The first call came just after noon from my brother David in California. He had spoken with our dad briefly but was alarmed by the disoriented tone in his voice. Knowing dad was traveling for work across Florida, our brother Jon immediately drove to the Baltimore airport and boarded the first flight for Orlando.
Jon, an experienced flight paramedic, was closing in by air. David, a master of technology, tactically acquired our dad’s exact location on the highway. From Louisville, Kentucky, I had dad on one phone and Orlando emergency responders on another. Dad’s fragmented words and frail voice trailed off while the trauma to his body wore on. Something was critically wrong and he navigated his 26’ box truck toward what he thought was a hospital. Road signs blurred, directional arrows misaligned, as he circled the city. He felt his world going dark and repeatedly pulled the truck over to regain his composure.
The combined force of the heart attack, a significant infection from an injury suffered the day before and his ongoing battle with diabetes aligned to extinguish his life. Disoriented and desperate for help, he’d startle to consciousness and being driving again. The cycle continued over the course of the next half hour.
The cross-country brothers kept working. David tracked dad’s location and passed along timely updates that dialed in the search. Within minutes of contact, the Emergency Operators activated the traffic cameras and located the truck parked along the highway. Dad muttered not to call the paramedics and that he could power through this episode with just a few minutes rest.
However, I told him to sit tight and in a few minutes some “new friends in a big red truck” would be there to check on him. That red truck rolled up quickly and soon I could hear the paramedics transport him to the hospital. Within minutes Jon and his thorough knowledge of Dad’s medical history, were by his side in the Emergency room and the path to recovery would begin.
The story from that point forward takes on a much slower pace. Rachel, our sister, came in from Kansas to give steady watch-care over dad’s recovery and coordinate information with his hometown doctors. A cardiac surgery to open two blocked arteries, 10 days in the hospital, and a flight home to California.
God’s grace spared the untold “what if’s” from becoming a reality. Our part was simple, but perhaps it was dad’s investment in our lives since childhood that gave the instincts to respond. Biblical fatherhood does this. Dad helped Jon become a helicopter paramedic, enabled David to innovate in all things computers and gave me with a very particular or peculiar set of skills, all of which came together to conquer a dynamic situation.
You could draw many lessons from that scene. For instance, call 911 instead of driving yourself to the hospital in a 26’ box truck while having a heart attack. That’s a good one to remember.
Beyond the obvious, one take away for fathers is this, invest in your children. Teach them the instincts to think dynamically, resourcefully, efficiently about problem solving. Surround them by godly examples in various trades and skills so that they learn from professionals and press toward excellence. You will never know how one day, your investment in them just might save your life.
This is a guest post from Jim Stitzinger. Jim is Associate Vice President of Advancement at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before joining Southern Seminary, Jim served as the planter and lead pastor of Grace Bible Church in Naples, Florida. He holds the Master of Divinity from The Master's Seminary and served as the Pastor of Local Outreach & Evangelism at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California. Jim is also the Director of the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization, connecting Boyce College and Southern Seminary students to local evangelism and global missions opportunities. Jim and Sky have been married for over 15 years and have three daughters, Macy, Jessica and Clancy.
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