Worried wrinkles creased the face of the young emergency room doctor. His eyes betrayed the emotions he tried to suppress as he cleared his throat. The sound of my heart was loud in my ears, and my mouth went dry when I heard his words.
“Mr. Settel, I don’t know how you’ve managed to make it this far, you should be dead.”
“What are you talking about?” I knew something was wrong when I came to the emergency room earlier that evening, but the doctor’s diagnosis didn’t make sense.
I had to admit that my fine motor skills were beginning to disappear. My right arm and hand were becoming increasingly weak, and I was confusing my brake pedal with the gasoline pedal. And this constant throbbing headache was taking its toll. Clearly, something was wrong. But I assumed it was a minor stroke—a self-diagnosis that was ruled out after several CT scans of my brain.
It was Memorial Day weekend, and I was due to go on a tour to Australia by way of a two-day flight the next day. The only reason I agreed to come to the hospital was that my beloved wife and another friend of 30 years got together and told me there was no way I was going anywhere until I found out why I had these symptoms. Their bold and determined intercession saved my life.
When a neurosurgeon entered the exam room and introduced himself, I knew I was in trouble. I held (more like, gripped) Sharon’s hand as the doctors discussed the results of the CT scans.
“You said your fall occurred ten weeks ago, is that correct?” The surgeon asked.
“Yes…” I said, vividly recalling the day.
I was in a hurry as usual when I came down the stairs of our home at full throttle, unaware that the tile floor at the bottom of the stairs was in the process of being washed. I hit the wet soapy tile with my bare feet and went airborne; then I came crashing down on the back of my head. I saw stars when I landed. Part of me knew I should have gone to the hospital, but I didn’t lose consciousness, there wasn’t any blood, and I couldn’t feel any bumps on my head, and frankly, I couldn’t take the time out of my busy day to sit in a hospital waiting room.
“Mr. Settel, your injury resulted in a subdural hematoma, and blood has been collecting on your brain’s surface just beneath your skull. There’s no more room inside your head for the blood. There’s so much pressure building that your brain could shift at any time, and if that happens…well…”
Well… if that had happened, I wouldn’t be here now to tell you this story. And it’s in the telling that I’m once again reminded of God’s divine plan and power.
The weeks since my fall had been jam-packed with activity. I had been touring in Texas, flown home to Florida for Passover, then left on tour through Europe where I spent eight days in Paris, six days in Belgium, and six days in Holland. I came back home for a busy two weeks, then spent a weekend in Minnesota, attended ‘Expolit,’ a massive Hispanic Christian conference, and then flew to Ohio for two days and back to Fort Lauderdale. During this time, I also managed to juggle my roles and responsibilities as a husband and father, all the while rubbing my temples and dealing with a throbbing headache that never quite seemed to dissipate.
The doctors insisted I stay the night and they prepared me for surgery the next day. I guess they figured since I’d made it ten weeks with a slowly inflating blood balloon pressing on my brain, I could make it a few more hours to become medically and medicinally prepared for the coming trauma of major brain surgery. They would be drilling burr holes into my brain to drain the blood and relieve the pressure.
Gone was the trip to Australia. Gone were the plans my ministry team and I had made for bringing the songs of Israel and the Lord to that great “down-under” nation. I’ll admit, frustration did creep in for a moment or two, but the reality was stronger. The fact I was alive at all was a miracle, and I knew Who was responsible.
As they prepared to wheel me into surgery early the next day, I won’t deny feeling some trepidation and angst. Sharon was holding my left hand, and the operating room nurse was on my right side. I was growing a little woozy, but I could swear one of the anesthesiologists asked, “Do you have good insurance?”
I startled Sharon when I smiled and boldly declared, “Yes! The best insurance possible, I have Yeshua!”
The nurse beside me shouted, “Praise the Lord!” And the Jewish doctor gave both of us a strange look as the nurse leaned in and asked if I was a Messianic believer.
“You bet,” I replied. Instantly, she was glorifying God, that He would send “one of His own,” and “a believing one at that,” for her to cover in prayer. The bold proclamations of faith from this angel-nurse calmed my spirit, yet another assurance that the Lord would be faithful.
I awoke an hour and a half later in the recovery room. Although I recall little of that time, apparently, I was telling jokes to the doctor. What I do remember is seeing Sharon, my beautiful wife, and my heart filled with love. I knew I was alive. I knew my destiny was in the hands of my Creator. The devil said, “I want him dead,” but God said, “No, not yet!”
And so, I continue to forge ahead. Thankful for the quality of mercy that God has for us. Thankful for the way He works in all things. And so very grateful that He made me a hard-headed warrior determined to serve, praise, and worship Him!