Near Tragedy in the Fast Lane (Oct – 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

by Joy McMillon
October, 1992

6Like millions of other couples, John and Annette Poore were used to living life in the fast lane. Both of them loved their work. John was the minister at the Northwest Church of Christ in Tampa, and deeply involved in every area of Christian ministry.

Annette, like 60% of American women, was performing a juggling act, trying to balance a career, be a wife and mother, and serve as family cabbie.

Then one day it happened. The couple in the fast lane hit a speed bump. An artery ruptured behind Annette’s right eye, and doctors braced her family for the worst. Her husband and their 13-year-old son, Byron, were told she might not recover. If she did, she could be a very different person from the vivacious wife and mother they loved. The operation needed to repair her damaged artery was both long and delicate.

A year later, Annette is herself again. Not only is she teaching, she was named Teacher of the Year at Florida College Academy.

“Every day is precious to me. I try to live one day at a time now,” said Annette.

Her positive attitude carries over to her students at Florida College Academy, where she has taught third grade for eight years, said Buddy Payne, vice president of the Temple Terrace school.

“She doesn’t allow her kids to say, ‘I can’t.’ She doesn’t accept less than the best from her students, and they produce it for her,” Payne said.

When Annette felt the excruciating pains in her head and neck on February 21, 1991, she suspected they were probably stress-related. Active at school and at the Northwest church, she was on the road one to two weekends a month promoting her craft business. Following the usual 11-hour school day, she would rush home to work on craft projects which frequently kept her up until 1:00 a.m.

“I had too much going at one time. I guess I was driven,” she says.

As the pain worsened that morning, she left school and drove to the emergency room at University Community Hospital. An arteriogram revealed she had a burst blood vessel behind her eye and under the optic nerve. Doctors diagnosed her problem as an aneurysm, a blood-filled sac formed by the enlargement of a weakened artery wall.

“The doctors didn’t give my husband any hope that I’d come out all right. Most people die from this,” she said.

Annette doesn’t remember the 11-1/2 hour long surgery or the 115 people praying in the waiting rooms. After her coma, which lasted five days, she mostly remembers the shock of seeing her shaved head, the 600 get well cards, and her determination to recover fully.

“People in 10 states were praying for us. We’ve had tremendous support from friends, church and family,” said her husband, John, 44.

Doctors gave her a 75% chance of survival and a lower chance of full recovery after the risky surgery. Also looming on the horizon was the possibility of her blindness or paralysis.

“She faced 100-to-1 odds of recovering as nicely as she did. It was more in God’s hands than the doctors’,” said Al kaspar, the physician who coordinated Poore’s rehabilitation program.

Following the surgery, Annette was transferred to Tampa General Hospital for recovery and physical therapy on her temporarily paralyzed left wrist and ankle.

But the feisty 47-year-old was so determined to walk out of the hospital that one night, against physicians’ orders, she slid out of her wheelchair and tried to walk across the room. She fell flat on the floor.

“They were so upset that they put me in a straight jacket,” laughed the Martin, Tennessee native.

“There was never any doubt in her mind she wouldn’t get well. But what surprised me was her speed of recovery. The doctors said she’d be walking with a cane in six weeks, but in six weeks she was running,” said John.

“They told us it would be at least 18 months to two years before she could teach again. In six months she was teaching.”

Despite her successful progress, more stressful times hit the family as everyone had to adjust to Annette’s condition when she returned home. Relatives and friends prepared family meals and took her to daily therapy sessions for several weeks. john had to take over the family finances, and Byron had to deal with a strained and somewhat chaotic home schedule, said Annette.

And the stress of the past year seems to be taking its toll on John, who candidly admits to feelings of depression while the family was groping its way through their ordeal. he also suffered a serious blood pressure episode in July that has left him feeling exhausted.

“I guess stress and depression affect all of us differently,” said John There were peaks as well as valleys in her recovery, times when it was very difficult, such as the day he rode in an ambulance with her to the second hospital where she would receive therapy.

“It was only a simple 20-minute ride, but I had never put my wife in an ambulance before,” said John. “When you are going through the early grieving period, time sort of stands still. You lose track of nearly everything.”

John said he retrets not realizing how much their son was impacted by the family’s struggles. “I just didn’t have the presence of mind to know all he was dealing with then, because I was trying to cope with everything that was happening.”

But friends of the couple say much has changed for the Poores. Even though he hasn’t consciously changed his preaching style, church members tell him that he preaches with “more conviction and emotion,” said John. The family’s suffering has also been a great teacher in many respects, he claims.

“I’ve learned that you don’t have to experience a death to have a loss. So many times people around us are grieving, and we aren’t even aware of it. We aren’t as sensitive as we should be to each other’s wounds and losses,” said John.

Today, both Annette and John have exited from the fast-lane living. They’re trying for a more balanced life, which means a careful juggling of labor and leisure, relationships and reflection. Annette exercises regularly, has dropped her craft business, and spends more quality time with her family.

Annette finds more time in the quiet parking spaces of life where she can contemplate, read, pray, or just sit. Though the pressures are still there, filling every day, she refuses to be stampeded by them. “I make lists and concentrate on what is important for tat day and that day only.”

Mainly, she attributes her recovery to the Lord’s prayer. “I know one thing: God is so good. he brought me back, and he didn’t have to. I have a lot to be thankful for and a testimony to give that might help someone else,” she said.

The Poores keep a fully-decorated Christmas tree in their living room all year. “We tell people, ‘Every day that we’re healthy and happy, it’s Christmas.’ “Wineskins Magazine

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1583 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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