I Just Keep Trusting My Lord
"I just keep trusting my Lord" is a small book I have written to be a blessing and a help to those who might need an encouraging word to help them along life's way. If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, let me beg you o do so today. He is able to give you the strength to carry on through this life and prepare you for the life to come. May God Bless you as you read.
I was born in Michigan on September 20, 1953. When I was about 3 years old, we packed up and moved south because my stepfather was in the army and was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. We moved around quite a bit until we bought a house. I was about 11 years old at the time.
Mom and dad did the best they knew how to raise me right, but I still rebelled against them and their authority. By the time I was 13, I knew how to cuss. All my friends would do it and I wanted to be accepted by them, so I did what they did. By the time I was 15, I stole a car with my friends, but never got caught. Then one night when I was 18, I was caught burglarizing a drug store, trying to steal drugs to sell in order to pay for some other habits I had. The judge was merciful to me. I only had to serve 8 and a half months in prison.
When I got out, I was worse than before, because inside I learned how to commit the crimes without being caught, but since I did not like prison life very much, I did not practice much of what I learned.
I went to work in a cotton mill for about 8 years, and it was a pretty steady job, but I had a longing in my heart to be a carpenter because of prior experience. So I quit the mill and went to work building houses, and loved it.
I can remember many times in the past I tried to quit the many bad habits I had, like smoking cigarettes and pot and drinking alcohol and many other things and couldn't, no matter how hard I tried. Then the Lord Jesus started directing me toward the knowledge of salvation.
In August of 1976, I met my future wife, Barbara Plant.. I was 22 and she was 17. We dated for about 5 months before I ask her to marry me, and she gladly accepted. We decided to be married on July 2nd of 1977. We were looking for someone to make us a wedding cake. I knew a lady who was the mother of a good friend of mine that makes wedding cakes. We went to visit her to ask if she would bake us one. While we were there, she started talking to us about the Lord. Well, I had never heard the things she was telling us before, until then. I had not been to a church since I was very young, and hardly remember that. Mom and dad took us for a while, but when they quit, shortly after I quit. That lady invited us to go to church with her, and we did. We went pretty regular for about a month, listening to the preaching and teaching of God's Word. After listening and hearing the Word of God, we both accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and life has not been the same since. I tried to go back where I used to hang out, but even though I had not told my friends what had happened, I still felt like an outcast. I never felt comfortable around my old friends anymore.
Barbara and I continued to grow in the Lord, and began to love church and being around God's people. A couple of years after our salvation, Barbara started teaching Sunday School, and the Lord allowed me to lead the singing. The Lord has used us in many ways, and I trust He will continue to do so as we grow.
Since the writing of this testimony, I have decided to write in detail what has happened to me on the day of my accident and the next couple of years. My prayer and intention for this booklet is for God's hand to be on it, and be a help and a blessing for everyone who reads it.
It was a beautiful late summer day, August 26, 1993. I felt pretty good, even though I was very tired. My regular job was building new houses. I was a supervisor over a crew of anywhere from three to six people at a time. My primary job was cutting for a cornice crew that was on the scaffold. In the afternoons I would work on the side, building additions, sun decks, and whatever I could to earn a little more money. The side job I was working on at that particular time was more difficult, because it involved taking the entire roof off of the house, including all the rafters and joist, and replacing all the inside walls. (It was a house that had burned, and the owner was a regular customer). There were many nights when I would get home late because of this particular job.
The morning of my accident was the second day we were running cornice on a new house, so the scaffold crew needed some assistance from time to time in order to get things started. They were working on the back of the house, and I had my saw set up on the garage side. Because the floor of the house was about 6 feet from the ground, it was better for me to go in through the garage entrance and through the house to climb onto the scaffold. I probably did not need to get on the scaffold this particular time, but I felt it necessary to save time. After handing out the material to be marked for cutting, I climbed out to show the men how I wanted it marked. After marking it, instead of climbing back in, I decided to jump from the scaffold through the door opening to the floor. When my feet hit the floor, they slipped on some saw dust and I landed on my bottom. Because I slipped, I was not in the house enough to keep my balance and there was nothing for me to grab onto, keeping myself from falling backward. Well, I did fall and land on top of my head on the ground and ended up face down on the ground. I never did lose consciousness, as far as I know, and the only pain I felt was just a little in the back of my neck. At first I didn't understand what had happened, then someone called out, "BRYAN FELL", and I called back, "I think I just broke my arm or something", but the only thing I could move was my left arm. There were five other men there at the time, and they all gathered around me and started touching me and asking me if I could feel anything, and I would say no. At that time, I believe with all my heart, God gave me a peace beyond my understanding, because I felt no panic and didn’t feel afraid at all. Most of the guys were in a state of panic, so I told them I was all right and to calm down. At that time I started singing, "I Just Keep Trusting my Lord" and there was a man standing by my head listening to me and asking me, "What is your favorite song, Bryan?", and I told him, "The one I'm singing". At this time, I think I really realized that I was paralyzed, and could move only my left arm just a little bit and I had to really labor to breathe. A couple of them started moving lumber out of the way for the ambulance and someone was trying to call 911. I had to explain to them how to call from my car phone because they did not know how.
It did not seem that long, but the ambulance came in about thirty minutes from the time I fell. The E.M.T’s came around the house, and when one of them saw me, he said, "I know this guy", and it turned out that he was someone I had done some work for. They loaded me into the van and took me to the hospital, which seemed to take only 15 minutes or so.
They wheeled me into the emergency room and took me into a room that's called a trauma center. I did not know why they had to take me in there, because it didn't seem very traumatic to me. Well, I guess they knew what was best for me and besides, I was not about to do any resisting. At that time, I could not even move my arms. The doctors and nurses began working on me and I could not tell what they were doing. While they were working, I heard one of the doctors tell the nurse to sew a cut on my leg, and I wondered how I cut it, and to this day I do not know. I also wondered how they got my pants off, so I ask them if they cut them off and they said yes. Then I was concerned about my good work boots, so I ask them if they had to cut them off too, and they said no, so I was relieved about that.
During all this time I was thinking about my family and what they were thinking about, since they did not really know how bad of an injury it was. I ask the nurse if my wife had been contacted and she said she has and that she was there in the hospital already. The nurse told me they were about to take me to x-ray and even though it was against regulations, she was going to let me see my wife on the way. Almost as soon as they got me out the door, I saw Barbara standing waiting for me to come through. When I saw her looking down at me she was weeping, but to just see her there was a beautiful and comforting sight. My Pastor and my parents were in the waiting room, as I learned later. After trying to comfort Barbara, and reassuring her that I would be all right, the nurses continued to wheel me to x-ray.
After x-raying me, they brought me back to the trauma room. A doctor named Metcalf came in to begin working on me. He told me I had broken the 5th & 6th cervical vertebra and what that meant, I had no idea, I just knew that I could not move or feel anything. The next thing I saw, in the doctor's hand was a disposable razor. With it he began to shave the sides of my head a space about the size of a quarter just above my ears. I did not know why he was doing that, but I had a feeling I was about to find out. He was getting ready to put my neck in traction. He brought out a contraption that looked like a c-clamp. (In case you do not know what that is, it's a tool that is shaped like a "c", and is used to clamp things together, like pieces of wood or metal). On this clamp was two points that squeeze together. He placed each point on the sides of my head, one on one side and one on the other. Then he began tightening the clamp. It did not hurt, I suppose because he shot some Novocain or something in first, but I could hear something crunching, like bone. After getting the clamp good and tight, he tied a string on the top of it, and tied some weights on the other end of the string. That's when it started feeling very uncomfortable. Then they wheeled me up to the intensive care unit and that's where I stayed for seven days.
Well, it started looking as if I was not going to be getting out of the hospital very soon, so I started praying. I began to become very concerned about what was going to happen to me, whether I was going to live or die. I knew without a doubt I was going to heaven if I died, and I did not even think about whether I was going to ever walk again or not. I just felt so confused about the whole situation. All I knew to do, was keep trusting the Lord.
It was on Thursday when all this happened. I did not sleep much the whole time I was up there, so I used a lot of that time praying. They fed me a liquid broth that tasted much like watered down soup, so I was able to lose several pounds while there. My mouth was always very dry, probably because of the medication, so I drank lots of water.
The doctors scheduled me for surgery on that next Monday, to go in the back of my neck and fuse the vertebrae that had broken. After the surgery when I woke up, the first thing I noticed was my c-clamp was gone and I had a neck brace on, which was a great relief. I did not know whether the surgery would change my condition or not and as it turned out, it made things worse. The doctor noticed my right arm was not moving as much as before surgery and he told Barbara that it probably would not get better.
After surgery, they put me back in I.C.U. I stayed there for another two days before they put me in a room. I liked being in a room because I could have more visitors at a time and besides, they were going to take me to Shepherd Spinal Center the very next day. That was Wednesday, and that night I probably had fifteen visitors to come and see me and encourage me. I was so glad they came, because it really did pick me up, and encouraged me.
After they all left, I started feeling very alone and uncomfortable. I tried calling the nurse, but they did not seem to hear me, so I tried real hard to fall asleep, without any success. I think the reason was, because I was anxious and afraid of going to a strange place that I did not know anything about. Well, it was time to start praying again, so I did for a while. After praying, I tried calling the nurse again for a while, but without success. I was really beginning to dislike being in a regular room, it didn't seemed like any of the nurses really cared. I was getting pretty disgusted and discouraged, and didn’t know what to do, so I just started to sing "Victory in Jesus" just as loud as I possibly could. Whether anyone heard me or not, I don't know, but it made me feel better because it took my mind off of other things. There were times when lying there, I thought I could have slipped off into eternity, but there were other times when I felt as if the Lord was right there in the room with me. He really showed me that night what it was like to have a song in the night. (Psalms 77:6)
Well, I made it through that night and things seemed to be buzzing in the morning with people getting me ready for my trip to Atlanta. Pastor McNeese came and visited me before I left and that was a great blessing. The nurse brought me breakfast while he was there, so he volunteered to feed me. After breakfast we had prayer and he gave me a word of encouragement and then left. Almost immediately after he left, the transport men came in and loaded me onto a stretcher and wheeled me out to the ambulance. After they had gotten me in there, I wished I could have brought a more comfortable pillow, they had some kind of a rolled up piece of hard plastic to lay my head on. I felt I was using a stone for a pillow.
The trip up was not too bad, except for the bumps. I did manage to sleep some of the way up, which was a relief for me. We got there sometime in the middle afternoon, and as soon as I got inside, they wanted to x-ray my neck. After the x-ray, they brought me to my room which was on the third floor. Each room had four patients which made me feel strange at first, but it turned out for the better, because it was good for us patients to interact. The charge nurse came in and talked with me and made me feel very comfortable. While she was talking, there was a man in the space next to mine who had his family visiting and they seemed to be making lots of noise. Later that day, I found out it was normal for him to make a lot of unnecessary noise, in fact, I think he was the noisiest person on that floor. After getting to know him a little better, I found that he wasn't too bad. He was good at encouraging people to keep on trying to get better.
The second day I was there, I met my physical therapist and the first thing she did was get me out of bed and into a wheelchair. I had been lying down for so long, when she tried to set me up, I nearly passed out, so a little at a time, she worked with me until I could sit up for at least a half an hour at a time. I also met my doctor and he started poking around on me to see what my injury level was. He would take a safety pin and poke me with the blunt side and ask me which side it was and then the same with the sharp side. Then he took a q-tip, and touched me with it in certain places and ask if I could feel it. When he finished, he explained to me that I was a C-4 quadriplegic, I had broken the 5th & 6th vertebra, but because of swelling, the effect was higher.
The Saturday after I got there, my entire family came to visit me, except for one brother who had to work and could not come. We all went to one of the gyms to get together and talk. It was great to see all of them together at once. One brother, I have not seen in years, came down from New Jersey, another brother from Michigan, and my sister from Texas, mom and dad drove up from Columbus. We visited for a while until I said I was very tired and needed to go to bed. So we all went back to my room and the nurse came and put me back to bed. While I was lying there, Richard my oldest brother, suggested he go and get something to eat and everyone agreed, so I think they all went. While they were gone I went fast asleep and the next thing I knew, they were all waking me up telling me good-bye. It was so good that they were able to come and visit with me.
I was there for three and a half months and many of my family and friends came and really picked me up. I do not think I could have gone through this without them. Many of my friends from Lighthouse Baptist came and helped me celebrate my 40th birthday in September and Barbara came almost every weekend. Esther and Lester, my two younger children would come sometimes and loved it because there was so much for children to do there. They came to visit me, but I hardly ever saw them.
After being there a couple of weeks, the therapist started putting me on a schedule, a routine that kept me busy through the whole day. Having a routine helped me to concentrate on getting better and stronger. In about a month, they let me use a sip & puff wheel chair which I controlled by sipping and puffing on a little tube because I wasn't strong enough to use a hand control yet. The nurses would get me out of bed and feed me breakfast until I was strong enough to feed myself, then I would go to the gym and start my therapy. First there would be the physical therapy for about two hours, then there was some kind of class on taking care of our skin or psychology to discuss how things were going and what our future plans were. Then lunch, one of my favorite times of the day. I would be so tired from therapy and other classes, any kind of rest sounded good. After lunch was pretty much like before, with therapy and classes. After supper was pretty much free time. I would use this time to read or visit other patience there. While there, we seemed to be able to develop a special bond because we could relate to what each of us were going through. It made the time we spent there a little easier and today I still have friends from there that I can call and confide in. There was a chaplain there who was some kind of non-denominational or something and we disagreed on several doctrines, but we were still able to have some Christian fellowship.
The recreational therapists would take several patients on outings and camping trips. We went on a hunting trip for the whole weekend and that really made me appreciate the people that worked with us even more. Some were employees of Shepherd, but a few were volunteers who loved working with us, and were willing to give up their weekend to help. It seemed very well organized and everything was thought out ahead of time. By that time I was using a hand controlled electric wheelchair, so I was able to get around a lot better than with the sip & puff. It was an enjoyable time, especially since I got to hunt. It took quite a bit of time to set me up with my rifle so I could see through the scope and pull the trigger, but it was worth it. Barbara was with me plus one of the therapists to help me, but they both went to sleep while I was hunting. I did not shoot any deer, but I sure had fun trying.
The next day we had to pack up and go back to Shepherd and get back to work. Some weekends they would let me go home and spend time with my family and experience what it would be like in the outside world. Before they let me go, Barbara had to learn how to take care of me, so she went through a week of training. It was difficult at first, but we learned to solve the problems as we went along. I felt as I did when I was a child, trying to learn to do things for the first time, only I needed to learn them faster. Some things came easier than others, like feeding myself, which was one of my first priorities. Also, turning the pages in a book, because it was important to me to be able to read my bible again. It was important to me, because for the sixteen years of my Christian life, I took for granted being able to pick up my bible and read. I was very inconsistent and God taught me a great lesson.
I continued to get stronger and it was getting closer to discharge time. While there, I became quite close to some of the nurses and therapist, so it was difficult to say good-bye, but I knew I would get over it as soon as I got through those doors. It was close to Christmas, so for graduation ceremonies my therapist dressed me up as a Christmas tree. Everyone got a good laugh and Barbara took some pictures.
Well, we packed up all my stuff and got out of there and loaded up into a van that my insurance company had rented for me. Barbara hooked me up and we were on our way.
The first few months at home were pretty difficult and I seemed to get sick all the time. The house we lived in was not very accessible, so it was difficult for me to get around. Before I came home, my employer built a large ramp up to my front porch for and installed special hinges on the front door and bedroom door to make them wider because my wheelchair needs lots of room to go through. At the advice of my charge nurse at Shepherd, we hired a home-care nurse to come in five days a week for five hours a day, in the mornings to take care of me while Barbara went to work at the Christian school.
Problem solving seemed become a way of life for us. Learning to do what used to be simple everyday things was a struggle. Things like shaving and brushing my teeth took months to learn. I believe I am very fortunate to be able to do as much as I can do. If my injury level was any higher, someone would have to do all those things for me.
During the latter days of my stay at Shepherd, I was tested for driving, and it didn't seem like I did very well, but I did well enough for my therapist to recommend that I get a van converted for me to drive. The insurance company approved the financing, so we had a van built and I was driving by July of 94. It took several weeks to get enough confidence up to do any amount of driving at a time and at the time of this writing, I'm almost as good a driver as I was before my accident. Now I am able to drive anywhere I need to go with very little assistance, which takes load off Barbara.
Since the house we lived in was not very accessible, our next challenge was to try to have one built that is. Again while I was at Shepherd, my Rehab Supplier arranged for a contractor, experienced with housing for the disabled, to go to my house and determine what could be done to make it more accessible. The only recommendation he could make was to build a new house. Adding and expanding was not very practical, so we started working toward trying to build a new one. God really blessed. With the insurance approval, by March of "94, they bought a lot for us in a nice neighborhood, only fifteen minutes from Church. We started building in February of '95 and by July, the new house was finished and we moved in. It was built very accessible, with doors that open automatically and a shower I'm able to use without any problem. Since I have carpentry experience, I was able to make sure the material used was of good quality, along with the workmanship.
The new house has made life for my family and I so much better. It used to be a real struggle for Barbara to get me in and out of bed because the bedroom was so small, but now there is plenty of room to move around. Barbara got the kitchen she’s always wanted and her cooking shows it.
We have learned to trust the Lord more and more as we go along through life, He always comes through right on time, every time. My finances were cut in half after my accident, but bills never went unpaid and we have always had food enough to eat.
I thank God for the people that supplied the meals for my family while I was in the hospital and for the many friends and family that came to visit me and lift me up. That really encouraged me. I could really see the love that people have for us. Many times people came to me and told me they and their Church were praying for me, even people I had never seen before from other cities and states. The Lord has blessed me beyond measure and beyond my comprehension, (Psalms 68:19).
I fully intend to continue serving God all the days of my life, doing exactly what He wants me to do.
What happened to me was a life changing experience, and I would never have thought something as this would have happened to me, but it did. People come to me sometimes and tell me, they don't think they could handle this kind of experience, and all I know to tell them is, to just keep trusting the Lord, He will provide the sufficient grace. There may be times of depression, discouragement, and loneliness, and times when we feel like throwing in the towel and quitting, but God knows what we are going through. If we would just focus on Him, who is the author and finisher of our faith, He will help us go through whatever we are going through, no mater what it is.
Some good verses to remember are, (Psa 62:7) In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. (Isa 12:2) Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
I have found that even when my friends and family do not understand what I'm going through, I can still go to the Word of God and find comfort and strength and refuge.