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Cover 49


April-May 2013

The Many Faces
of Outreach


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A Bold Stroke


A Bold Stroke

by Jack Williams


The staff physician at Baptist Hospital seemed to be in a playful mood that morning until I told him I planned to give my wife of 50 years a baseball bat for Christmas. He smiled grimly and said, “You might want to rethink that. She will be your primary caregiver when you go home, and she will get very tired. She may be tempted to apply that baseball bat to your head within a couple of weeks. Caregiving is harder work than most people realize.”

Three weeks after my 70th birthday, something unexpected happened that changed my life. I had a stroke at approximately 7:15 a.m. on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Election Day. I had taken my wife to her duty station as a poll worker during the Presidential election and driven across town to Welch College, arriving on campus at around 6:00 a.m. An hour later, I smelled coffee brewing on the first floor of the Administration Building and walked downstairs to fill my blue cup. I stepped into the copier room to make copies of a document for my wife then slowly began backing away from the copier. My foot encountered a slippery spot on the concrete floor.

The next thing I knew, I was in nearby St. Thomas Hospital, having been transported by ambulance. I spent the next 39 days in St. Thomas and Baptist Hospitals. Most of these days I endured five to seven hours of physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. Since being released from the hospital on December 15, therapists have come to my home three times a week to continue the helpful sessions.

During a visit to a local doctor on December 17, the physician told me I was fortunate to be alive. Half the people who have a stroke like the one I experienced do not survive.


Here are 16 simple lessons I learned from the stroke:

  1. You need two cooperative hands to tie a tennis shoe.

  2. Hospital beds are notoriously uncomfortable; at least the bed in Room 6310. One afternoon, a staff doctor came to my room and asked if I was hurting. When I explained that I felt as though I was sleeping in a mud hole and couldn’t get out, the good doctor said, “I’ve never met a patient who liked our beds. We paid too much for them ($23,000 each) and didn’t get our money’s worth.” I agreed.

  3. Physical Therapists are professional, courteous, and patient-oriented. They also remind me of Marine Corps drill sergeants by constantly repeating, “Your left, your left, your left,” as a reminder to work the weak side after the stroke.

  4. Nurses enjoy stabbing people with sharp objects at 4:00 a.m. At least they did that to me, making sure I received daily doses of blood thinner.

  5. Baptist Hospital employs a number of beautiful vampires who show up each day before dawn to take your blood.

  6. It costs $663 to ride in an ambulance, no matter how short the distance. It’s cheaper to rent a limousine and a driver, if you have a choice. I did not have a choice.

  7. If you’re a patient in a hospital, modesty does not exist.

  8. Prayers do more good than money, plus they cannot be taxed.

  9. “The good goes up; the bad goes down.” That’s the mantra therapists repeat. Step up with the strong side. Step down with the weak side.

  10. No matter how often the hospital staff takes your blood pressure, they will do it again the next time they enter the room.

  11. Most women have no idea how great it is to get up at 3:00 a.m. and go for a three-mile walk. For instance, my beautiful wife is a 9:00 a.m. girl whenever possible.

  12. The best a team of doctors can do is practice medicine; it’s still up to the Great Physician to heal the mind, body, and spirit. So I take the prescribed medicine, pray, and wait for healing.

  13. Cards and notes from friends can brighten the darkest days. The John Wayne card from Wayne Spruill bore the message, “Get well, Pilgrim. You’re burning daylight!” It was signed by 18 colleagues. Several friends sent cards expressing surprise that I’d go to so much trouble as having a stroke to avoid work . . . suggesting that I was getting lazy by design. Others sent cards expressing surprise that an MRI showed a picture of my brain. Several said, “I didn’t know you had a brain.” It surprised me too.

  14. Being a caregiver can be exhausting—no relief. My wife stays tired.

  15. Computers never sleep. They’re always adding more emails. By December 28, my office computer had accumulated 1,400 emails since November 6, and was increasing that by almost 100 per day.

  16. The most important lesson I learned is that God is in charge, not a staff of doctors and nurses. I also learned that while doctors wear a big title, nurses keep the lights on and the hospital operating.


Several doctors, nurses, and therapists told me that strokes change people’s lives. It certainly did mine. The most alarming aspect came when doctors told me that I could not drive and could not go to work. That limits me in many ways and is frustrating. But people move past strokes, and I intend to do whatever is necessary to recover from mine. Recovery time is different for each person, and I want to get back in the driver’s seat and back to work as soon as possible.

Dr. Charles Thigpen, former president of Welch College, had a stroke in July 2011. He told me in late December that he has fully recovered, according to the medical community. No surprise, because Dr. Thigpen is a fighter. That’s my goal as well—to fully recover and get on with life.


About the Writer: Jack Williams serves as director of communications at Welch College.



©2013 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists