The “funny feeling” that my appendix may need to come out soon first hit me on Friday, March 10th. When the “funny feeling” shifted gears—though not alarmingly—on 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 I—who had never been admitted to a hospital in all my life—wound 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 that—due to heavy sedation—I 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 Episcopal Church.

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 show—not geeks and silicon valley types—but 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 United Kingdom.

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 answered.

Now then, permit me to say a few things:

 1.    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.”

 2.    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.

 3.    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."

4.   Next—if 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 don’t delay on this. Please!