Tag Archives: Health

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.

Red Eye

27 Mar

As I drove the big white van back from New Orleans, my eyes started to get a little fuzzy. Not being accustomed to driving a big white van, the fuzziness of my eyesight was beginning to worry me. However, we made it back safely, and I headed to the house quickly to remove my contacts. That’s when I saw that the right eye was totally bloodshot and, for lack of a better term, freaky looking. A blue eye surrounded by red blood brought a couple of things to mind.

1. The bloodshot eye could have come from my good friend Jack Daniels. However, I met him around midday Saturday and had not seen him since. Also, only one eye was affected, and I don’t remember having half of a drink.

2. I was turning into the Terminator or one of those red-eyed guys on Battlestar Gallactica. Having never watched that show, I started practicing my lines – “I’ll be back.”

3. I was turning into an old-time bottle of cheap whiskey. You’ve seen those movies where the cowboy walks up to the bar and says, “Barkeep, give me a shot of red-eye.” The fists start flying not long after.

4. Of course, I could have been entering a weird version of Star Trek where an alien race has one good eye and one bad one. It would be like the episode where the black/white guy fights the white/black guy.

5. In reality, I knew that I had been outside all weekend and something got between my contact and my eye. Whatever it was, I had to get it out.

Unfortunately, taking out the contacts didn’t help, and I spent the night having strange dreams where the Terminator and a cowboy shoot a bottle of Jack Daniels off the head of a white/black guy. When I woke up, the eye was still messed up, and I couldn’t see a thing. Driving into the rising sun to get to school was a real disaster.

It was then that I decided to go to the eye doctor to get some drops. Instead, I got the news that I had an ulcerated cornea. If you have never had one of those, then you haven’t lived a complete existence. Anyway, I have to wear my glasses for a week, which I hate, and used these steroid eye drops, which I hate more.

I am not a big putting-stuff-in-my-eyes fan. After wearing contacts for years, I still have issues with them. And, I have avoided at all costs the need to drop liquid in there. It’s a feat that I have never been able to accomplish, and, now, I have to do it.

The first time I tried it the normal way. I leaned my head back and put the bottle over my eye. The drop came out and hit me in the face. There’s one wasted drop. Then, I did it the goofy way and laid on the bed. This time it worked. So, here I am – a college professor who has to lie down in order to put drops in my eye. And, I have to do it THREE TIMES A DAY! And, I have to do it for a WEEK! Misery reigns.