I was in the 8th grade at Wilkins Junior High School in Bridgeview, Illinois. It was time for my physical so that I could enroll in Argo High School as a freshman.
My mom, God rest her soul, took me to our family physician, Dr. John Dunlap.
I was 14 years old. I was not afraid of much at that time, but I hated going to see the dentist or the doctor!
I still hate to go see the dentist, but with my great friend, Dr. Brian Beard and “sedation” dentistry…it’s not too bad!
I was your normal 14-year-old back then. I loved playing baseball and played on the little league team. I had big hopes of going into high school and playing baseball at Argo High.
I played trumpet in the band and they had a really great band at Argo that I wanted to play in as well.
You know…all the stuff a 14-year-old boy wants to do!
And then…the words from the doctor on that day in May of 1978.
He put the stethoscope to my chest and listened to my heart. He put it back again…and again. He just kept listening and having me breath in and breath out. Then he looks up at my mom and says, “Something does not sound right. I am afraid he needs to be admitted to the hospital for some tests and have a cardiologist take a look.”
I wish I could tell you my reaction that day. But I honestly cannot remember. The only thing I can remember is that I was scared to death!!
I was supposed to graduate from Junior High School the very next week. I had big plans for that summer. I was going to play baseball at Argo High and then college and then I was going to play for the Chicago Cubs!
I was going to play in the marching band and in the jazz band. I was going to be a great trumpet player just like Phil Driscoll, my idol trumpet player growing up as a kid.
And now this man standing in front of me with thick glasses on and a stethoscope hanging around his neck just told my mother that I was going in the hospital because my heart did not sound right??
I remember a lot of crying…from my mom and me both.
I remember a lot of praying…from all of my family and my church family at Bridgeview Church of God.
I remember being admitted the next day to Victory Memorial Hospital in Waukegan, Illinois.
I was 14 years old…and I had been diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever and having a heart murmur and a major valve that was leaking.
My life, as I knew it back then, was over.
No more baseball. No more playing my trumpet in church. No more going to the park with all my friends from Wilkins. No more church activities. Just plain…NO MORE!
I spent one week in the hospital. They had me hooked up to heart monitors and IV fluids and every thing possible. They came in one day and gave me a shot. It was the biggest needle I had ever seen. I cried before it even went in my leg. It was an extra strength penicillin shot. I screamed bloody murder.
Fortunately, I ended up being allergic to the penicillin and they could not give me any more of those shots. For that, to this day, I say a big “PRAISE GOD”!
I was in the hospital on the Friday that I was supposed to graduate from Wilkins Junior High School. I did not get to go to my graduation.
What was even worse from me was, my dad was praying the invocation at my graduation and I could not go and hear him.
I remember that Friday night in the hospital, he came in the door of my room and had my diploma in his hand. He brought it over to my bed and gave me a big hug and congratulated me on graduating from Junior High.
(Sorry…I am crying a little bit right now.) It was one of the scariest times in my entire life. I did not know what my future was going to be. I thought I was dying. I thought my life was over.
But to have my dad come in that Friday night and present me with my diploma from Wilkins Junior High School…was the best thing that could have happened right then.
They released me from the hospital that Sunday.
My orders were to go home, get in bed, and stay there for the entire summer.
Back then, they ordered complete bed rest for anyone with rheumatic fever and a heart murmur. I am not sure what they do today for those types of patients. I have not heard of anyone with rheumatic fever in a long time.
I stayed in bed the entire summer of 1978.
I had to take four pills every four hours around the clock. My dad would set his alarm clock for 2:00 a.m. and again at 6:00 a.m. and get up and bring me my pills to my bedroom.
My mom would fix my food and bring it to my bedroom and I would eat in bed.
I could only get up to use the bathroom that was right across the hall from my bedroom and then straight back to bed.
I missed baseball. I missed playing my trumpet. I missed going to church. I missed…I missed…I missed.
I had a whole lot of people praying for me that summer. My father was a Church of God pastor and he had friends all over the country in the ministry that would have their churches unite in prayer that God would heal me of this disease.
I had to make trips about once or twice a month to the cardiologist in Chicago for constant testing and to see if there was any improvement.
I would go and get all kinds of tests done; only to be sent back home and have to go straight back to bed.
My life was over, as far as I was concerned.
Then one day a gentleman came to my house to see me and to pray for me. He was a close friend of my fathers. He was a Church of God State Overseer at the time. He had been in a Church Camp meeting somewhere and he had heard about a 14-year-old boy in Chicago that had Rheumatic Fever and a leaky valve and heart murmur.
He made a trip all the way to my house on the south side of Chicago because he wanted to pray for me.
You see, this man that had come all the way to see me and pray for me had the same thing happen to him when he was 14 years old and God healed him. He wanted to come and meet me and pray for me to be healed.
That summer, I had no telling how many people come to my house and pray for me. And I thank God to this day for every single one of them. I really do.
But on this particular day, standing in the church parsonage in my bedroom in Bridgeview, Illinois, Rev. Ray Sanders prayed a prayer over me like nobody had ever prayed before.
He laid hands on me and my parents were standing beside him and they all three prayed Heaven down that day in my room. Rev. Sanders was there on a “mission from God” and I mean that in the most sacred and reverent sense of the term.
A few days after he left, I had to go back to University of Chicago Hospital for more of those dreaded tests.
My father took me in the doctor’s office and, once again, they hooked me to every tube possible. They doctor prodded and poked around on me for what seemed like eternity. That cold stethoscope against my naked chest never did not feel good at all…but it was all part of the test.
Then…the nurse took me in a small room with my dad and we sat there and waited for the doctor to come back in. It was all pretty routine. He would always come back in the room and say there was no improvement and I needed to go back home to bed and he would “up” the dosage of my medicine.
But not today!
The door swung open to his office. He came in and sat down in front of my dad and me. He looked over his charts and what he said next will be forever imbedded in my mind, my heart and my spirit.
The words of the cardiologist, and my dad is my witness… “I am not going to say that you did not have rheumatic fever with the signs of a leaky valve and a murmur…but after all the tests we have run today, we cannot find anything wrong with you”.
(Excuse me for pausing here a second to cry again and give God a lot of Glory!)
They sent me home to live a normal life. No more bed. No more pills. No more getting up at 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to swallow a bunch of medicine. No more missing church. No more missing band practice or hanging out with all my friends. NO MORE!!
God healed me of all my heart troubles and I was once again a healthy young man!! For that I say a great big…THANK YOU JESUS!!!
There are a few people in my life that I will never forget from the summer of “78”.
Most certainly, my loving and incredible parents that took care of me that entire summer. I love you dad, and if you can hear me in Heaven…I love you too, Mom!!
I will never forget our family physician, Dr. John Dunlap.
I will never forget the incredible folks at Bridgeview Church of God for all the prayers and for all the meals and for all the support you gave my family.
And to Rev. Ray Sanders…I love you very, very much my friend!! I will never, ever forget you and your visit to my house that day in the summer of 1978.
So if you are wondering if I believe in miracles from God… well, you need not wonder any longer!
Just wanted to share my personal story with you!
In case you were wondering, now that I am 50 years old, how my heart is doing today?
I went to the doctor about 3 months ago and had a EKG run.
The nurse came back in the room and said…. “Looks perfect…get your shirt back on and go home!”
Until next time…