The highway patrol officer brought his cruiser to a wrenching halt in front of the Virginia Beach Hospital. He opened his door and rushed around to the passenger side. He opened the door and grabbed my arm.
“Sir,” I said, “please don’t dislodge the angel sitting on my shoulder.”
He looked at me as if I were drunk. He had been on the radio with my company doctor in Indianapolis, so he knew the situation.
“Officer,” a member of the hospital staff said, “we have him. He is going to need all the angels he can stack on his shoulders to get through this ordeal.”
As they were wheeling me into the hospital, I remembered many incidences that had occurred throughout my life. It occurred to me that life is held together by a thin thread. When that thread is broken, life as we know it no longer exists.
It started as a normal day in 1970 as I drove down the Delmarva Peninsula to southern Delaware. What a beautiful day the Lord has made, I thought. I was on my way to collect data on an experiment I had established on a farmer’s potato farm for Lilly Research Laboratories with whom I had taken a job. This was my first assignment after receiving my doctorate. My mission was to conduct efficacy under field conditions on experimental compounds made by our organic chemists. I would lease about an acre from a prominent farmer within her production area to conduct the efficacy test. This would be analogous to a medical doctor conducting a phase three clinical test to determine the efficacy of a compound for medicinal use.
I called the farmer and told her that I was going to be on her farm, and asked what the latest practice was she had conducted on that field. She stated that she had not done anything to that field in the past ten days. She had sprayed the rest of her potatoes with an insecticide, but she had not sprayed the field where I had my experiment.
I parked my car near the experimental site and unpacked my equipment to begin collecting data. After a short period of time I began to feel nauseated. I went to the car, pulled out the emergency atropine kit, and read the symptoms of organic phosphate poisoning. I knew the symptoms, but I wanted to be sure.
“God Almighty help me,” I shouted out loud, “I have been poisoned!”
I drove to my hotel and checked into my room. I disrobed and stepped into the shower, I thought that I could possibly wash off some of the devastating substance that had absorbed into my skin. But I had to be sure. The owner had stated that she had not sprayed that field.
I changed into fresh clothes and began to dial the grower’s phone number. Why doesn’t she answer the phone? I thought.
Finally, she answered. “Hello?”
“Hello,” I said, “this is Dr. Arnold. I must know for sure if you treated that potato field where I have my experiment.”
“I told you that I did not treat that field but I will call my foreman and make sure. What is your number and I will call you back.”
I gave her the number and again stressed how important it was to know immediately about treating that field with an insecticide. I hung up the phone and could feel the progression of the organic phosphate poison symptoms that were printed on the emergency kit.
Sitting in that hotel room waiting for her to call felt like an eternity. I wondered if I was overreacting. Was I overly concerned about my symptoms? A doctor diagnosing his own symptoms is dangerous. I thought about Jesus’ prayers while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked God to release Him from the destiny that awaited Him. He then finished with the words that if it is God’s will then it shall be done. I thought that if it is written in the stars for Jesus to carry out His mission, dictated by God as written by the prophets, even Jesus’ death, what does that say for us today?
Is our destiny predetermined? Do we have a choice to determine our own destiny within the bounds that are predetermined? If that be the case, where do I stand tonight? If the answer comes from the owner that yes, the field was treated, do I give myself a shot of another poison to counteract the poison to which I was exposed? I have never given myself a shot. The atropine was to be injected into muscle tissue. What if I hit a vein? With all the training I had been given, this area had never been discussed. I waited for the phone call. I thought about the lady who went to Jesus and asked for a miracle. In the Gospel of Mark, Mark wrote that the Greek Phoenician woman was gentile and asked Jesus to cleanse her daughter of the devil. Jesus looked at her and said God’s children would be the first to be filled. He would not take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs (gentiles). She said the dogs under the table would eat the children’s crumbs. Jesus told her that her daughter was healed because of her faith. Jesus had given her a miracle because of her faith. If I as a gentile (one of Jesus’ dogs) asked for a miracle, would He give me the same consideration?
The phone rang. I answered timely. “Hello.”
“Dr. Arnold, I spoke with my foreman,” she paused, “he sprayed the field that I had requested him to spray. He had some material left over and he treated the field where you have the experiments. I am so sorry, he didn’t tell me.”
“When did he spray the field?” I asked.
“He sprayed the field with an organic phosphate just after lunch,” she paused. “Is there a problem?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “I have a major problem. I have been poisoned!”
I remembered the sermon that was preached the previous Sunday. The preacher was talking about pressure. He referred to the letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and talked about the persecution of the Christians. He emphasized how God would take care of you if you just had, and kept, your faith. I thought, what is pressure? Yes, the Thessalonians were killed and threatened to be killed by the people who were trying to destroy their faith. What was the difference between pressure of that time and today’s time? I knew that this insecticide was extremely deadly and fast acting. After all, this was the type of gas used to asphyxiate the Jews by the Germans during World War II. This was a product produced by a German company.
Keep the faith, I reminded myself. I thought about a statement my brother Eugene liked to say when we were growing up. He said, “God helps those who help themselves.” Okay, calm down, I told myself. I was thinking about my atropine kit. I could give myself a shot of atropine and that was supposed to counteract the effects of the organic phosphate. I have never given myself a shot. I needed to gather more information. I picked up the phone to call the company doctor in Indianapolis.
Dr. Kirkpatrick answered on the first ring.
“Dr. Kirkpatrick, this is Wendell Arnold in Delaware.”
He interrupted, “Dr. Arnold, this is an emergency number. What is the problem?”
“Well,” I started,
“Spit it out!” he shouted.
“I have been exposed to an organic phosphate,” I blurted out. “Do I need to give myself a shot of atropine?”
“How do you know you have organic phosphate poisoning?” he asked.
“I walked into a field that had been treated just before I arrived. I have all the symptoms,” I stated. I left out the fact that I had taken off my shirt to get a suntan. How dumb.
“No, don’t give yourself a shot. Get in your car and drive to the first pharmacy you see and call me. Take down the phone number.”
“I have the phone number,” I interrupted.
“Listen, Dr. Arnold. Do exactly what I tell you,” he said with authority. “Write down my name and number, and say on your note ‘please call’. You understand?”
“Okay, but why?” I asked.
“If you pass out before we get this settled,” he said, “I need someone to give me a call.” That did not relieve my concern. I knew that he and I were working against time, as I could feel the effects of the poison’s progression.
I took out a piece of paper and wrote I have been accidentally poisoned with an organic phosphate. If you find this note on me, please call Dr. Kirkpatrick at 317-555-6365. I wrote the note I was told and pinned it to my shirt pocket and rushed to my car. I started driving toward downtown.
I stopped at the first pharmacy and rushed to the back of the store where I saw a pharmacy sign. A man asked what my hurry was, and I replied I needed his help. I asked him to call Dr. Kirkpatrick immediately. He picked up the phone and dialed. I didn’t overhear the conversation, but shortly the pharmacist handed the phone to me.
It was Dr. Kirkpatrick. “Dr. Arnold, listen very carefully and do exactly as I say. I am going to give you an atropine tablet to dissolve under your tongue. When you get this done, call the hospital and get admitted. You can use the phone or anything you need from the pharmacist. He understands and will be compensated,” Dr. Kirkpatrick said.
The pharmacist came with the medicine and I stuck the pill under my tongue. When I turned around he had the local hospital administrator on the phone.
“Can I help you?” came the voice on the other end.
“Yes,” I answered, “I have been exposed to an organic phosphate and I need to be under a doctor’s supervision for the night.”
“I have three points to tell you. Number one, I have never heard of such a thing,” he stated. “Number two we don’t have a doctor on hand. Third, we don’t even have any rooms available. You would have to sleep in the hall. I suggest that you go back home or where ever you are staying and sleep it off.”
“Look, you would let a person die before you would even admit a person in your hospital? Even though you have never heard of organic phosphate poisoning surely you can call a doctor on your staff who has heard of cases!”
“I told you that I will have to put you in the hall and nurses will have to walk around you and look at you as a drunk. I still suggest that you go to your hotel and sleep it off. You even sound over the phone like you are drunk.”
I finally realized that it was useless to discuss a crucial medical emergency with someone of that limited knowledge. I knew it would be risky but taking the Bay Bridge to Virginia Beach was my only option.
I turned to the pharmacist and asked, “How far to the Virginia Beach Hospital?”
He stammered, “About 30 miles I suppose.”
I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw him shaking. I wondered at the time if it was that he just witnessed me taking one poison to counteract another poison, but I didn’t have time to discuss such matters. I knew that I was already pushing the time envelope. I was on borrowed time.
I left the pharmacist and headed for the Bay Bridge. I asked the attendant taking tolls if they had an ambulance to take me to the Virginia Beach hospital.
“No,” he stated, “we would have to request one from Virginia Beach. You can drive there in half the time it would take us to get an ambulance over here.”
I paid my money and continued to the Bay Bridge. I knew that a portion of the bridge was over the water, and then another portion of the bridge would be a tunnel under the water. I wondered what would happen if I blacked out while driving. If I wrecked, how long before help would arrive? All the answers that I could come up with did not present a desirable outcome. I should have called Dr. Kirkpatrick back, but I didn’t. I was on my own.
The first tunnel entrance was just ahead. I told myself, you don’t want to black out in that tunnel. The way I was drifting in and out of consciousness told me that I didn’t have much choice about what was going to happen. I tried to sing to stay awake.
I started into the tunnel and saw a light to my left. I slammed on the brakes and took the side road that lead to a guardhouse. I came to a screeching halt and a guard with a drawn gun came up to the car. I opened the door and told him I was very ill. I asked if he could get me the highway patrol.
“He’s already coming,” he stated without lowering his gun.
“I need help,” I was able to say. “I need him to take me to the Virginia Beach Hospital.”
“What?” he shouted. I pointed to the note I had written. As he took the note, another car came darting onto the runway with his lights shining on us. The highway patrolman stepped out of his car and the guard handed him my note.
“Get in my car,” the patrolman told me. Fortunately the patrolman had the sense to understand the dire situation, which had quickly become a matter of life or death.
“Yes sir,” I stated. I thought as he sped onto the highway, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened, ask and you shall receive. I surely had done all three this afternoon.
I must have dozed off in the police car. I heard Dr. Kirkpatrick coming through the police car’s speaker phone. “Don’t let him go to sleep,” he said.
The patrolman answered, “He is not responding to my conversation. I have the speaker phone on so you need to see if you can get a response. Maybe he will recognize your voice.”
“Dr. Arnold, this is Dr. Kirkpatrick in Indianapolis. Are you with me? Dr. Arnold, answer me.” Dr. Kirkpatrick was yelling.
“Yes, I hear you. We don’t need a phone with you yelling so loud.”
“Why didn’t you call me before you left the pharmacy?” he shouted.
“Oh. I talked to you, ah back there. Dis situation is serious. I didn’t believe you could be of help in that situation,” I muttered realizing that I wasn’t making any sense even to myself.
“Okay, that’s done,” he said calmly, “here’s the plan. The officer is going to take you to the Virginia Beach Hospital. I have made all the arrangements with the hospital staff. They will have all the procedures ready to take care of you.”
I interrupted, “What do you mean, procedures to take care of me?”
There was a pause as if he was trying to decide what to tell me. He might have been trying to decide whether or not to alarm me further.
“Well,” he stated, “there is a slight chance that your heart will stop and the doctor will be able to restart the heart beat. I have been in touch with the company in Germany that makes the product. We know what to do in this situation.”
“Okay. God,” I was able to say. “I am not ready to die. I have got to call my wife. What about my boys? That is your area of expertise Doc. Can I trust you to do whatever is necessary to save my life?”
“Just stay with me. If we get you to the hospital while you are still breathing, you will pull through. We have all the life supports set up. Your friend at the wheel is hauling butt. Just stay with us and keep talking to us.” He sounded relieved, but as silence set in, he appeared to have another concern.
Dr. Kirkpatrick asked the patrolman, “Has he done anything strange? Is he choking?”
“No,” the officer replied, “he is not choking. The only strange thing to me is that he has taken the palm of his hand and slapped his forehead a couple of times.”
“Maybe he is trying to stay awake,” Doc replied. “He knows not to fall asleep.”
“Wendell,” the doc started out, “are you by chance wearing a watch?”
It struck me odd that he started addressing me on a first name basis. “Yes, I have a watch on,” I muttered, “but why do you need to know that?”
“Well, I have a problem,” he replied, “my watch has stopped and I need to know the time.”
I must not have sounded coherent. “I can’t see the dial,” I stated.
“Well focus. Concentrate on looking at the dial,” he said.
“Why do you have to know the time?” I asked.
“I have to eat on a regular basis,” he said. “According to my stomach it has been a long time since I have eaten. When was the last time you ate?”
“Will you turn on the light so I can see my watch?” I asked the patrolman.
“No, don’t do that!” Doc shouted. “You can look at it the next time you pass a street light. Let me know, when was the last time you ate? Was it an hour ago?”
“I don’t know,” I responded.
“Come on. I need an answer,” he said.
I didn’t respond. So he shouted, “Dr. Arnold, are you going to answer my question?” He sounded agitated.
“I can barely hear you,” I answered. “The sirens are making so much noise. I see another patrol car in front of us and he has his siren going,” I remember saying as we slid to a halt.
I am here, I told myself as the staff laid me out on the stretcher. Time to catch a snooze. What a crock. Doc will have to figure out his own time to eat. His words still ringing in my ears, don’t let him fall asleep. I knew that he was afraid of me going into a coma. I can’t go to sleep. What is Carolyn doing? The warning on the medical cheat sheet stated that going into a coma might be the prelude to death. I don’t want to die!
This ordeal reminded me of a conversation I had with a chaplain and discussing his duties in the hospitals to which he was assigned. The chaplain started talking about giving solace and how differently people react. I asked him how he would handle people who were in a coma. He stated that he had talked with several people who had been in a coma and nearly all the people who recovered told him that they could hear everything that was said. They just couldn’t respond. The main thing was to keep people from going into the coma but I was so very sleepy. Just close your eyes and take a break, I told myself. No. I saw Carolyn’s face – No honey, don’t go to sleep. Don’t go to sleep. Don’t leave me. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.
I was fading fast. I could hear voices. One voice said, “Wheel him into the emergency room, if his heart stops we want to be prepared for open heart surgery.”
What have I gotten myself into? When I reached that fork in the path of choosing my life’s work what if I had taken a different path? I began dreaming about my life and that career path starting from adolescence and then I heard my Mother’s voice telling me I had to stay awake. As the poison started working through my system, I slipped into a dream state recalling my childhood.
So, my friends… like what you read? Well the story gets incredibly good, and it’s hard to believe it’s not fiction! This book WILL WOW you, so go get your signed copy now! Go to wendellarnold.com, click on “Wendell’s Market Place”, then “Buy Now!”
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