Explaining the Scar

Nine years ago today, I was 22 years old. I had formed my ministry partnership team, and was studying in our School of World Missions in preparation for my role as a campus missionary. August 8, nine years ago was a Monday. I was at home that night playing poker with some friends. No money was involved (I don’t gamble.), and that’s probably why most of us didn’t take it seriously.

Poker

Posing? Check! Props? Check! Actual poker skill and experience? …Does watching Casino Royale count?

After a few rounds, my brother, Joshua, our two of our oldest friends – William Murrell and Jonathan Henson – were out. I traded in my chips with someone else, and the four of us decided to try acting out poses for the most awesome looking dunk shot at the basketball court across the street.

We started by grabbing the net, climbing to the ring, then holding the pose. Then we graduated to jumping from benches we pulled up. We even tried jumping at the same time to simulate the high flying aerial duels of the NBA.

Many of the shots were actually pretty good!

Many of the shots were actually pretty good!

On my last attempt, I ran from half court, jumped off the bench, and grab the ring. My feet kept swinging because of the momentum and my hands slipped off. Because my feet were still swinging forward, my head hit the concrete floor first. Joshua later said it was like hearing a bowling ball hit the floor.

JoeDunk2

Not the actual moment, but it was like this.

Joshua immediately picked me up and carried me home. My friends debated about what to do, until Joshua touched my head and felt the skull give way. They knew I had to be brought to the hospital. My friend, JA Moran, drove us. In the car, Joshua recounted that I kept asking the same questions over and over again. “Where are we? Why does my head hurt? Where are we going?”

At the hospital, all I can remember is complaining about my head to the nurse, and then to my mom who suddenly materialized. So I don’t know how long I was in the Emergency Room. I also remember snapping at one poor nurse who was trying to get me to remove my shoes. The last thing I remember is being wheeled on my back through many hospital doors until we got into a room with bright lights. Then I was out.

The next day, I woke up in the ICU. My first thoughts were, “Why does my head hurt? And why is there a tube down there?!” (I had been given a catheter.)

And my head looked like half a baseball

And my head looked like half a baseball

The nurse came in, and then my parents who explained everything. I had sustained multiple fractures of the skull. Because of friends and kind-hearted doctors, a brain surgeon happened to be available that night to operate on me. They had to open my head up to fix it with two screws to keep things in place. They asked me my name, my age, and simple math problems to make sure everything still functioned.

The next few days were a blur of activity. Besides a minor scare of renewed bleeding, everything was fine in my recovery. Friends and family kept dropping by the hospital room. Apart from the occasional nurse checking in, it felt like a regular night of hanging out.

Parents, Brothers, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins

Parents, Brothers, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins

 

Look for Janina and Nathan Punzalan (kiddos!), hanging out just like it's Friday night, Pastors Luther and Steve, Josef Mag who's now in Chicago, and a young Elle Cabiling!

Look for Janina and Nathan Punzalan (kiddos!), hanging out just like it’s Friday night, Pastors Luther and Steve, Josef Mag who’s now in Chicago, and a young Elle Cabiling!

The generous outpouring of encouragement, prayers, and emotional support really blessed me and my family. Later on I found out about the group of people who clustered at the hospital, praying for my family and me during that time. And every year since then, whenever I leave the Philippines I run into a person who I don’t know who says, “I know you! We prayed for you when you hit your head.”

There’s many more sides to this event. You can read my dad’s perspective in his book, The Lego Principle. Both my brothers and my mother had their own wrestlings with God that night as well. But I’m writing this today to point out some things:

  • I wanted to share this so people would understand why I’m sometimes called “crack head” by friends. And when I eventually shave my head, I’ll have a blog for people to read instead of explaining this huge scar to everyone.
  • I also want to give a big Thank You to the people who prayed, especially the first responders.
Thank you to these men! Left to Right: Dr. Peter Rivera (the surgeon), bald me, JA Moran (the Transporter), and Joshua Bonifacio (the Bearer)

Thank you to these men! Left to Right: Dr. Peter Rivera (the surgeon), bald me, JA Moran (the Transporter), and Joshua Bonifacio (the Bearer)

  • Don’t underestimate the effect of prayer. Many people prayed, some of them knew me and some of them didn’t. But they didn’t need to know everything. They just needed to connect to the One who is always in control.
  • Spiritual family is vital. It’s easy to feel self-sufficient when we can handle things. But when we’re in trouble, we’ll be glad we took the time to build with spiritual family.
  • God is always in control. That night taught me that everything I am can be undone so easily. Thankfully, while we have nothing within our control, we can side with the God who is never out of control. We don’t need to worry or fear when we are with Him.

Ran into this guy last night. 16 year old Emmanuel Carodan just had an unforgettable experience of God’s miraculous power also.

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