In 10th grade, English Class, one of my vocabulary words was "Resilience". On a small 3x5 index card I wrote the word, and definition, and added, "If I am ever a cripple, I will be resilient. I will not be angry or bitter, I will be resilient. I carried that card in my wallet for 15 yrs, until losing the wallet. Little did I understand then, how important this word would be in my life!
On a liesurely summer day in the Republic of Panama, in the City of Portobello, I had a freak dive accident, getting pushed up to the surface by a small up-current, at the edge of a reef. It immediately felt like I had been stabbed in the back of the head with a giant knife, and I knew I had just had a dive accident. I was an experienced well trained rescue diver, and rushed to the hospital, but they refused to treat me because I didn't have enough symptoms to be a real dive accident. They sent me home with Tylenol.
Two days later, my headache had moved to the entire left side of my head, was extremely painful and I was then examined by a second doctor, and told this was still not a dive accident. I had divers insurance, and still believed it was serious, so I demanded to be taken to a "decompression chamber". In the three hours that I waited for transportation to a dive chamber, my body began to crash and I displayed multiple symptoms of a serious dive accident. After 48 hours, I now had not just a headache, but slurred speech, blurred vision, and loss of dexterity in my fingers. It suddenly became an emergency, and I was finally rushed to the decompression chamber in Colon City.
After a horrific 12 hour decompression chamber experience, I was pulled out in shock and feeling exhausted. We quickly discovered that I was completely blind, and a quadriplegic. The first words out of my mouth were "THIS IS AWESOME! I have always said I would be a great cripple, and now is my chance to prove it! I am going to be resilient!"
Within 30 minutes of learning I was blind and a quadriplegic, I slipped into a coma for 7 days. When I awoke, I was still blind and paralyzed, but I also still had my optimism and resilience. I would be a GREAT patient! The doctors gave me no hope of recovery, and I was mentally preparing for a life assisted my caregivers and technology.
It is not uncommon for people recovering from a coma to have new gifts or abilities, and when I awoke, I felt like I was supposed to work with students, youth, for the rest of my life. The problem with that is... I hated KIDS! I was a horrible Father for my first son up to that point, basically abandoning my wife and son to chase the dreams of adventure around the world.I would literally get nauseous around kids, and EVERYONE that knew me, knew I didn't like kids. BUT still, I felt this strange calling to serve students. I argued with myself over this "feeling" for a month, never making any healing progress, still completely blind and completely paralyzed every day. I could think, I could speak, I could hear, and I was content with those abilities!
After arguing with myself silently for a month about this, I finally made a decision that I would be the best blind quadriplegic youth speaker, writer, volunteer, or whatever I could to do serve students, and I made that decision with ZERO expectation of recovery. I immediately felt an incredible peace come over me, and within 2 hours, I began to get vision in my right eye. It happened slowly, over the course of a week, but I got my vision back in one eye, and then over the course of a couple weeks, got my vision back in the left eye. Over the course of several months, I made a dramatic full recovery, and I have devoted much of my remaining adult life to serving students and youth around the world.
In the early days of America after the Sept. 11th, 2001 attacks, the National Guard was ordered to active duty alot, and I was one of the many volunteers willing to stand in the gap as America prepared for the Global War on Terror. Over the next 36 months, I was activated for 34 months, and although my marriage and family survived the first 18 months, it did not survive the second, and while serving in Iraq, my wife left me and our family was pulled apart.
As I drove away from the courthouse having just become divorced, I prayed to God for understanding of how this can happen. I believed I was doing what He wanted me to do, going where He wanted me to go, remaining strong in my faith throughout the deployment and my work in Iraq, but still this happened.
From nowhere, I felt a sudden peace, and it was put on my heart, "There is a little girl out there somewhere, and she needs a Daddy, and you will once again have your family and be the Father and Husband you should be."
Five years later, God directed my path to Ukraine where I lived from 2010 to 2013. In late 2011, He directed the path of Iryna to cross mine on one fateful Saturday in Podol, Kyiv, Ukraine, when I walked up and asked her "Do you speak English?"
One year later, we were married, and in late 2013 we moved to America, where my sons, my wife and daughter, Katya, have become the family I thought was lost forever! When many others returned from war to broken homes, broken bodies and broken spirits, it is easiest to give up and choose to be the victim. I chose, with great help from family, friends, and the VA Hospital to be RESILIENT and that course of action proved dreams do come true!
The most recent occasion incident that required powerful RESILIENCE was in April 2018. I contracted a rare viral heart disease that attacked mye heart and lungs. It lasted two weeks and included nine days in the hospital, of which two were in critical condition waiting to get into a full ICU, while the team of doctors tried to find effective treatments. I had 500 cc's of viral fluids removed from my left chest cavity, that had compressed and collapsed my lungs. When I was released from the hospital for a long slow recovery, I only had use of 20 % of my lung capacity, significant medications and the tender loving care of my family! Faith and Family make resilience sooooooo much easier!!