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Life or Death Crisis Brings Father and Son Together

This life or death situation brought a father and son together—through panic, strength and prayer.

Prayer helped father and son in crisis

PAT: It was a Friday afternoon last July. I was 15 feet off the ground, standing on a step, my left hand holding on to the metal frame of a massive cornfield irrigation system. With my right hand I punched my son Murphy’s number into my cell. We were repairing a malfunctioning water gun for a client near North Platte, Nebraska, an hour from our home in Grant. The sun was broiling. I’d been out here for two hours and still I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the system. I’d taken the face off the high-voltage power box, checked the electrical contacts. I’d pulled the pressure hose, reattached it. I’m used to getting results. But today, nothing I tried worked.

Murphy was at the main controls. Between us towering cornstalks blocked him from my view. His job was to turn the power—480 volts—on and off when I called. This was his third summer working with me fixing irrigation systems. In a few weeks he’d be headed to college.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the years had gone by. I’d tried to prepare him to be a man, drilling into him the importance of doing a job right. He was our only child still at home, a good kid, like his two older sisters. I admired his strong faith, how he prayed daily. But sometimes I wished he were a little more focused, a little less dreamy. That had been a strain between us. I kept having to remind him about basic stuff. Sometimes I just didn’t know where his head was at.

On the other end, his phone rang and rang. Where is he? “Uh, Dad?” I heard a groggy voice say.

“Murphy, were you asleep?” I said.

MURPHY: I must have dozed off when Dad called. “Listen, I need you to pay attention,” Dad snapped. “Turn the power on.” I could picture him in my mind. Mouth turned down, eyes intense. I knew that look well. I didn’t mean to fall asleep, but the heat was stultifying and it was boring, staring out at a sea of green and waiting for Dad’s call every 20 minutes. Lately it seemed like nothing I did was good enough for him.

“It’s on,” I said, pushing the button.

“Thanks. Let’s hope this works,” Dad said. He hung up. My throat was parched. I’d left my water in the truck Dad had driven to his end of the field. Another screw up.

I pulled out my rosary, started saying a prayer, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, counting the wooden beads with my fingers. Catholics say the chaplet at 3:00 p.m. each Friday, the hour that Christ died. “For the sake of the sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and the whole world,” I prayed after each Hail Mary, words that had given me comfort for as long as I could remember. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Dad. No matter how I tried, I’d never be as good at fixing things as he was. He’d repaired irrigation systems for more years than I’d been alive. He always knew what to do. Not me. Even from across the field I could feel Dad looking over my shoulder.

PAT: I reached for a piece of tubing, my right arm grazing the power box….

The electrical current pulsed through me—all 480 volts. My body shook uncontrollably. My bicep was glued to the power box! I pushed away with all my strength, but the current’s grip only tightened. “God, help me,” I screamed. I’m dying, I thought. My family. I didn’t want to leave them. Not now. Then, suddenly, I was free. I gazed down at the ground swirling below me. At least I hadn’t fallen. Somehow, my left hand hadn’t lost its grip on the frame.

I climbed down shakily and looked at my right arm. Buckets of blood poured out of it. I ran to the passenger side of the truck and grabbed a roll of paper towels, ripped off a huge wad and pressed it hard against my arm. The blood streamed through it. I’m bleeding to death. Have to get to a hospital. I pulled out my cell phone with my left hand, but I didn’t have the strength to push the numbers. All I could do was hit Send….

MURPHY: It surprised me, the phone ringing again so soon. It couldn’t have been five minutes. Hopefully that meant the irrigation system was fixed and we could go home. “Dad,” I said.

“Murphy, I’m driving myself to the emergency room,” he said, his voice barely a whisper. It took a second to register what he was saying. “Turn everything off and call your mom.” The phone went dead.

I didn’t know what to do: drop to my knees or run to Dad. I tore down the field road, praying harder than I’d ever prayed. Dad was about a mile away. I was afraid he’d be gone before I could get there.

I saw a man on a backhoe up ahead. “My dad’s hurt,” I yelled to him. “Can you take me to the other end of the field?”

We got in his truck and took off. I pulled out my cell and called Mom in Grant. “Something’s happened to Dad,” I said. “I’m on my way to him and then we’re headed to the ER. I’ll stay in touch.” I saw Dad’s truck in the distance. “That’s it!” I said. I jumped out and ran. The driver must have gone on. I never looked back.

PAT: I stood by the open passenger door, slumped against the seat, pressing the blood soaked paper towels against my arm. Please, God, I prayed, I don’t want to die. But it was too late. With my right arm useless I couldn’t operate the stick shift, couldn’t make a tourniquet. The world was fading….  If only there were something I could do. Then, like from out of a dream, there was Murphy. “Take off your belt,” I croaked.

MURPHY: For a second I couldn’t figure out why Dad wanted me to remove my belt. Blood was everywhere. Then it hit me. A tourniquet. Frantically I whipped off my belt. Dad pointed weakly to where to put it, above his bicep. I jerked it tight. There weren’t enough holes in the leather! I glanced at Dad for advice, but he was in a stupor. It was up to me. I looked around, telling myself not to panic. Dad’s belt. It was knit. I’d be able to make it tight. I took it off of him. Something told me to tie mine to his and make a double tourniquet. I pulled it as hard as I could. Was it even working? Maybe. I wrestled Dad into the passenger seat, got behind the wheel and roared toward the highway and North Platte, 12 miles away.

I pulled out my cell and called Mom. “I think Dad cut himself,” I said. Next to me I heard Dad moan, “Electrical burn.”

“We’re on our way to the emergency room,” I told Mom.

“I’m already here,” she said.

Mom thought we were going to the ER in Grant. I looked at Dad, soaked with blood, his body limp. I thought of Mom panicked, having to drive an hour on the freeway to reach us. I didn’t want to lie, but I knew I had to keep her safe too. I took a deep breath. “No. The ER in North Platte,” I said. “But don’t worry. It’s minor. We’ll see you when you get there.”

I hung up and then realized: I had no idea where the hospital was. “Dad, I need directions,” I yelled. He opened his eyes. I could see him looking straight out at the horizon, the retreating sun to our left.

“It’s too bright,” he said. “I can’t see.”

What was he talking about? The mileposts were flying by. Soon I’d be in North Platte. I couldn’t afford to make a wrong turn. “Dear God,” I prayed aloud, “help me find the hospital.” I remembered the words of the chaplet: “…have mercy on us…” I prayed over and over. I looked out at the highway. Hospital, next exit, the road sign read.

PAT: The light was blinding. I could hear Murphy talking, praying. His voice sounded far away. Then I heard another voice, this one crystal clear yet strangely unearthly and reassuring. “We have a room for you,” it said, “but it’s not for today.”

Murphy pulled up outside the hospital. I saw him run in and come out with a wheelchair and a nurse. My door opened. Then everything went dark.

MURPHY: “I need you to stay in the waiting room,” the nurse said, his face grim as he rushed Dad down the hall. I fell to my knees in a corner and pulled out my rosary.

I murmured prayer after prayer, squeezing the wooden beads so hard I could feel them cracking. I thought about Jesus on that terrible night, a son, feeling abandoned, needing his father to show him the way.

It seemed like forever before the nurse returned. “It’s early, but it looks like your dad’s going to make it,” he said. “It was the tourniquet. That’s what made the difference. You saved his life.”

“Glory be to the Father…” I whispered. I knew I hadn’t tied that tourniquet or found the hospital on my own.

Mom arrived. I told her what had happened. She understood why I hadn’t given her a full explanation on the phone. There were only a few minutes before a plane was leaving to fly her and Dad to a burn center. I didn’t think she’d ever stop hugging me.

I went back home to get some clothes for Mom and me and to call my sisters. The next day, when I walked into Dad’s room at the burn center, I couldn’t believe it. His eyes were open. He was alert, talking and joking—his tightly wrapped arm the only reminder of what had happened. But something much more than his arm was healing. Dad looked at me and didn’t have to say a thing. His eyes were intense as always, only this time I saw the love. He reached out with his good arm and I stepped closer, feeling connected to him in a way I never had before.

PAT: I hugged Murphy with my good arm and started filling him in on all that had happened before he rescued me. With each detail I couldn’t help but be even more in awe of the miracles God had showered on me. Other than the baseball-sized hole in my arm, there were no other wounds. It was a chance in a thousand that the electricity didn’t hit a vital organ. Then there was the power surge that blew a fuse and broke contact. The voice of reassurance on the highway. But, of course, the blessing I appreciated most was Murphy. I introduce him now as “my hero.” I don’t worry anymore about teaching him to be a man. God seems to have that under control.

Download your FREE ebook, A Prayer for Every Need, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

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