peruse a magazine, which became my routine for the next twenty eight days. After two and a half weeks the pain subsided and my medication was reduced to 25 mg IM q4hr, but by that time I had become dependent. After all, there wasn’t much else to do in the hospital, aside from reading the same magazines and mitigating pain. Each side of my hip could attest to this as they had swelled like pincushions, tender and inflamed from the plethora of needles I had received. I did my very best at convincing the staff to continue with the narcotics, but eventually they began to wean me off because they knew better. The pain in my midriff began to increase, to the point where I was crying in agony. A nurse came in and spoke to me about my addiction, then told me she couldn’t administer any more Demerol. But the pain intensified, to where I continuously moaned in distress from the pain I was in. A doctor eventually came and examined me, then rushed me to an operating room with a few other staff, to aspirate an abscess that had formed behind my intestines. This was so urgent that there wasn’t any time to administer an anaesthetic before their procedure. Then, while watching an ultrasound machine, they used a ten inch stainless steel needle with a large glass syringe, which they inserted in the side of my buttock, to access the back of my abdomen. I jumped at least a foot off the table when they inserted the needle, then one of the nurses told me to watch what was happening. As a swirl of infection was drawn into the syringe the pain in my abdomen immediately subsided. I laid on the table sobbing, and thanking the doctors and nurses for helping me and listening to my concern.
After living at the hospital for a month I felt more like a resident than a patient. There was a nurse named Michael who I later met again at Don Ross Ministries, a pharmacist named Boris who I played sports with for several years after, and Dr. Thakkar who I later discovered went to the same Anglican Church with his family. By the end of four weeks I was released to recover at home with my prescriptions. Although, this only lasted for another week, when the pain in my abdomen began coming back. I returned to the hospital again to have a second major surgery to remove more infection, then woke up again in the same ward with another drainage tube and bandage on my stomach. This time the medical staff would only provided me with Morphine. I can remember laying in my four-bed room, on a perfect sunny afternoon, with light streaming through the large windows beside my bed. A nurse came to the door and began asking me a question, her gown a vibrant white from the beautiful sunlight. When I asked her to repeat the question I opened my eyes, to find myself alone in an empty room, on an overcast day, with rain pelting against the window. Later that evening, and after another dose of Morphine, I was audience to a frankfurter with a perfect 90º angle in the center, tumble slowly by before my eyes. I reported my hallucinations and intolerance to the nurse, then begged to be taken off the medication. Four weeks later I was finally released from the hospital to go home for good, weighing only one hundred and fourteen pounds within my six foot frame — not necessarily a picture of health. When following up with my surgeon two weeks later he explained that I had come very close to dying and was especially fortunate to be alive. I later became friends with his sons Michael and David at our church, but refused to play floor hockey with them. Our neighbor named Karl from across the street came and spoke to me one afternoon, while I was recuperating on a chair in our front yard. He explained that his son, who was just twenty years old, had died from also suffering appendicitis with complications. I returned to my job after a few weeks, but only had the strength to last for two days. My manager had kept the job open for me for twelve weeks while I was sick. Sadly I had to give up the position as I had become so weak from my illness. The only two people that came to visit me in the hospital during the ordeal were my mother and my manager Ron, for which I am especially grateful. Jesus explained, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) From this I believe that their rewards, waiting for them in heaven will be great. My mother also shared a scripture, Psalms 91:14-16, with me while I had been knocking at death’s door, which she felt the Holy Spirit gave her so as to not lose hope. While I am not convinced that God gives special favour to any one person over another, I do believe that if we are pursuing him we stand a better chance of receiving what we ask for. Not that this is a guarantee. Fortunately for me, I have regained a considerable amount of weight since then.
Psalms 91:14-16 (NIV)
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”