Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Foxhole Surgeon

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 18, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

It was a cold, murky, November day, and nineteen-year-old Duane was knee-deep in the mud of a French beet field. He was bandaging men and dodging bullets as the only medic with a machine-gun platoon of Patton’s Third Army. Machine-gun rounds and intense mortar fire filled the evening air as the young medic worked, rapidly bandaging the lacerated chest of a sergeant.

Suddenly a burst of gunfire split the air, and Duane saw a rifleman about fifty feet ahead slump into the mud, desperately grasping his throat. He saw that the man was thrashing violently, and immediately started crawling through the mortar barrage and machine-gun rounds. When Duane reached the rifleman, he found that his throat was ripped open, and his windpipe slashed. The injured man fought frantically for air, but his face was turning blue from suffocation.

Duane quickly examined the wound, then took out his pocketknife. He had no surgical equipment but realized that a tracheotomy was the man’s only hope. Duane remembered a training lecture from more than a year ago. He had to try the procedure, or in a few minutes, the man would be dead. Even under the floodlights of modern hospitals with anesthetics, sterilized scalpels, and retractors for holding open the wound, the tracheotomy is a delicate surgical procedure. In the mud of the battle and the semi-darkness of dusk, it seemed impossible.

“I don’t like to do this, Mac,” Duane told the rifleman, “But it’s the only way you’re gonna live.” Crazed by pain and not able to breathe, the man fought wildly. A lieutenant quickly came to Duane’s aid and held down the patient, while with a swift motion, Duane cut an up-and-down slit 1-1/2 inches long in the windpipe below the fracture. He knew that a crosswise incision might sever the jugular vein. Now Duane needed a rigid tube to keep the trachea from reclosing. He took the cap of a fountain pen in the wounded man’s pocket, punctured the end, and slipped it into the windpipe. Color trickled back into the rifleman’s face, and he began to breathe again through the hole in the top of the pen.

“Now hold the fountain pen in your windpipe, and you’ll be okay, Mac,” Duane told him. “You can’t breathe through your nose or mouth,” he warned, “but your lungs will work. Twiddle the pen around and keep the hole open. You’ll pull through all right.” The man’s breathing improved, and in a few minutes, he was able to stand. Supported by his two rescuers, he was able to walk to a nearby tank that took him to the battalion aid station. The doctors and aids stood open-mouthed when they saw the fantastic battlefield operation. They sent him on to the clearing station, where a tracheotomy tube replaced the fountain pen. When newspaper correspondents wrote about the incredible story of the successful battlefield tracheotomy, they called Duane the “Foxhole Surgeon.”

Surgeons who later heard the rifleman’s story were amazed that Duane, even though he was just nineteen years old and only knew about the tracheotomy procedure from one training lecture, could successfully save the rifleman’s life. One of them wrote a letter, commending Duane for his presence of mind, resourcefulness, and skill. Surgeon General Norman Kirk, Major General LeRoy Irwin of the Fifth Division, and several other Army authorities wrote of their appreciation and commendation to the young medic.

Duane continued to serve as a medic in the Army and was wounded three times. While helping others at the Battle of the Bulge, a barrage of bullets sliced his pack from his back, and one tore into him. But he survived the injury, and after the war, he attended college. He resolved not to be just a “foxhole surgeon,” with a jackknife and a fountain pen, but a first-class surgeon.

Because of his heroism and the notoriety he received in the press, Duane Kinman, the foxhole surgeon, was given a premedical scholarship from Walla Walla College in his hometown. He also received a full scholarship covering a medical education at Western Reserve University. Duane Kinman is a true American hero.

We hear the word hero a lot in our culture, but do we know what it means? Today’s culture is obsessed with superheroes. Movies and television shows about superheroes are very popular. My granddaughters can tell me all about the latest superhero movies. But superheroes are fictional. Are there any real heroes out there? Many people make heroes out of politicians, movie stars, and musicians. But what have these people done that would make them a hero? Popularity doesn’t make you a hero.

In America, we seem to have a lot of celebrities but very few heroes. Historian Daniel Boorstin compared the two this way: “Celebrities are people who make news, but heroes are people who make history. Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.” A hero is someone who does something selfless, something sacrificial. A hero is someone who puts the needs of another above their own. Most true heroes receive no accolades or adoration.

Gentle Reader, who are your heroes? Who do you look up to and want to emulate? In Psalms 16:3 (NLT), David tells us who his heroes are: “The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!” Godly people who put others first are true heroes. Look up to those heroes. You, too, can be a hero. You may never get any recognition, but helping someone else in a selfless, sacrificial way is heroic. To be a hero, follow this advice from the Apostle Paul. “Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves. None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others.” Philippians 2:3,4 (NIRV) The world needs more true heroes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Kindergarten Kindness

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 11, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The little girl with curly golden hair carefully made her way down the steep stairs the went from the kitchen to the basement. She had asked Mommy if she could go downstairs to see Grandma. She loved spending time with her Grandma and could not remember a time when Grandma didn’t live in the basement at the bottom of the stairs. When the little girl with curly golden hair stepped into the dimly lit basement, she saw Grandma sitting in a chair, sewing quilt blocks together. Grandma’s eyes lit up as she looked up and saw her granddaughter.

Setting down her sewing, Grandma said, “come here and let me pick you up.” She set the little girl on the very high bed with two mattresses. The girl loved Grandma’s bed because it was so high that she felt like a princess when she was on it. Sometimes Grandma asked the little girl to spend the night, and she looked forward to sleeping with Grandma on the very high bed with two mattresses.

Grandma got a cornhusk doll down off a shelf and let the little girl hold it if she promised to be careful. The doll’s name was Cornelius, and the little girl with curly golden hair loved to hold it. She was so proud that Grandma trusted her to hold Cornelius. Sometimes Grandma would go into the closet and bring out the old Japanese parasol. Her son, Huck, had given it to her when he came home from Japan. She would show it to the little girl, opening it up and then letting her twirl the parasol. 

Each morning, the little girl with curly golden hair would wait for Grandma to come upstairs. Before breakfast, they liked to go outside together and look at the morning glories and roses that climbed the trellis separating the lawn from the garden. Grandma would pick one rose and one morning glory to bring inside and put on the breakfast table. Some days, after breakfast, Grandma would get the big red book, Golden Treasury of Bible Stories, from the old bookcase by her bed and read to the little girl with curly golden hair. She loved snuggling on Grandma’s lap and looking at the pictures in the big red book while Grandma read.

On special days, Mommy would drive Grandma and the little girl to church, where Grandma was a part of the Dorcas Society. The Society is named after the New Testament Christian woman who “was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.” Acts 9:36 (NLT) Grandma and other women from the church would make quilts and mend clothes to give to people who needed them. The little girl with curly golden hair liked being at the Dorcas Society. 

One day Mommy drove the little girl with curly golden hair to school. It was her first day in kindergarten. As they were leaving, Grandma got a jar down from the shelf and said, “you be a good girl, and every day you are good at school, I will put a penny in the jar for you.” When they got to school, Mommy took her to the classroom and told her, “You be a good girl. I will come back and get you at lunchtime.” The little girl loved kindergarten, but she missed her Mommy and Grandma. Before long, she made many friends, but her best friend was Debi. They did everything together at school. 

Grandma was not feeling well and needed to go to the doctor. Before she went to see the doctor, Grandma told the little girl with curly golden hair, “don’t worry, I will be back soon.” But the doctor sent Grandma to the hospital. Grandma didn’t get better, and she died in the hospital. When the family told the little girl that Grandma had died and wouldn’t be coming back, the girl said, “no, she didn’t, she would have told me.” And then she added, “she said she was coming back.”

The little girl with curly golden hair didn’t understand what was happening. But she knew that she missed her Grandma. When she went back to kindergarten, everyone in her class knew that her Grandma had died. Her friend, Debi, felt unhappy that the little girl was so sad. She tried to cheer her up. 

The next day, Debi came to school with a gift for the little girl with curly golden hair. It was a book about a girl and her Grandma. The little girl loved her gift but thought, “I wish my Grandma could read my new book to me.” Debi’s kindness made the little girl feel better.

The little girl with curly golden hair was my wife. She has vivid memories of her Grandma. She still remembers the book that Debi gave her. And she still remembers how much her friend Debi’s kindness meant to her. When we are kind to someone, we never know what impact it will have on them.

Kindness is underrated. We equate it with being friendly or pleasant, as though it’s mainly about smiling, getting along, and not ruffling feathers. It seems a rather mundane virtue. But the Bible places a lot of importance on kindness. Colossians 3:12 (TPT) says, “You are always and dearly loved by God! So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness toward all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others.” Kindness is love in action. It is visible and active, not just emotional. 

Gentle Reader, many Christians believe that we must do great and mighty things to change the world. The truth is that a simple act of kindness can have a long-lasting effect. Christians should aim to have so much of Jesus’ love and kindness in them that they can’t help but share it with others. Being kind and loving others should be the natural outgrowth of living as a Christian. “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25 (NIV) So make a conscious effort today to be kind to everyone you meet. God will put someone in your path who needs to be cheered up. You may never know the positive impact of your kindness, but “let love and kindness be the motivation behind all that you do.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (TPT)

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Watering New Sod

 My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 4, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

My phone dinged, notifying me that I had a text message. I pulled the phone out of my pocket and checked my messages. The text from my wife showed photos of pallets of sod in my backyard, with workers laying the sod in nice even rows. “It’s finally happening,” I thought. “We have been waiting a long time.” 

Over a year ago, we started a renovation project in our backyard. Our house is almost thirty years old, and the deck at the back of the house had deteriorated. I decided to replace the deck with Trex composite decking. After replacing the decking, we planned to pour a cement patio below the raised composite deck. I called several concrete finishers but could not get anyone to make a bid on the project. After several months, I learned about someone who did concrete work, and I hired him to pour the slab and build steps. The job that he did was terrible. Several people who saw the finished product told me it was the worst workmanship they had ever seen. I was devastated. What was I going to do now?

I called a local home builder who is a customer of mine and asked him if he knew of a good concrete finisher. He gave me the name of the man that he used. When I called Sam, he made an appointment to look at the concrete. When he looked at my terrible patio job, he told me that the only thing he could do was cap the entire slab with another four inches of reinforced concrete.

Sam gave me a bid for the job, and I told him that I wanted him to do it. He told me that he would put me on the schedule, but it would be months before he could get to it. Just in time for Easter, I had an attractive professional concrete patio. It had taken a year, but I was excited and happy to have my project almost finished. There was just one more thing that I needed to do to make it complete. Because I had capped the bad concrete with four more inches, I now had an eight-inch drop-off. I needed to bring in topsoil and raise the level of my backyard.

If we were going to do dirt work in my backyard, we would need to plant grass. We decided to sod our backyard. But this spring was very rainy. I was ready for the backyard renovation project to be finished. But it was too wet to bring in topsoil, and it was too wet to cut sod. I would have to wait. Every couple of weeks, my wife would check in with Kathy to find out when we might get sod. And every time we thought it would happen soon, we would have heavy rainfall that would delay the project. 

Last week, Kathy told us that within a week, we would have new sod. A couple of days later, I looked nervously at the sky as it started to rain. Before long, the summer heat gave way to torrents of rain. “Oh no,” I thought. “Our sod project may be delayed again.” Thunder rolled, and lightning flashed. One clap of thunder was so loud that it made me jump. My phone and internet service went down. But after fifteen minutes, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and my shop became a sweltering sauna. 

I wasn’t sure if there had been enough rain to delay our sod project. I hoped that we were still on schedule. So, I was thrilled and excited when my wife texted photos of the sod in my backyard. I had been envisioning my beautiful new deck, patio, and lawn for over a year. It was finally happening. 

Once the sod was laid, it needed to be watered. According to the website, Sodlawn, “Watering new sod is an essential step in the process of establishing your lawn. Do not allow the sod to dry out. Most issues we see in the first 14 days are due to the fresh sod not getting enough moisture to keep the sod alive!” The moment the last strip of sod was laid, we started watering. We wanted what was best for the sod. We had waited too long and spent too much money to let anything happen to the sod.

In Isaiah 44:3,4 (GNT), God says, “I will pour out my spirit on your children and my blessing on your descendants. They will thrive like well-watered grass, like willows by streams of running water.” The Bible often uses the imagery of rain and water to describe how God benefits our lives. “I will send victory from the sky like rain; the earth will open to receive it and will blossom with freedom and justice. I, the Lord, will make this happen.” Isaiah 45:8 (GNT)

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to his teaching as life-giving water. In John 4:14 (NLT), he says, “those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” And in John 7:38 (NCV), Jesus taught, “If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart.” Christians who believe in Jesus will share this life-giving water. It will flow from their heart. And our access to living water will also extend to heaven. “They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.” Revelation 7:16,17 (NLT)

Gentle Reader, I hope that you are being watered with the life-giving water that Jesus offers to you. In Isaiah 27:3 (TPT), God describes his people as a vineyard. “I, the Lord, watch over my vineyard of delight. Moment by moment, I water it in love and protect it day and night.” I love this imagery. We are God’s delight. He waters us with His love every moment and protects us day and night. He desires to make each vine in the vineyard the best it can be. So, he tends to the vines and waters them. I am watering my new sod because I want it to thrive. God wants you to thrive, and he has promised to water and protect you. “The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Isaiah 58:11 (NLT)