1963 – When I Nearly Died – A Healing Story

Beverly Hills Baptist Church, Dallas, TX

As a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1962-65), I was one of many students who went to school full-time and served a church in the area in a part-time capacity, usually for long weekends with no classes on Mondays. In my case I was the part-time Junior & Youth Director of the Beverly Hills Baptist Church in Dallas, driving sometimes several days a week between Dallas and Fort Worth. I could not afford the turnpike between the cities and thus drove the “old highway” through Arlington and Grand Prairie, totally an urban commercial strip.

This particular Thursday night I had driven to Dallas to conduct an Associational Royal Ambassador Leadership Conference at my church which was already known for my quality RA program. It was about 10pm or later when I headed back to Fort Worth to sleep a little before Friday morning classes. I stopped in Grand Prairie (closest to Dallas) for a hamburger and kept driving down the busy commercial highway. It was in front of one of the bars or nightclubs that a drunk guy came out of a parking lot at a high rate of speed on the wrong side of the highway slamming head on into my little tiny Metropolitan car. I remember nothing of the crash, but later learned that I stiffened my grip on the steering wheel and with the crash force I broke the steering wheel off the steering column slamming my head into the column.

3 Shots of the two wrecked cars:

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The Grand Prairie Ambulance took me to the Grand Prairie Hospital first and after the doctors looked at me they told the ambulance to take me on to Dallas Methodist Hospital, I needed more help than they could provide.

At Methodist they immediately performed a tracheotomy on me since I was inhaling blood and thus “inhalation pneumonia” and not breathing well. My jaw was broken in three places plus a collar bone and rib broken, but breathing was the first problem to solve (triage?).

Then they called in specialists to repair the broken jaw using metal pins and wiring my jaws together. Later a soda straw would fit through the gap of a missing tooth and that was how I ate for at least 6 weeks after out of the hospital.

But I was unconscious for nearly a full week in intensive care. By Friday or Saturday the doctors told “Brother Howard” Conatser, pastor at Beverly Hills that the respirator was all that kept me alive and to be honest they did not see how I could make it through the weekend. The pastor called my parents who drove from Arkansas to Dallas to be with me as I was dying and the church hosted them for maybe a week or more, not sure, but Mom stayed until I was out of the hospital.

On Sunday morning of that weekend as the worship service began, Brother Howard came to the pulpit and told the congregation what had happened and what the doctors said about me not breathing except on the machine.

He then said that there is a time for preaching, a time for singing, and a time for praying and he believed that this was a time for praying. He read one prayer promise from the Bible and asked a believing deacon to pray first for the drunk man that hit me (and who by the way was not injured, but went straight to jail). After that prayer, he read another prayer promise and asked another deacon who believed it to pray for the doctors. Then a third prayer promise and a deacon to pray for Charlie. I understand that it was an emotional service and believe to this day that it may have been the time that Brother Howard starting moving toward becoming a charismatic church – but do not know this for sure.

That afternoon the doctors said they saw the first signs of my lungs working again and by that night I was off the continuous use of the respirator! PTL! The church was ecstatic and prayer became more important that day!

I vaguely remember waking up in Intensive Care and asking where I was and what happened, but asking by writing a note. Mom saved most of not all of my notes and the funny one was “Help! They are sucking my insides out. It hurts!” It referred to the necessary maintenance of a tracheotomy with a suction hose to remove the buildup of phlegm, saliva, and other liquid to avoid pneumonia which I already had. It hurt! I slowly learned about what had happened (remembering nothing) and after they moved me to a hospital room I even had visitors before I was sent home to Arkansas to be cared for by my Mom. I think she stayed with me all the way until Dad came for us and took us back to Arkansas, I think either Texarkana or Camden. And I believe it was for at least 6 weeks. The doc told her I could have anything to eat that I could suck through a soda straw as long as every day include X amount of milk and 2 eggs. (Yes, raw is the only way to get to eggs through a straw!) Think eggnog without the alcohol! Of course there were soups, fruit juices, Jello made runny, melted ice cream, etc. I survived.

I think I had to go back to Dallas to have the jaw unwired. Then he moved me from soft foods to regular foods pretty quickly. I got a small rental house near the church and made up for the lost time by working full-time at church the rest of that year at least and later commuted to school from Dallas I think or may have gone back to the dorm until I finished, don’t remember now.

Anyway, I continued as part-time youth minister at Beverly Hills until I graduated in May 1965 and went to Miami as the full-time Youth Minister at Miami Springs Baptist Church. There are more exciting stories at Beverly Hills that I may eventually tell here like many camping trips, including camping at the National RA Congress in Washington, DC and a camping trip to Glorieta, NM and California with a group of teen boys. But the infamous car wreck was always what many people remembered about me at Beverly Hills Dallas and even at the seminary! One of my significant Life Stories!

See my 1962-1963 Scrapbook for more photos, the funny notes I wrote when I couldn’t talk & on the respirator, and the many wonderful letters and cards friends and family wrote.

When and Why I Quit Telling this Story

It was possibly in late 1964 or in 1965 before I graduated that I was telling this story at an Associational Youth Rally (like I had shared it on other occasions). Afterwards as the crowds dissipated an adult woman came up to me and thanked me for my testimony. Then she told me that her son was in a similar car wreck and that their church prayed the same way my church prayed and yet her son died and I lived. Why? I was too young and immature to handle a question like that and was mostly speechless as I remember, which was best. If I said anything it was probably how sorry I was for her loss and that I did not understand why things like this happen.

But I was afraid to share this story of healing ever again and the few times I did it was with more humility and maybe with something about how I do not understand how God works and some people seem to experience miracles and others seem to never have their prayers answered. It’s a question for God. And I guess that is all I can say to you if you experienced the disappointment this woman shared with me. I trust my sharing the story here will not shatter or weaken your faith in God! And I pray for His Spirit to work in you for healing. After hesitating, I felt I should share this story here as one of my Life Stories. One I don’t fully understand, but in heaven I will!