All I can do is pray. We hear those words often from concerned friends and neighbors as they offer support for whatever troubles may be overcoming us at the moment. But the truth is, this statement makes the grand privilege of asking for divine intervention seem a small thing when actually, it is the greatest thing we could do for someone. Yes, all we can do is pray, but what greater thing could we do?
It was a couple of weeks back when a handful of staff members and I went to Nashville to the Tennessee Press Association awards luncheon. We had decided to make it a day trip, going down early and coming back late. Staff member Anthony Piercy, who has been extremely active in the American Cancer Society and the Relay For Life, said he felt we should visit Mike Clouse, who was in the hospital there. It seemed his cancer was back.
Until recently, I didnt know Mike or his family. I knew we had placed photos in The Erwin Record from the local Relay For Life, where Mike walked courageously as a survivor. We had a photo of him with his son, Max, who along with his ball team, presented a signed baseball to his dad. I helped put together photos in the newspaper for an event in Flag Pond that had raised money for the familys expenses. But although their faces looked familiar, I am not sure I had ever met them personally.
My thoughts went to this family that I hardly knew in a big city, hours from home, in a big hospital, with thousands of patients where you are one more number, waiting day after day for a doctor to come in with a word of encouragement.
As we walked through the door, his wife Amys face lit up at just the sight of someone from home. She had already faced weeks of anguish in waiting and worrying and staying by Mikes bedside. Just the happiness that our visit brought was already worth the entire trip to Nashville, regardless of any award.
She came to greet us and then to Mikes bedside to share news of our visit with him. But, by this point in his sickness, Mike wasnt responding. He stared straight up as he lay in his regulatory hospital bed, with arms crossed on his chest and fists clenched. The tubes hanging by his bed provided fluid to his body.
But, the fact that Mike didnt greet us with the same cheerfulness she did didnt stop Amy from continuing to share the good news with him and encouraging him to respond. I guess it is just the nature of loved ones, hoping for the best outcome, watching for a sign of improvement and wanting to keep the spirits of the sick on a positive note.
Look who came all this way to see you Mike, she said, while leaning down close to her husband. Can you say Hi,? she asked him as she rubbed on his hands and arms. Mike showed no sign of talking but only moaned as if trying to communicate something to those standing by.
She told us of his condition and how it had continued to decline from the time of Relay For Life held weeks ago. A time chart on his hospital wall told the story in vivid photos with captions underneath. The digression was clear and quick. He had gone from being alert to hardly responding to not responding at all.
The good news was that the doctors had found out it wasnt cancer this time. The bad news was they didnt know what it was. Test after test had ruled out options, while Mike was growing weaker all the time. One doctor was now wanting a brain scan and another was saying Mike wasnt up to it. Amy didnt know who to believe.
While we were there, her brother, Joshua Tipton, came in. He had been next door to Vanderbilt hospital to see if there was a chance of having Mike moved there. The family wanted him somewhere that dealt with all issues since cancer had been ruled out as the culprit. Joshua was encouraged by the staff at Vanderbilt, compared to the physicians who had exhausted all ideas at the present facility.
As those in the room talked, staff member Rebekah Harris
sat at the foot of Mikes bed and I
continued to stand nearby, where I had been since we entered the room. I had held back tears throughout the visit and had a hard knot in my throat from doing so. I just couldnt start crying. For one, I hardly knew this family and secondly, they were so positive in their attitude for Mikes sake.
It was then that I turned from listening to Amy and her brother talk on the far end of the room back to Mike in his hospital bed. Now, at his bedside were fellow employees Brenda Sparks and Michael Baker, standing with their backs to the family. As they faced Mike, Brenda rubbed his arm. Michael held Brendas other hand as the two of them quietly wept. Big tears streamed down their faces and I turned to wipe those swelling in my eyes, as well.
We soon said our goodbyes, told them they would be in our prayers and left feeling helpless. But helpless isnt helpless when you have prayer and prayer is something they are getting plenty of.
A link was recently established on Facebook entitled Praying now fervently for Mike Clouse. Those going to the link, on the popular Internet site can add their name to the growing list. I recently added my name among the many there. The site designates that anywhere you are and anytime of the day you can offer up a prayer on behalf of this man and his family. Posted on the site are many comments from friends and loved ones showing support. There is also an update from time to time on Mike and his condition.
Through the Facebook site I learned that Mike has now been moved to Vanderbilt and that he has shown some slight improvement. A prayer request for him was mentioned at my church Sunday, as I am sure happened at many more across the county. My heart goes out to this family. I cant imagine their level of exhaustion, their anxiety in watching a loved one weaken, but most of all, with no clue of the cause and struggling to find someone to help.
As onlookers, we feel so helpless for them, watching the clock tick away. But I am reminded that One greater than all of us is always right on time. Whether you join the Facebook site or not, join me and The Erwin Record staff as we too pray fervently for Mike Clouse.
-Keith Whitson, Publisher