The funny feeling that my
appendix may need to come out soon first hit me on Friday, March 10th. When the funny
feeling shifted gearsthough not alarminglyon Saturday the 11th, my
regular doctor told me that I needed to go pronto to the emergency room for an evaluation.
And so it was that Iwho had never been admitted to a hospital in all my lifewound
up at the North Collier Hospital in Naples, Florida, late that Saturday Evening.
The usual tests were done, and I was
informed that (a) yes, I did need an appendectomy, that (b) since there were four
scheduled appendectomies and three non-scheduled appendectomies for Sunday the 12th, I
would be admitted and my surgery done sometime on Sunday.
When I asked the anesthesiologist how
long this operation normally took, he said that if this is a normal appendix in the
usual location, the whole operation takes 20 minutes. And while I did not say so to
the anesthesiologist, his response reminded me of a remark by the late John Chancellor,
who once said, If you want to give God a good laugh, tell Him your plans.
When the surgery was complete (it
ended up taking over three hours) and the surgeon came out to speak with my nearest and
dearest, he indicated that there had been considerable complications, that the position of
the appendix made it almost impossible to deal with safely, and that while there was some
infection all around it, there had been no perforation. Therefore, the nearest and dearest
were advised that old John would probably be in the hospital until Thursday the 16th.
Things went rather catastrophically
wrong before we got to that point. On Wednesday the 15th, I coded,crashed
in a way that, I am told, made the television program ER seem tame. The diagnosis was ARDS
(Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome)failure of the lungs to function, quite
possibly entirely caused, but most definitely abetted by tremendous stress that I had been
under for some years. The nearest and dearest were told that I would need to be put on
life support systems until I could breathe on my own again, None of the medical personnel
stated out loud that what they really meant was if I could breathe on my own,
but they knew the situation was just that grim.
And so there began for me four and
one-half terrible days of hovering between life and death. The only blessing for me during
that time is thatdue to heavy sedationI have no recollection of any of it, and
I never will. Would that that had been so for my nearest and dearest! And as I continued
to linger in that dark, remote, frightening place, four attempts were made to wean me from
the breathing tube. When the third attempt failed, I received the Last Rites of the
Such situations as these are indeed
tragic, but not at all unheard-of. Nevertheless, God must have had in mind to use this
particular situation to shownot geeks and silicon valley typesbut ordinary
Episcopalians what a real treasure for the sharing and focusing of intercessory Prayer the
Internet is. Perhaps God also wanted to let both me and the Church know that He was not
finished with my work here on earth just yet.
Within one day of my going on life
support, word of my crisis had gone out to every Diocese and Parish in which I had served,
as well as to all Church groups and societies to which I belonged. Within 2 days, through
the miracle of cyberspace, everyone on the Eastern Seaboard who had ever known me and who
cared to know how my crisis was progressing could access current information at any time.
The news swept West through the Gulf Coast states, through the Southwest, California, and
finally to Japan. The news also swept North and East, finally settling in Germany and the
And so when the surgeon made the
fourth attempt to remove the breathing tube on Sunday, March 19th, and came out of the
unit and said, Mr. Arms will make a full recovery, in a matter of hour or two,
several thousand of the faithful had the joy of learning that their prayers had been
Now then, permit me to say a few
I do not know, and I may never know, who all of you are who held me up
in your thoughts for that long, long week. This is a pity for me personally, because you
cannot know how much I would like to give you a hug, wipe a flood tears off my face, and
say to you, You participated in releasing a power that gave me back my life. Thank
you and God bless you for your caring.
It is not compatible with our beliefs to suggest that we can
manipulate or strong-arm God into doing what we want Him to do for us. Nevertheless, the
channeling and concentration of prayer energy that the Internet makes possible for
Christians are truly both an amazement and a blessing.
As I write this on the day of my discharge from the hospital (March
24), the South Florida Spring Breakers have lifted siege, and those of us who live here
are preparing for late Lent. Even the alligators look terrific to me! And while I may not
yet know how God will use what He has done in my recent life to His Glory, I do know that
I am committed to giving this Glory back to God for as long as this life shall last. I
also know that this April 23 will be quite an amazing Easter Celebration for this Priest.
A cousin of mine has taken to calling me "Lazarus."
Nextif you do not have the necessary documents for a durable power of
attorney and/or a living will, get them! Fortunately for me, I get along with my sister,
and she was able to be reached when it was imperative that she be reached. Had these
things not been so, however, the fourth week of March would have been far worse for me and
my family than the third week already had been. So please dont delay on this.