Kingsport, Tennessee

17 Feb

One of the people I follow on Twitter mentioned that his hometown is Kingsport, Tennessee, a city that was the site of a major event in my family’s history.

The summer of 1991 was going along like any other. I was spending my summer break working on the loading dock at my dad’s business. My brother was running the manufacturing side of the business. My mom was handling things around the house. My dad, who we all leaned on, was overseeing it all. Then, the situation changed.

My dad drove to Kingsport for a meeting of a bank board of which he was a member, while we went through a typical day. Work was long and hot, and I was glad to get home to take a shower. I was in my closet getting dressed when I heard the phone ring, and I was still in my closet when my mom told me the news. My dad had a stroke after his meeting and was being taken to Holston Valley Medical Center.

After that moment, my memories become hazy. I finished getting dressed while my mom called my brother. At some point, we were all together with my grandparents waiting for a call from the doctor. We were under the impression that it had not been a serious stroke, but that impression vanished when the doctor explained that we needed to get there as fast as possible.

I cannot remember anyone talking on the drive to Kingsport, and it is not a short drive. I sat in the backseat as my brother drove. It AC was cranked up, but no one mentioned changing it. I stared out the window and remember thinking that we were going through downtown Knoxville pretty fast.

We arrived at the hospital and took the elevator to the Intensive Care Unit. That is when the gravity of the situation became apparent. All of the bank board members were lining the hallway in the suits. It was the most somber looking group I had ever seen. One of them took us to the ICU desk, and the nurse immediately got the doctor.

It was a conversation that I will never forget. My dad would probably die within the next three days. If he did not die, then he would remain in a vegetated state. Before going in to see him, the doctor explained that they were going to freeze his brain to stop the bleeding. If that did not stop the bleeding, then there was no chance.

My dad was hooked up to every machine imaginable. Wires. Tubes. It was as if the machines were keeping him alive. We talked to him without knowing if he could hear us or not. When we left, there was no plan. We had nowhere to stay and nowhere to go. My mom and I tried to stay in the hotel room that my dad had booked, but she could not stay there. That is when we were given a room in the family area of the hospital. The bed was terrible, but it did not matter. None of us could have slept.

That began our two weeks in Kingsport, Tennessee while my dad fought for his life. Most of that time was spent in the ICU waiting room with other families who were facing similar circumstances. In the days before cellphones, people could only call us at phone in the room. It was constantly ringing. Businesspeople. Politicians. From all over the country, people were calling. It got to the point where other families were mad because we were tying up the phone line. That is when we started taking calls at the nurse’s desk.

I can remember being hungry all of the time. There was a hotdog stand outside, and I ate more hotdogs than I could count. When the going gets tough, I eat. I can remember my mom promising God that she would never get mad at my dad again if he came out of this. We laughed and said that she should not lie to God during a time like this. I can remember my brother going back to work because somebody had to run the business. Our competitors were already lurking around our customers.

A lot of people made the long drive to visit us. My grandparents came up. My friend Chris came up with his new wife. My friends Robert and Dallus came up. I think they got lost on the way. I feel bad because after that long drive I wanted them to ride me around town. I wanted out of the hospital. We found an abandoned bridge, and I just sat on it for a while.

We also got a visit from Sister Stafford, a pastor and missionary from our town. My mom asked if she had driven all that way by herself. Sister Stafford replied, “No, God came with me, but God didn’t tell me how far it was.” She brought food and showed my mom how to bless him. She took my mom’s hands and told her what to say. By this time, my dad’s brain had stopped bleeding, and he was out of ICU. When my mom went to his room, she did as she was told. She laid hands on him and said the words. He looked at her like she was crazy.

After that, my dad starting getting better, and the doctor scheduled a transfer to Vanderbilt Hospital for further care and rehabilitation. Our time in Kingsport ended, but my dad was just beginning a long journey. He did not die, and he did not stay in a vegetative state. Through years of rehab, he learned to walk and do things with his left hand. His right side is paralyzed, and his speech is affected. However, everything else is great.

Since 1991, he has seen my brother have two sons. He has seen me get married. He has traveled throughout the country. He has become a member of another bank board. He was there when the University of Tennessee won the national championship in football. He has been inducted into the Tennessee Softball Hall of Fame.

My dad with his sons and grandsons at the Little Big Horn Battlefield

My dad with his sons and grandsons at the Little Big Horn Battlefield

Since 1991, he has overseen the sale of the business that he started. He saw his sister pass away from a stroke. He saw his in-laws, who spent a lot of time in Kingsport, both pass away.

Since 1991, my dad has seen happiness and sadness. However, the important thing is that he was there to see it. That is because of the hard work that he, my mom, the doctors and the rehab specialists put in. It is also because of the work that the people at Holston Valley Medical Center did for those first two weeks. That time was critical.

There is one more thing that my dad has seen. When he was able, my parents went back to Holston Valley to see the people who took care of him. He walked through ICU and hugged them all.

None of us will ever forget our two weeks in Kingsport, Tennessee.

8 Responses to “Kingsport, Tennessee”

  1. Nobody February 17, 2014 at 21:24 #

    Sister Stafford!!! What else can you say! Bless!!! I miss her.

    • Rick February 17, 2014 at 22:04 #

      She was one of the best.

  2. Marilyn Armstrong February 17, 2014 at 22:16 #

    Great story. And I love that it has a happy ending.

    • Rick February 17, 2014 at 23:35 #

      Thank you. The story continues.

  3. frontrangescribbles February 18, 2014 at 00:15 #

    As I am sure you will, cherish every moment you have with your dad.

    • Rick February 18, 2014 at 01:08 #

      I do that. Everyday I can spend with my dad is a great day.

  4. satanicpanic February 20, 2014 at 02:19 #

    Wow, that’s an intense story. Anymore I almost think I’d rather be in the ICU than be waiting outside it. Glad your dad pulled through


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