They Took My Brain Out and Stomped That Sucker Flat

by Andy Wood on December 12, 2016

in LV Stories, Turning Points

One of my many "therapists" who came into the hospital room.

One of my many “therapists” who came into the hospital room.


That was different.

It’s one thing to waste time. Save time. Time to stand still.

I’m making up for lost time.


I seem to have misplaced about four hours last week.  Oh, I lived it. And was pretty agitated about it. I just can’t remember it.

TIA, they called it.  Which led to an MRI, an EEG, and a hospital with a big FEE.

I crack myself up.

That was not exactly how I had planned my day to be. But life – and LifeVesting – has a way of throwing curves. And those curveball experiences are their own version of sowing and reaping.

Let’s start with the reaping.

Not All Reaping is Weeping

In my medical emergency – which in my case was a complete sense of disorientation and memory loss – I had somebody to call. And apparently I called my wife about four times while she was in a counseling session. (She was the counselor.)  I don’t remember any of that.  What I vaguely DO remember was calling her again when she was halfway home and her saying, “Just stay on the phone. I’m turning into the neighborhood.”

A trip to the urgent care, where I flunked all the tests, led to the ER nearby. I don’t remember much about any of that, but I’m told that when I saw my brother-in-law, who was filling out all the paperwork for us, I said, “I know you’re my brother-in-law, but you’re a lot uglier than I remember.”

I guess some things get clearer in an emergency.  Anyway.

I think what began to snap me out of it… ready for this?… somebody in the ER asked me if I knew what year it was.

“Yes,” I said, “it’s 2013… No… Wait…” I could tell by the looks on their faces (and something in the back of my foggy head) that I had flunked the “what year is it” test.

“It’s 2016!”

And do you know what month it is?

Dangit!  Another toughie!

“Okay, we’ve already had Thanksgiving… Is it December?”

“Yes! Good!  And who is the president?”

“Barack Obama.”

“Good! And who is the president-elect?”

[Cue the crickets…]

“We had an election?”

“We did! Do you remember who won?”

“Just tell me it wasn’t Hillary!”

“No, she didn’t win.”

“Oh.  Well that means a Republican won. But I don’t remember who.”

“It was Donald Trump.”

“Nooooooo. You’re messing with me.”

Things started coming back to me after that. I’ll leave it to your interpretations as to what that means.  Anyway, in the hours that followed I had visits from our friend and pastor’s wife, another church pastor (he and I did Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan imitations together in the ER… great fun), my Stormtrooper daughter, my ever-present and not-as-ugly brother-in-law, my sister, nephew and his wife, and a non-stop array of great medical professionals.  And in-between that, several phone calls from the out-of-town kids to tell them to back away from the airport… don’t come just yet.

I may have gotten a little bored and mischievous in the ER. I'm claiming not to remember that.

I may have gotten a little bored and mischievous in the ER. I’m claiming not to remember that.

All of that is the result of sowing somewhere along the line. Sowing into relationships. Sowing into health insurance. Sowing into relationships in a local church. Sowing into finding the funny in the most stressful of circumstances. And when the need came to withdraw on some of those deposits, the reaping was easy.

But there’s some hard reaping as well.  Lots of silly talk about stress and lifestyle management and the ever-present diet and exercise.  Episodes like these are warnings of potential problems down the road.  Yada, yada, yada.  Okay, okay, I repent. I’m still working on what to repent of, but it has my attention.

Not all Sowing is Knowing

“Mary has four apples. Martha has two more apples than Mary. How many apples do the two of them have together?”

That was Sarah. She came in to give me a full-range test of little teasers like that.  She had to tell me to be serious and focus at one point, so I could show I was thinking clearly.  I tried to behave.

Sarah was just one of many who came in and out of the room whose life I got to touch. Nurses. Doctors. Taxi drivers pushing wheelchairs.  Therapists. Aides.  Nutritionists.

Hospitals can be painful places. Stressful places.  I sincerely tried to make each member of the medical staff smile. I said “thank you” to every single one.  It was the least I could do.  These people had my life in their hands.  Somebody had to talk to my scrambled brain about scrambled eggs (still not sure what was a good idea).  Somebody had to leave one anxiety-riddled room and come into mine next. I hoped maybe they could find some joy or at least a smile.

When I was being wheeled past the nurses’ station to get the MRI, I hollered over my shoulder, “If anybody needs me I’ll be in MRI!”

When different people came in I asked them what “TIA” stands for.  Most didn’t know. It became a fun little game.  My favorite: “Truth in Action.”  Here is the lowdown if you’re interested.

When the nutritionist came in to ask about my meal preferences, I tried to explain with a straight face that the purpose of food is to flavor the salt.  Tough crowd. They weren’t laughing. Nor were they including salt with my grits and eggs.

Not All Growing is Going

I had a nice long visit with my friend and pastor, Alan. We talked a lot about where  we go from here.  It was encouraging. But it was hard.

It was encouraging because he reminded me that I still have a future and a hope. And he encouraged me to dream.  It was hard because in all the going and going and going I don’t feel as though I have the mental or emotional muscles to dream anymore.  Those “dreaming muscles” feel atrophied.  That probably isn’t true, but that’s how it feels.

My son Joel asked me the most dreaded question of anybody in any form of ministry… Do you have a day off?  It was encouraging. But it was hard.

It was encouraging because he reminded me I am still part of God’s strategy to redeem the world. It was hard because I have a bias toward action and want to be doing stuff every day. But when God said to work six days, not seven, He didn’t pin a cape on me and give me a pass.

So the first thing I did when I left the hospital – after repeatedly saying “thank you” to lots of people – is nothing.


For six hours anyway. And strangely enough, it felt OK.

In the stillness of the last few days, lessons are forming. More on that later. And though they have yet to fully appear, new dreams are starting to take shape. They told me I may never recover the memory of those lost four hours. But one thing is crystal clear: I am greatly blessed because I am greatly loved.

You are too.

Martha Orlando December 12, 2016 at 2:00 pm

So, so thankful you are recovering so well, Andy! You’ve been in my prayers, my friend. Now, with that being said, DO and I mean DO, take it easy! I’m sure your family will help you accomplish that.
Blessings and a Merry Christmas to you, Robin and the whole gang!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Rudolph With Your Nose so Bright

shawn December 12, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Heard about your event and wanted you to know that you have students that you’ve touched that are praying and believing in your restoration and healing. We all look forward to hearing about your dreams and what you learn in your continued times of rest.

Cindy Metcalfe December 26, 2016 at 7:30 am

Sad to here of your medical plight Andy. Your time out will give you time to brighten your light, in rest and recuperation to strengthen your spiritual axe (ability to work for the Love of Jesus). I myself, as a Quaker, share love and light in silence and stillness, to connect more deeply with Gods abiding presence. Wishing you every happiness, health and wellbeing, God Bless You. In Love and Light- Cindy

Mary Buzzell December 29, 2016 at 9:26 pm

I am so sorry about your medical episode. I hope that it is just that, a one-time episode. I wanted to write and say I enjoy your posts so much. I am busy and don’t take time to read much of what comes in my email. I work full-time with families at a adolescent residential treatment center and two years ago at age 60 I went back to seminary for a Masters Degree. However, I always stop to read your posts. I wanted you to know that what you write always speaks to me. I am praying you have a full recovery.

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