How It All Started

by Katie Shockley

In December of 2011, my husband and I both knew my father-in-law Ray was sick. He had told us he had a bad cold. As the month passed, we could hear over the phone that he didn’t feel well and that he sounded congested. We found out later that he was not giving us the entire story. 

He agreed to cat-sit for us while we went to visit my family for Christmas. Before we left, we could tell he had been sick for awhile, but really couldn’t tell just how bad off he was. When we returned and picked up the cat, we knew something was really wrong. But, how do you convince an 82 year old man who has not seen a doctor in over 30 years that he needs to be seen by someone?


We pestered him for two weeks that he needed to be seen by a doctor. We tried all sorts of tactics. My husband finally convinced him at least to go to the Minute Clinic at the local CVS. It was the least like a doctor’s office we could think of. The nurse practitioner referred him to an urgent clinic. I am surprised he agreed to go to a second place, but he did, where he was diagnosed with bronchitis. I knew immediately that the diagnosis was insufficient. He failed to detail his most extreme symptoms to the doc-in-the-box.


We checked back with him on Sunday that weekend. He voice was incredibly weak and his speech was slurred. I saw the panic on my husband’s face. We convinced Ray that I could take him the next day to a doctor, since I had the day off from work. We also convinced him to spend Sunday night with us because it would be more convenient for me. In reality, we wanted to see for ourselves live, not over the phone, what was going on. Sure enough, he had kept the worst of his symptoms from us.


I’ll say this – sheets, comforter, bed skirt, towels, and pillows had to be laundered and the carpets had to be cleaned after that night.


It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2012. If I didn’t have the day off from work, the following scenario would not have played out. After seven calls, seven, to seven different doctor’s offices, I finally found a doctor that would take a new patient, take Medicare, and had availability that day. When Dr. Cooper said, “I’m going to talk to you like I talk to my own father,” I knew God had taken us to the perfect doctor, because he spoke out of kindness and respect. Ray listened better to people who listened to him first.


Dr. Cooper saved my father-in-law’s life that day.


After Dr. Cooper told Ray he needed to go to the ER, he left the room to phone for the ambulance. I remember kneeling down so my eyes would be below Ray’s. I asked him if he was okay with this. He said “no.” I asked him if he trusted this doctor and he said “yes.” I told him that I knew he was scared and that I would be with him the whole time. From that moment forward, my relationship with Ray changed dramatically.


Two days later, Ray had emergency surgery. I am told that three major organ failures lead to death. Ray had two, approaching a third.


I have no doubt that God was with us that holiday weekend. Too many things fell into place for it not to be so. God convinced Ray to stay with us that Sunday night or we would never have known the full extent of his symptoms. God guided my phone calls to Dr. Cooper’s office. Dr. Cooper was new to our area, having moved here only three months before. That is why he had time in his schedule for us – he was still building a practice. Not to mention that Dr. Cooper is wonderful, caring, compassionate, and kind. My father-in-law despises doctors, but loves Dr. Cooper. God knew who Ray needed and God got me there.


One other thing was going in our lives at that time. I had two weeks left at my place of employment before beginning my first appointment as a pastor. My new appointment was part-time, and we did not know how the rest of my time would be filled. God knew, though. God knew that someone needed to be available for weeks and weeks of hospital stays and doctor visits. I often say that helping my father-in-law is my second part-time job. In reality, I receive extensive training in how to be a good pastor from helping my father-in-law.


This guest post submitted by Katie Shockley, licensed local pastor of First UMC Sachse.  You can connect with Katie at her blog.


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