A Positive Life
- Monday, April 26, 2010
Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from A Positive Life: Living with HIV as a Pastor, Husband and Father by Shane Stanford (Zondervan, 2010).
The Day Before
Dear God, Ms. Gandy, my Sunday school teacher, said you said we could ask for anything and that you would listen. I mostly talk to you by praying, but this is important, so I thought I would write it down....
— First journal entry, January 19, 1979
Trauma changes us. I watched a woman on the news describe the year since she had survived a plane crash in Chicago. She said the event had profoundly changed the way she viewed her world; she spent more time with her family and tried to enjoy the "everydayness" of things. Her relationships, language, and worldview were framed in the context of before the accident and after it.
"You can't make sense of the whole of your life unless you understand the magnitude of how much changes when the world turns upside down," she said. "You may not remember all of the details or circumstances, but you most certainly know the timeline."
When we try to understand today, it matters what happened before.
Growing up a hemophiliac, I spent a great deal of time in the hospital. Thankfully, my diagnosis was mild by other comparisons, and I only needed medical attention when I was hurt or having a procedure. As most little boys do, I often did things that were either unwise or downright stupid. Although my parents kept me from playing most organized contact sports, I played a lot of backyard football, baseball, basketball, and soccer. Thus, I was always hurt from some shot or lick I took, and I found myself in the emergency room much more often than my mother liked.
The nurses and doctors at the local emergency room were more than just my caretakers when it came time for Factor VIII (the medicine used to treat the hemophilia); they were my family. Whenever I got hurt, they would stitch me up, give me a dose of Factor, and send me on my way. Because Factor was so expensive and had to be administered through an IV, local emergency rooms became the places for most hemophiliacs to receive their doses, especially the mild ones like me.
Though I was mild, I saw the nurses on a regular basis. I was always doing something that hemophiliacs (or most children) in general shouldn't do. Once I tried to ramp a parked car on my mountain bike. I made it —halfway. The other half was me rolling off the side of the car and hitting the ground. I also enjoyed building forts, that would, for one reason or another, lead to a nail stuck in my hand or a bruised knee from the rope swing. And I enjoyed sports of any kind. Though I tried to be as careful as possible, I wanted to be as normal as everyone else, which meant taking an elbow to the chin in basketball or a bruised rib in football or tearing ligaments in my ankle chasing a fly ball in baseball. Yes, the nurses saw me on a regular basis, and I took my fair share of scolding and lectures from them about how I should be careful and use "what little of my mind I apparently had" they would say. But I think deep down they liked seeing me. I was always hurt, of course, but I was just a normal boy.
It was during one of those visits that I met a new pediatrician named Dr. Ronnie Kent, an extremely upbeat man whose sense of humor and kindness made any patient feel better. I was in the ER from a water slide accident — rushing water plus concrete plus a three-hundred-pound man racing behind me. My forehead caught the brunt of the landing, and I received a "goose egg" the size of a fifty-cent piece, which immediately swelled and turned purple.
My stepfather arrived at the hospital just after I was taken for a CAT scan. He was told to go to the basement of the hospital to find me. Radiology and the morgue were located on the same floor. As the elevator opened, my stepfather saw the sign —Morgue —and thought I had died. He stood there, frozen, wondering how he would tell my mother.
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