It is 12:45 am on Tuesday morning, December 16, 2014, and I have much going on in my heart and mind. In a few hours I get up, shower, shave, and dress and go to San Antonio . . . hopefully, to get some answers, perhaps find some relief, and prayerfully, to learn that something can be done to improve my dilemma.
The story goes back to the time when I was a child, probably 1956 or ‘57. I recall waking up one morning, getting out of bed and immediately falling to the floor. I raised myself again by pulling up on the bed, and again I fell back to the floor. I was terrified and cried out to my mom. We lived in a rural west-Texas area with limited medical facilities. We were there because my dad was working in the oil patch. Moves were frequent, friends were few, and moves were expected in that line of work. That was who my family was . . . it was what we did. As a 64-year-old man on “this early morning,” I am amazed that I can so vividly remember and recall the fear, feeling, and confusion of the little 6- or 7-year-old boy that morning so many years ago. The human mind is an amazing thing!
My mom put me back to bed, and told me to wait until she could get my brothers and sisters off to school. I have often thought what went through her mind as she left that bedroom that morning. There was a dreaded disease called polio that was affecting both children and adults across the nation, and it had already crippled her oldest living child. I remember her coming back, helping me dress, and then carrying me out to the old brown car we had at that time.
She drove me to a small neighboring town that had a small hospital . . . it was actually a doctor’s home with a number of rooms set up for patients. I am not sure of what medical facilities, if any, were even available there, but it was all she could do. She had eight children and probably didn’t have enough money to even fill the tank of that old car with gasoline at 25-cents a gallon. I know she was afraid . . . and there was no one to whom she could turn to share her troubled heart. Much of her life was like that.
I recall the hushed tones of the conversations, and mid-afternoon she came and sat by my bed and told me that she had to leave me so she could go be there for the other kids when they returned from school. I knew she had to leave me . . . that was an amazing thing about my family . . . there was not a single one of us who was selfish. We just understood how things were and what needed to be done. In spite of that, I was a frightened little boy of about seven . . . and I knew something serious was going on . . . I could not walk anymore, and now I was all alone. As I recall, that was a dreadful and long night. I knew about God . . . but didn’t know I could cry out to him . . . I always had the impression that he was angry at me because I was a sinner . . . and now I couldn’t walk . . . so I knew how to do the math and I came up with that my situation was such . . . because of me being who I was, and God being unhappy with me.
The whole thing just made no sense at all. I lay there in that place a few days . . . My sweet mother making daily trips to check on me . . . I can still feel the sharp pain in my soul from watching her wipe the tears from her eyes with those calloused fingers, while trying to put up a brave face for me. I remember my dad coming over one night. I can still close my eyes and see him sitting on the side of my bed and with his old rough hands rubbing my legs. He didn’t talk much, but it was the most tender moment I would ever experience with him in my entire life. Then, one morning, I could just walk again. The verdict was that I must have had a brief bout with polio and it seemingly just left my body. I was sent home with my mom, and life soon returned to normal . . . well, everything except that I had some physical limitations on my left side, but I soon learned to live with them.
No one ever talked about what had happened as time passed.
Then, I was in high school and we were living in El Paso. I wanted to play football, but all players were required to pass a physical. The doctor who was giving the physical (honestly, the first time in my life to ever see a medical doctor since being a patient in that doc’s home ten years earlier) asked me about my left leg being so much smaller that my right side. I am not sure what I told him, because I was a quiet kid (even reserved), and I had learned that was simply something not to speak much about . . . hey, I was no weakling and sure didn’t want any sympathy. The doc contacted my folks, and I spent a few days in a large hospital. I honestly don’t remember much about what was done or determined, except we were told that I had “most likely had polio back in ’56 or ’57.” Honestly, the main thing I remember about that was the sacrifice that was made financially to buy me a couple of packages of pj’s for the hospital stay.
Through the years, I have experienced significant pain in my left leg and foot when I worked long hours, or spent large amounts of time walking, or on my feet (seminars). But, over the past two years, I have experienced terrible pain in my lower back, and the pain reached down into my legs. In October, I began to lose leg strength and soon found myself in a wheelchair . . . simply unable to walk again.
I have seen a host of doctors and have been through an array of tests. Nothing is conclusive and no one has been willing to offer a diagnosis; I am hoping that today will be different. My MRI was sent to Dr. Donald Hilton, the neurosurgeon that save my life with the miraculous neck surgery last year. The other Doc’s had us scared over my neck injury, while Dr. Hilton calmly assured us that he could certainly fix the damage, and he did!
His assistant called last week to say that Dr. Hilton wanted to meet with me today. This is a doc who has earned my respect. I have faith that I will learn something for certain today!