It’s hard to believe that my “one breath from death – look what God can do” experience was fifteen years ago today. In addition to a debt of gratitude to God for His orchestration in all matters, including my interest and excessive involvement in endurance sports, namely Ironman triathlons. Who would have ever thought when I started down the road in 1984 in long distance running which evolved to Ironman triathlons that it was preparing my body to keep at bay a rare lung disease and preparing my mind to face an obstacle much larger than a 140.6 mile event?
I am forever grateful to my doctor at the time, Richard Feibelman, who sent me to National Jewish Medical Center in Denver CO because he thought they might find out why my lungs were not responding to treatment, instead I was going deeper into infection upon infection. I’m grateful for the great care I received at National Jewish Medical Center from the nurses, therapists, and doctors headed by Doctor Gwen Huit. Although a traumatic experience of being told they had to make me really sick before they could make me better, the competent staff of NJMC saw me through the period.
Once I was sick enough, as they said, they arranged for me to be taken to University Hospital for a lung biopsy. Once again, I am grateful for the staff of nurses and doctors who saw me through the surgery and my recovery. Although I faced a major setback on the second day when an intern pulled my chest tube too soon, causing my lung to collapse, but I am grateful Doctor Derek Linderman saw my desperate condition and responded by inserting a new chest tube and saving my life. Even though I swelled nearly five times with sub cutaneious emphysema (air under my skin) and I was induced into a comatose state for three days, I was given the utmost care by the ICU doctors and nurses for which I am most grateful. Nurse Lucy named me appropriately enough, “the Michelin man” which brought some needed levity to the situation. Dr. Mike Fessler, who is an avid cyclist himself, brought me scores of cycling and triathlon magazines with the assurance that I would be back. I received mounds of cards, letters, and visits while in ICU all for which I am most grateful. As I kept up my daily activities on my website, I knew there were people praying for me all around the globe. How great it made me feel to know how many friends I had and how thankful that made me feel.
Once I was given clearance to begin therapy of movement while in ICU I began multiple treks per day that involved a number of people carting the monitors and the IV’s so that I could go for walks. How appreciative I am for their patience with me.
When I was given clearance to return to NJMC, Jan and I were blown away by the reception from the staff of nurses who welcomed us back and for their continual utmost care. When my case was turned over to Dr. Scott Worthen we were very thankful because he was known for not only being a great clinician but a devoted scientist. Dr. Worthen worked all night long and came to a conclusion of diagnosis. It’s hard to thank God enough for the work of staff at NJMC who do not stop until they find out what is wrong and what they can do to help their patients.
Finally, Jan and I returned home after spending six weeks in Denver, having gone through the wringer of sickness, several operations and procedures, a near death experience, and the bombardment of some heavy-duty medicines which had some lasting side effects. But we made it. In celebration, nine months later we ran the Disney Marathon and finished as our “one breath from death – look what God can do story” was told to the crowd.
Today, although my lung function is only 78% of normal, I am living above the disease which should have taken my life 15 years ago. My current pulmonologist just looks at me an says, “whatever you are doing, keep doing it,” (he’s referring to my excessive exercise). I am most grateful for friends who keep me going on this trek and for my current doctors who care for my well-being. God has supplied over an over in this story so as I celebrate 15 years today of being alive after my “one breath from death experience,” all I can says is “look what God can do.”
I would be remiss as I recount the countless people in my life whom God has provided to be a vital part of the story if I didn’t say something about my beloved wife, Jan. We took our marriage vows on June 15, 1974 and she lived those vows out, never leaving my side, always there through the darkest moments. I am a blessed man to have such a devoted wife for whom I am most grateful. As my friend Stan Smith reminds me, “Bob, you married up.” Right on Stan, I have married up!
We began a yearly celebration of a ride that was first a century because I wanted to take other riders beyond what they may have ever done as God had taken me farther than I ever thought possible in my near death experience. That ride eventually turned into our annual ride across FL (East Coast to West Coast). Because of the COVID 19 pandemic this year, we were not able to go from coast to coast but I am most grateful for my “B Crew” riders who rode two rides with me in celebration which were about as far this past Friday and Saturday. I am a blessed man to have such friends.
So, as I look at April 6, 2020 I am most grateful. After all, I was one breath from death BUT look what God can do.
This is my story and I’m sticking with it.