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“When a Fall Turns Into a Blessing” –a cross-country skiing adventure gone wrong, a hospitalization, and a surprising ending–the story of John Walker

The day started pleasantly enough, but it wouldn’t end that way. Temperatures reached 48° on a mostly sunny Thursday, the last day of February. John had never cross-country skied before, but “I thought it couldn’t be that hard,” so agreed to join a friend that morning in skiing the frozen surface of Hermon Pond. After clipping into his cross-country skis, he started down the short slope to the pond’s surface. He didn’t get very far.

“Over I went,” he said. “I landed hard and I twisted, and my abdomen took it hard. ‘Man, that hurt,’ I thought, forcing myself back up. Then, I hadn’t gone another three feet when down I went again, and once again, it hurt. ‘Enough of this.’ I took the skis off, walked down to the surface of the pond, put them back on, and started cross-country skiing. I never got into a rhythm, it was absolutely zero fun, and I’ll never do it again. I’m sticking to snowshoeing. It’s safe, and it’s something I know I can do.

“About noon time, I was feeling sick. I thought it was probably the flu. My daughter Colby was fighting it, and one of my grandchildren had come down with it that past weekend. I felt bad the whole day and didn’t eat or drink anything. The next day, Friday, was no better. But my granddaughter Bailey had a big basketball game that night in Augusta, an hour away, and I didn’t feel I could let her down. So I told my wife, Sharon, ‘I’ll just lie down in the back seat and you can drive. If I’m going to be sick, I can be sick just as well in the back of a car as I can be at home.’

“I was sick, all right. I threw up all the way down. When I got to the game, I went up in a far corner of the bleachers all by myself with my barf bag. I threw up a couple of more times. Then, when the game was over, I made my way back to the car. Feeling a bit better when I got home, I went upstairs to use another bedroom so Sharon could get a good night’s sleep. Then, about 2 o’clock in the morning, I was lying there and got the most unbelievable chills. I was shaking, shaking, shaking all over. I hollered to Sharon, and she came up and took my temperature: it was sky-high. She had been telling me all along, ‘You don’t have the classic flu symptoms. I don’t know what else is going on here, but you don’t have the flu.’ She is an RN, so I figured she should know. We talked. “Ambulance? She asked, “Or do you want me to take you?” She drove me to the hospital. We went into the emergency room, and my temperature was still high. I’d been trying to sip liquids to keep hydrated—water and ginger ale—but I couldn’t keep anything down, so with nothing since Thursday morning, I was dehydrating. They put me on an IV to replace my fluids, took some blood cultures, and assuming I had an infection, gave me another IV with antibiotics. The bloodwork came back showing that I had pancreatitis. I also had an E. coli infection and a blood infection. Unfortunately, the antibiotics they were giving me also killed the good bacteria I needed in my digestive system. With an all-liquid diet making it worse, I developed a bad case of diarrhea.

“In looking for a medical reason for all of this, the only thing the doctors came up with was this thing called ‘trans-migration.’ That’s when the good bacteria in the body somehow gets moved to where it doesn’t belong. Given the condition of my intestines after a series of operations six years ago, and my two falls that morning, that’s probably what happened.”

“Skip,” John texted me (and others) that Saturday morning, “I’m in the hospital.” I arrived early that afternoon and joined two others—part of a steady stream of visitors—with all of us praying for his healing before leaving. John introduced me to his roommate, a man named Arnold, and asked all of us to stop and visit and pray for him on our way out. I did. Arnold told me that he had diverticulitis and was waiting for surgery to remove about two feet of his intestines.

A short while later, when the hospital staff discovered that John had VRE—a contagious, hospital-borne infection—they moved Arnold to a different room, and protective gowns and masks appeared on a cart outside of his room. John continued to encourage all of us to visit and pray for Arnold before they left the hospital. Following my next day’s visit, I did, and was surprised when Arnold announced that he was going home. He was feeling much better, he said, and they determined that he didn’t require surgery after all.

On Monday evening, having received the results of the blood culture, they switched John’s antibiotics to one designed for his specific infection. The change in his digestive system was immediate, and on Tuesday morning John texted me, with obvious relief, that he had had no diarrhea since Monday night. The best news, however, was still to come.

“On Monday they took another blood culture, and on Tuesday night Sharon came in with the results. She was amazed. The blood infection was gone, the E. coli infection was gone, and the pancreatitis was gone. The most remarkable thing however, was that ever since my abdominal operations six years ago, my kidneys hadn’t functioned properly. They weren’t cleansing the blood like they should, so I had a high creatinine level. ‘You have chronic kidney disease,’ they told me, and I was even on dialysis for a short time. Well, when Sharon looked at the results of that blood test, my creatinine level was now normal. It hadn’t been normal in six years! Not only had God healed me of all of my pancreatitis and everything else that was going on, he also healed my chronic kidney disease! Not only that, but my iron levels— which also hadn’t been normal in six years—were now spot-on.

“Tuesday night, I asked to eat a regular meal instead of the all-liquid diet they were feeding me. They served me roast beef, mashed potatoes, and carrots, and the next morning I had the most beautiful little bowel movement you ever did see—everything was back to normal! Also on Tuesday, since I was feeling better, I decided I could do something useful, so I took my IV stand out into the hallway and walked up and down the hall praying for the other patients, and that was the best part of this whole thing—the people I met and prayed for—especially Arnold. We became good friends. I had lunch with him just this past Wednesday and he was telling me ‘I don’t remember when I’ve felt so good.’ I asked, ‘Who do you give the credit to?’ and he just pointed skyward. I met and prayed with some really good people that day in the hallway, and God used that time not only to encourage and heal me, but also to encourage and help heal them. It was just a remarkable testimony of God’s power and goodness.

“In looking back, I can see the Lord’s hand in this whole process. If I hadn’t gone into the hospital, I would never have met Arnold. I never would’ve pray for him, and the rest of you would never have prayed for him, and he wouldn’t have gotten healed the way he got healed. What’s more, with my kidneys back to normal, I’m now better off physically than I was before. So God took a trial, and turned it into his glory.”