Worth the Read

The first blog I wrote I discussed a book entitled “Poles Apart”. Written by Dr. Robert Bakss. Discussing how he and his wife dealt with her bi-polar disorder, while he served as a pastor in the Christian community. If your interested in purchasing the book you can find a it at http://www.polesapartbook.com or http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/aw/d/B01MY7XDXQ/.

Updates

Hey everyone!  This is Robert’s wife, Mandy.  Just want to give y’all an update on Robert and his knee.

Robert’s had a rough go of it the last 5 days.  This past Friday was the surgery.  He had ACL reconstruction, but on top of that, the doctor found 2 meniscus tears and some bone damage.  This new discovery turn our day from 6 hours to 11 hours at the surgery center.

Everything was great until the nerve block wore off.  The pain got so bad, I had to give Robert a belt to literally bite on to help with the pain.

Now, 4 days post op, the pain is getting bearable and he is able to get around slightly better.  Praise the Lord that I have a job I can work from home to be here to help him.

Robert should be back in blogging action next week.  Trust me, if he wrote blogs now while on the pain medicine, y’all be wondering what in the world he is trying to talk about. 🙂

Thank you for all the praying and sweet words of encouragement.  They have been a tremendous encouragement to Robert.  Please continue to pray as he recovers and as he embarks on physical therapy (UGH!).

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What’s Going On Now?

To this point all of the stories shared on my blog have been intense. Believe me the story is just unfolding. However, I felt it necessary to step back to give some updates, and share some blessings that have happened.
  • The first and quite obvious, I’m not dead! Yes, I have the normal questions about why, why me, and what is the point to all this? However, the case remains -I am alive!
  • My parents will be mentioned many times throughout these blogs as the story unfolds, but they have sacrificed more than any parents I know should even have to think about. While they are not perfect, they are as close to saints as I can imagine. Each in their own way helping, instructing, and correcting as needed during the worst years of my and their lives. Even more impressive is that they have always loved each other and me and continue to do so.
  • Next was the most amazing cast of characters I could have had behind me.  Starting with the staff and amazing treatment I received from Dr. Gregory O’Shannick. Truly, without them I would not be where I am today. Also our legal team was outstanding.  It was unfortunate it had to go that way, but we were left with no choice.
  • For spiritual guidance Pastor Leroy Davis (who has graciously accepted my request to write on the blog in the near future) and my father. Both men, in different ways kept me grounded in my Christian faith, and helped me avoid making life altering mistakes. I should also give a shout out to my late 90’s youth group from Goodwill Baptist Church. While they didn’t understand everything that went on, they tried to stay upbeat and encouraging for my sake. Many of whom I’m proud to say are still friends (even if it is just through Facebook J)
  • While this was many years after the accident I could not mention blessings without mentioning my wife of 12 years,  Amanda McCallum. Without her encouragement and support I would not be attempting many things including this blog.
  • Thanks is extended to my in-laws, Dave and Patty Whitley. They have allowed me to enter their family by marrying their daughter and putting up with…well…me. Not an easy task for anyone!
  • Lastly, I am truly grateful for Faith Baptist Church and our Pastor, Kurt Skelly.  There are truly many other people I have encountered that have helped and encouraged me along the way.  I apologize if I have forgotten anyone.
So, why go through that list? The reason is simple, I am attempting to share my story so that those who suffer from TBI understand there are others that have gone through the same, if not worse tragedies. Remember Jesus loves you, and if you believe in Him, He will help you through your darkest valleys. You may not realize it right now, but one day you will. Also, as I have been lectured many times, don’t focus on the negative think about the positive. What does that mean? What can you do now that you couldn’t a month ago, a week, a day? Even the smallest improvement is reason to celebrate. How about a medication combo that finally works! I know I’ve been down that road. Even better,   what about a doctor that truly gets what’s going on. This is just a small list of some things that you can look to as positives.
I’ll conclude with this, yes, what I went through was horrible, yes, some of this story will be depressing, but keep in mind God (Jesus Christ) got me through it. Why, I don’t know, and maybe I won’t know, but nonetheless here I am by his mercy sharing this story with you.  Have a blessed and wonderful week.
John 20:29
P.S. I am having surgery this week. I may not be able to post a blog next week. Keep following though. Please comment on this blog, or any of them. I would love to hear, your blessings, suggestions, or questions.

Changes

After hanging up the phone, my wife and I got in the car and drove (at a highly suspect rate) to the hospital. Our conversation was strained with Beth wanting to know all the details of the call and my inability to answer them because I was not given much information over the phone.

We arrived at MCV Hospital and went right to the emergency room entrance. On our way in we asked a Para Med standing out side if he knew where our son was. Not only did he know, he was in the ambulance with him. He told us Robert was severely injured but the seatbelt helped save his life.

With that news, we ran through the doors of the hospital only to be stopped by officer Netherland. (I will use his name specifically because, in my opinion, his total incompetence and lack of concern for our son.) The first words out of his mouth were not ones of concern or care but of accusation against our son. He saw us, came over to us and asked our names. The next words out of his mouth were: “Your son was involved in an auto accident, I think it was his fault, he was probably speeding and did not have his seatbelt on.” Wow! The only response I had was, “We just me the Para Med who brought him in and he told us that the seatbelt saved his life.” Officer Netherland just said; “I don’t think so.” Unfortunately that would not be our last nasty encounter with him but that is a different part of the story.

We were ushered into the room where our son was. I just looked at him on the table all bloody and beat up with numerous wounds. Two things stood out to me the most. First, you could see a big red mark across his chest where the seatbelt had held him back in the accident. Second, the front of his head was open and they were working to save his life.

We helped hold him on the table as they were working on him. Robert was incoherent, struggling with the doctors and kept saying; “let me go, I need to get home”. The doctors could not give him pain-killing drugs because of the head injury so he felt everything that was being done to him. Hours later they were done with what they could do and we walked out of the room.

I stopped the doctor in the hall and asked him directly what he thought the prognosis was. I will never forget, he put his head down and said; “Most of these patients don’t make it.” I walked into the waiting room where Beth and Pastor Davis were and passed out.

Robert was moved to a room and the next several days were a whirlwind of procedures and operations. During Robert’s entire stay my wife and I never left his side. We both took turns staying in the hospital with him. We were told that he may not make it and if he does, he could be severely limited in his mental abilities.

During that time several people on the floor where he was passed away. I was speaking with a nurse approximately 2 in the morning and I mentioned to here that it seemed strange that several people had passed away. I will never forget her response. She said; “Mr. McCallum, this is where the serious cases are treated.”

For me that was the first time I truly grasped what we were dealing with and how our lives would be forever changed.

Expectations

Sitting at the dinning room table reading the latest issue of Car & Driver, I was having a casual conversation with my wife, Beth. The date was August 25, 1998, a busy and exciting time for both of us. I was the headmaster of a private school and Beth was a teacher at that same school, we were both preparing for the new year. Also, this would be the first year without our son, Robert.

Our son Robert. Now, after twelve years in education, I had found that parents usually fall into one of two categories. The first love their children, are supportive and think highly of them and the second criticize their children and consider them unintelligent or a burden. As parents, Beth and I were in the first category.

Robert was our only child and we enjoyed each day with him. We were, however, strict parents who demanded the best from him and praised him when he gave it. The biggest sin was not failure but lack of effort and Robert gave everything his best.

At the age of four he accepted Christ as his savior. I know this may sound young but he understood the concept of sin, salvation and God. He was never perfect (none of us are) but he took his dedication to his God seriously.

We spent many happy years as he grew up doing things together as a family. We went on camping trips to national parks, civil war battlefields and the nations capital. Summers were the best time. We would take the pop up camper and head out. We would also go to our church “Family Camp” with our tent in the summer.

As Robert grew older, he had a maturity about him that was beyond his years. He may not have been the best in every subject in school but when it came to theological and political things our conversations ran deep. I personally enjoyed our many conversations. I always told him that it was not important that he agree with me but he better be able to defend his position in clear, logical way. A lot of people say avoid religion and politics but for us it was great fun.

As Robert grew older, he grew into himself physically and mentally. As a school soccer coach I remember one year we had a good team but no goalie. This was really hurting us in games. Finally, Robert asked me if he could try. My first instinct was no because I did not view him as capable of that position but I agreed to let him try and I worked with him each day. I had played both high school and college soccer so I know something about the position. Well after a week he became a fantastic goalie. He had no fear, a good understanding of the dynamics and the moves to protect our goal. What a help to the team.

He also grew spiritually and socially. One time when he was 17 he preached at our church. He sounded like someone who had been doing it all their life. Many people came up to me and were amazed at the heart with which he shared the gospel. He was heavily involved in our church activities, especially with the youth group.

Lastly, he graduated a year early from high school all while working part time and playing sports. He received a standing ovation for the speech he gave at his high school graduation and a scholarship to a well-known Christian college.

So it was with great expectations we looked forward to Robert going off to college and Beth and I starting our new academic year.

Then the phone rang. “Hello, this is MCV hospital, am I speaking to Robert McCallum Jr.?” Yes I answered. “Do you have a son named Robert McCallum III?” Yes, I answered. “You need to come down here right away, he has been involved in an accident and you need to be here.” I quickly got the rest of the information I needed and Beth and I left for the hospital.

We had no idea how that one call would change our lives forever.

Doubting Thomas” the HERO… What?

John 20:29 “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” I chose this as my life verse. I’ll get to the reason for that by the end of this article.

When we last left me (see previous post) I had had two operations in less then a 48-hour period. No matter what the reason that is tremendous wear on anyone’s body. After the second operation the doctors realized that I was leaking spinal fluid. The best medical solution was another operation. However, the doctors were convinced I would not survive if they did this procedure. Thankfully there was another option, though not guaranteed, that was to do a spinal tap. Though I admit I am not at all educated in what that entails; I can tell pain was involved; by this time pain and I were beyond a first name basis we were closer to meeting each other’s relatives. Fortunately the spinal tap did allow the needed healing. My hospital stay was a total of seven days. I was ready to return home heal the physical damage and return to my regularly scheduled programming. That’s not exactly how it worked out.

We (my parents and I) were about to get a rude awakening. When I got home to recover. Two things happened right away that told us something was not right. The first was I could hear sounds that no one else could. No, I am not referring to voices in my head! These were noises of movement, household appliances, and things. It’s hard to explain, but it was if someone had a megaphone by my ear; and was shouting. The second was I had zero energy. Sleeping could easily account for 12-16 hours of my day. Certainly my parents had no idea how to describe what was happening.

There happened to be a second component to this whole ordeal. That would be the company that had hired the dump I hit chose to come after our family for the accident. They insisted that I was at fault.

In the briefest of moments our family went from knowing what the future would be to literally (within seconds) everything completely turned upside down. Without a clear understanding of what it was that was going on. You talk about our faith in God being stretched; that would be an understatement!

This brings me to why John 20:29 as my life verse. Contrary to what I have heard in my years as a Christian I do not believe that it was Thomas doubting. I believe it was Thomas asking a question with conditions. Before you start questioning my Christianity please hear me out. Imagine with me if your pastor, or other spiritual mentor in your life suddenly died. Then your friends come, and tell you, “hey we saw so and so at the mall today…” This being after going their funeral; weeping with friends and family and seeing them put him/her into the ground! Would you instantly take them at their word? Myself I couldn’t do it. Lets also remember that early in the story the other disciples didn’t believe Mary Magdalene about His resurrection. Mark 16: 11 “And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. “ What does that make Thomas? HUMAN… He put Jesus in a preverbal box. He proposed the conditions on which he would believe. In this particular case Jesus met his proposal and so much more.

Back to question why this verse; its because of Jesus’s response, “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Ladies and gentlemen that is a profound statement! Within the story I am unfolding with you I know what happens next, but do you think for a moment our family unit had a clue? Worst-case scenario my parents would be planning a funeral; best case I would be a disabled invalid the rest of my life. We didn’t know. “Blessed are they that have not see…” Does that mean we were perfect faith abiding Christians through the entire ordeal? Not a chance the tears, frustration, anger, and worry happened many a time but; to know God recognizes are faith in Him when we do not know where the journey will end is priceless. All he asks is that we believe in Him, and build a personal relationship with Him.

So, where does that leave poor Thomas; according to India historian William Dalrymple, and others Thomas started a Christian church in India. He continued to be faithful to God and His Word.

If we seek Him to find the truth God will hear and answer through prayer and His Word! I completely understand how hearing something like this during a time your struggling may seem of little comfort. Think about it this way you have someone (God) who is willing to just listen. You ever need that in your problems. Not a fix, not responsibility that needs taken care of, not another doctor to give you treatment options; just someone to listen. That’s God! Plus if you seek Him He can heal you, he can comfort you, he can provide encouragement, and direct you. He can do both either or, and so much more. Seek Him for yourself! (John 3:16)

So, that ends my take and application of Thomas’s story. What about mine you may ask? Keep following my blog at dontmindme130.com, and you’ll find out. Thanks for your time this week.

Getting Dumped On

The year was 1998, seems ages ago, maybe because I’m closer to 40 at this time in my life! During this time my life was full of promise and opportunity. I had just graduated a year early from high school, had my soccer jersey retired, and received college scholarships, and wanted to be the next Billy Graham of evangelism. To say I was goal oriented would be a huge understatement.

The summer of that year was going along as planned; working two jobs and preparing to go to a well respected Christian college that coming fall. You might say things were going smoothly.

1…2…3… That is all it took for those plans to go up in smoke. Going home from work from my second job a dump truck driver decided that rather than break on a hill and check for traffic it was late enough that he could pull out onto the main road without looking! The next sound was that of a small convertible hitting a rear axel of loaded down dump truck! (The following are mostly third person accounts from other witnessed; I was conscious, but delirious)

While the truck driver walked to make a call, as I choked on my own blood, a nursing couple nearby had heard the commotion, and thankfully proceeded to save my life. I once wrote a brief note thanking them; to this day I do not know if they received it, but if by some chance they happen to read this THANK YOU!

They were able to stabilize me till the ambulance came. I vaguely remember that ride, the shaking, noise, and sense of urgency. Once I got to the ER the doctors starting working; because as my father put it, “you walked in a literally cook see my brain through my crushed skull.” I had my father, mother, and two nurses hold me down for roughly 51/2 hours. Due to the type of injury they were not able to completely sedate me. My personal memories of this time are vague to say the least, but they are full of pain, confusion, and wanting to leave.

Once I was done in the E.R. I was moved to I.C.U. and watched over constantly. The medical staff did not want me to slip into a coma. Again the memories of this are partial to none.

The next step was to do reconstructive surgery for the front portion of my skull. Though we (my family) had no idea the journey, or what it even meant I had a Traumatic Brain Injury!

From there I was moved to the top floor of MCV medical center. This floor was where those who weren’t going to make it were placed. The doctor informed my parents that I would either die or remain in a vegetative state.

The year that started with opportunity and promise had ended in despair and confusion. The journey that followed is full of twists and turns. However, as I continue the story keep this in mind Hebrews 13:5b “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” This principle is important! God promises to be with us He doesn’t promise to make it easy, He doesn’t promise it’ll all make sense right away! His promise is to be there. I can promise even as I write this I cannot tell you what the end of the journey will, but I do know that Jesus is and has always been with me ever since I accepted Him as my savior.

“How can I help”

My name is Robert McCallum III, I am blessed to married to a wonderful wife, Amanda McCallum, and we have a vivacious 5 almost 6 year old that keeps on toes everyday!

When I was 4, I accepted Christ as my Savior. Since that time I have been involved in the church on many different levels. Some of these included being a children’s ministries leader, usher, running the soundboard, Sunday School teacher, and Outreach minister. Also completed a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Theology.

The last few years I have not been as involved due to working nights and providing for my family. I took that as being my “lot” in life to provide for them. Within the last year the Lord has been working in my heart towards returning to or starting a ministry, but I was very unclear on what that would be.

Then I had a meeting with the pastor of our church Pastor Kurt Skelly, and it came together. You see many years ago I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. Though that has been almost 19 years ago, I felt it was time to share my story. The goal being to encourage those who have been affected by TBI; also to bring understanding to an issue that I feel is not stigmatized and not acknowledged in the local church. This is the mission I feel the Lord has led me to begin.

With this in mind Pastor Skelly also recommend a book written by Dr. Robert & Jenny Bakss. Mrs. Bakss was diagnosed as being bipolar, and their book “PolesApart” chronicles their journey. While my brain injury varies from Mrs. Bakss, the book was a tremendous encouragement. Part of the encouragement I felt was that I am not the only one to receive negative responses within the Christian community. One of the responses they received mirrored some of the ones I have received; according to the book…”Many just simply said, “Get over it; snap out of it!” Responses like these were common with my own experience. For these comments to come from church family hurt all the more. Fortunately I had family that educated themselves on the issues I was facing. They never gave up on me; though I am sure the thought crossed their mind. I found encouragement in following Christ since “His own received Him not.”

What stands out the most throughout the book is the realization of hope both through scripture and medical attention. One scripture that is referenced is Romans 15:13 “ Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” They give many practical strategies to help cope with depression. Just an example of this is getting rid of negativity through: “Avoid spending time with negative people”, “Abstain from dwelling on negative thoughts”, and “Actively replace negative thoughts with God’s thoughts”. Throughout the book they go into more detail of how to work on this and other tools. Lastly, I appreciate that they openly recognize the need of medical doctors, and medicine to help with this diagnosis, but not at the expense of their Christian faith and ideals.

Their book is both helpful and uplifting. I would recommend “PolesApart” to anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder.

My goal as I start this new project is to be an encouragement and soundboard to those who have suffered similar experiences to the Bakss’ and my own.

My following article will answer the question how did a dump truck change my life!