This is reprinted from “The Forward” September 2013.
Imagine waking up in an ambulance, with no awareness of what has happened or where your family is. While the paramedic assures you there is a machine helping you breathe, you feel like you are slowly suffocating. Panic and fear are rapidly mounting. Finally, someone attaches an oxygen bag to the apparatus in your throat and begins to pump air into your lungs. As you begin to slide back into a medically induced sedation, unanswered questions swirl through your mind.
This is where Tim Dyer, a longtime member of St. Francis, Youngsville, and a postulant in the ordination process, found himself in early 2013 after a series of hospitalizations stemming from a car accident. In November of 2012, a deer was hit by an oncoming car and thrown through the windshield of Tim’s truck as he was driving to work. His jaw and right arm were broken and the ligaments in his right wrist were torn. He was told he was lucky; with the manner in which his jaw was broken, it usually would have entered the brain, resulting in death. As it was, Tim was hospitalized and endured multiple surgeries before being released.
Less than a week later, he was re-admitted after contracting a blood infection and pneumonia and placed in a medically induced coma. While in the coma, he was placed on dialysis; had multiple blood transfusions; and underwent surgery to take out the wiring in his repaired jaw, as well as the pacemaker and defibrillator he had due to a pre-existing heart condition, after they were affected by the infection. At Christmas, doctors asked Tim’s wife, Noreen, and his parents if they were prepared for his death. The doctors gave him a 20% chance of survival and, if
he survived, they were concerned his mental capacity would be seriously diminished after his prolonged sedation.
God had other plans. After six weeks, Tim was taken off the respirator and transferred to a rehab facility. It was during this transfer that Tim woke up in the ambulance, having no recollection of his collapse or subsequent hospitalization. He said that fear gripped him then, but it was nothing like the fear that was to come.
As he came out of his sedated state, Tim was unable to feel a connection to God due to the effect of the drugs on his mind. The fear that filled him because of this was new and overwhelming. “Since hearing a call [to ordained ministry], I have felt a strong inner peace,” he stated, “Now, the inner peace was gone; I felt no sense of God at all.” He couldn’t even look to the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer to help him, as he couldn’t focus long enough to read them.
“My family is this diocese. Without their prayers, I would not have made it through.”
He could, however, look to the people of this diocese. Clergy and laypeople from a number of congregations visited Tim, bringing him communion and praying with him. “I lacked a sense of spirituality and they reinforced that sense for me.” And it wasn’t just those in the diocese he was close to that were coming alongside him in his time of need: “People all over the diocese, who didn’t even know me, were praying for me,” Tim said, recounting a phone call with one of our congregation’s secretaries, when she exclaimed, “You’re the Tim we’ve been praying for!” He said it was humbling to have that many people come together for him, but came to understand that support “defines what the Christian family is.”
Strengthened by the prayers and encouragement, Tim was released from the rehab facility in the spring of 2013. While he continues to undergo surgeries and physical therapy, Tim is making progress physically (a recent victory was being able to tie his shoes on his own) and spiritually. His connection to God and the inner peace that comes with it has returned. Tim also has realized the importance of acknowledging gifts from God “on good days, but more importantly, on bad days. The more that we recognize the gifts and works around us, we develop a deeper relationship with God.” He has also realized the importance of Christian community: “My family is this diocese. Without their prayers, I would not have made it through. When I was at my weakest, they were there to give me strength. It’s what family does for each other.”