One year ago today, at this very hour, my life changed. I had a stroke, which led to two subsequent surgeries, a Code Blue in medical parlance, and the rebuilding of a life.
A tragedy was on its way to becoming a blessing. I was less than 40 years old, active physically, and engaged civically and professionally. I thought I had the world by the tail. And I quickly found myself having to re-evaluate what was really important. It has taken me a year to get the courage to even think about what happened to me.
The real lesson is about the power of good people doing good. It is about the heroes who saved my life, This story is about my experience, and learning that living life successfully is about the impact you have on other people’s lives.
The first — and most important — hero in my life is my wife, Teri. In hundreds of ways since I fell ill, she has stepped up as a family leader, world-class organizer and communicator, and amazing partner. Before I got sick, and as much as I hate to admit it, I did not show this hero enough appreciation. Since my stroke, she has been my constant companion. One of the greatest gifts the stroke gave me was a better appreciation for her. I don’t think I can thank her enough.
My family, collectively, gets hero status. From my own personal security guard — as one of my favorite nurses called my brother, Kevin — to my Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers from William and Mary, who came and waited quietly alongside my wife in those early, trying hours; to my in-laws, whose love and support defy categorization; to my sister and brother from Richmond, who visited me at every opportunity, to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who both made so much possible for me; to my colleagues, who went above and beyond for me daily; and including my many uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and aunts who prayed constantly and visited as often as they could. I saw my health improve as each LIVED more meaningful sermons about faith than any pastor ever could speak. I have seen God’s hand at work in my life.
I would also bestow hero status on the enormous network of friends and extended family. Each of them prayed, visited, gifted and carded me back to health. They showed me love in ways that were inspirational, instructional, and completely humbling. Every one of them did what they could, some even more than that. Heroes, every one of them.
And finally — but certainly importantly — I thank the entire Centra Health medical team who saved, then rebuilt my life. Each first responder, doctor, nurse, and therapist is a hero of mine. I am alive because of their skill and care, and I owe them the appreciation due heroes.
So, yes, less than a year after I almost died, and nearly left a wife and two young kids – nearly mirroring my own mother’s death before I was a teenager — I stood before a group of fellow stroke survivors in Danville, VA. And as I said to my fellow stroke thrivers, I am a miracle, and a child of God.
Thank God for my heroes. I owe each of them my life, and I will continue trying to live it as worthy of having been saved. And I pray with the faithfulness of my aunts and friends. Thank God for heroes. Amen.