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Front Page » August 3, 2004 » Scene » The Promise: a Trip to Greece Turns Into an Ordeal for Da...
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The Promise: a Trip to Greece Turns Into an Ordeal for Danny Vanwagoner

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By WESTON BRINKERHOFF, student writer

The Church at Ephesus.

This story was written by Rosanne Fisher, as told by Danny Van Wagoner, after a trip to Turkey and Greece.

As I was unpacking my suitcase in my hotel in Turkey, I thought of a conversation that I had with my daughter before coming here from Utah. I had promised her that I would be home for her graduation. She was finishing with a degree in nursing. I never had the chance to go to college, but it had always been my dream. My mother died when I was three. I lived with my grandparents for a few years and then with my dad and his new wife. Things were so tight growing up, that when I needed my teeth fixed, I had to save up and pay for it myself. I married when I was 17, and had to go to work to support my growing family. My dreams of college were brushed aside.

All three of my children were attending college now, and my daughter Tiffany would be the first to get a degree. My heart felt as if it would burst with joy.

In was April 21 and I was to return home on April 30...the same day as Tiffany's graduation. I knew it was close, but I vowed to my daughter, and myself that I would be back in time to hear her named called.

I was in Turkey for a 100th year anniversary for the European Christian Missions. I am a builder, and travel on short term mission building trips in different countries.

Saturday the 24th we had a free day and a group of us headed for Greece. We took a ferry to the Isle of Samos. We came upon some motorcycles. My companion Paul and I decided this would be the best way to see the island. I wasn't going to wear a helmet. I wanted all my senses uninhibited. We were told we could pay a hefty fine if we didn't, so I reluctantly put one on.

As Paul and I rode we took in the beautiful scenery, pine trees and palm trees were everywhere, such an odd combination. The mountainside was green and the sky was clear and blue. The temperature was a perfect 75 for a spring day in Greece. The breeze against my skin felt cool and refreshing. I breathed in a deep breath and could smell the clean air coming off the ocean. I smiled to myself "it just can't get any better than this."

Danny VanWagoner and daughter Tiffany at graduation.

Paul and I headed for the other side of the island. We wanted to see as much as we could before heading back to be with our group. When we came around a bend there was a piece of plywood in the road. Paul was ahead of me and missed it. Before I had a chance to think about moving around it, I had already hit it. My bike was pulled from under me. When I realized I was going down, I put my left leg out to try and stop my fall. I skidded a ways and came to an abrupt stop. I was so thankful to have worn my helmet. I looked down at my leg and saw that my foot was twisted. There was blood running down my arm, and I felt light headed. Before I knew it, Paul was by my side. While we waited for an ambulance, Paul prayed for me.

I was taken to the hospital. My tibia was broken at a sharp angle and needed surgery. The doctor said that if I chose to wait, and go back to the states, I might never walk again. I had no choice but to stay and have it done there. Paul and our group leader laid hands on me and prayed. They then headed back to Turkey, with the promise to be back on the 28th. The doctor informed me that I would need to stay three weeks for recovery. It would be too dangerous for me to try and travel in that condition. My heart was broken. How could I keep the promise I had made to my daughter? I lay there in the dimly lit room and stared at the gray ceiling. I felt a blanket of sorrow and helplessness come over me, and the tears came.

The next day I learned that most of the care received by patients was by their own families. I did not have a family here to bring me food, wash me off, or to even talk to. The room was filled with chitter chatter in a language I did not understand. Communication with those on the outside was not easy. I could not call out at all, and my family and friends were having difficulty getting through. All the other patients had family taking care of them. I prayed to God "Lord, you know the desire of my heart...I need to get home."

I was kept awake for my surgery. I could hear the drill as the doctor screwed the plate onto my bone. Although I could not feel anything, the sound of the drill whirring sent shivers up my spine. A sheet was set up so that I could not see what was happening. I lay there looking at the lights in their little tin holders, waiting for it to be over. When the doctor was finished, I was taken back to my bed. There were many moments the pain was unbearable, and I had to scream out.

The man next to me also had been in a motorcycle accident. We were able to talk a little, so he sent his family to bring me food. I was weak and tired and welcomed their generosity. It was the best cheese sandwich I ever tasted. He asked me why I had come to this country. I told him why I was here, and then shared with him about God. He listened and asked more questions. I was thankful at that moment to be in that very place, in my sweat stained sheets, lying on my pillow, that was nothing more that torn up rags, shoved in a pillowcase. Later I prayed, "God, if he is the reason this had to happen, then I am your servant."

The next morning I decided I was going home and God would make it possible. When the doctor came in, I told him I would be leaving for America as planned. He said that he would not discharge me. I told him I would sign whatever he needed. He strongly advised that I stay.

I was informed that I had to have my hospital bill paid before leaving. The hospital did not accept insurance or credit cards. Paul had to find an ATM so that I could pay in cash.

Danny VanWagoner visits the ruins of the theater at the church in Ephesus.

I was taken back to the ferry in an ambulance. Paul was a great help in getting me back into our room at the hotel. I was in terrible pain, but had so much to be thankful for. I certainly did not think that I would be heading back to America so soon. We had to be at the airport at 7 a.m. the next morning. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8 a.m.

When we arrived at the airport, I was told that I could not board the flight. I had not been discharged from the hospital. I needed a note from a doctor saying it was okay to fly. I had one hour to find a doctor to write me a note, and be back in time for my flight. One of the employees said he knew of a doctor that was nearby. Paul and I were on our way. When we found him, he looked me over, took my blood pressure and wrote a note. We made it back with a few minutes to spare. Seats were switched around so that I could prop up my leg.

I was scheduled to fly from New York to Cincinnati. I then was to catch a flight from Cincinnati to Denver, and drive to Utah. Once we arrived in New York, I asked if there were any flights going to Utah from New York. There was one flight headed to Utah that night, and it had one seat left on it. I knew God had saved it for me. Paul and I said our good-byes and promised to talk in a few days. I informed my family about the change in plans. My son would be in Salt Lake to pick me up. I arrived in Salt Lake at 11 p.m. the night of the 29th. I was back in Utah a day sooner that I was supposed to be. My son drove me to Price, which is two hours south of Salt Lake. This is where Tiffany would be graduating. We headed to the hospital emergency room there.

Once in the emergency room, the dressing on my arm was changed, and the doctor ordered an X-ray of my leg. She said that the doctor in Greece had done a good job of putting my bone back together. She gave instructions on how to take care of my arm and leg. I was given the name of orthopedic doctors, and told to get in to see them as soon as possible.

I couldn't believe the doctor didn't admit me into the hospital. I would still have been laying in that hospital in Greece if I had not insisted on leaving. The doctor here said I would be in great shape as long as I had someone stay with me. When I thought I was going to be staying at the hospital in Price, I was planning on leaving for the graduation and coming back. I wouldn't need to do that now.

I stayed with a friend that lived in Price that night. My leg was swollen and in terrible pain I needed help to get up and down, and to the rest room. The excitement of being able to be at my daughters graduation, helped me to think of something other than my leg.

Tiffany was able to supply me with a wheel chair from her nursing class. When my friend and I drove up to the college where the ceremony was to be held, I watched as students and parents piled in through the large glass doors. I thought about everything I had been through in the last week, and how miraculous it was for me to even be here. I was wheeled in through a wheelchair accessible door and taken to the front row where a seat was waiting for me. Another chair was set in front of me so I could prop my leg up. When I saw Tiffany, dressed in her nursing uniform, I was so proud of her for all she had accomplished. She came up and kissed me on the cheek and said "thank you so much for being here dad." That made everything I had gone through worth it.

After each student was pinned for completing their RN degree, the faculty announced the most outstanding nursing student of the year. The person they were choosing had been a dedicated leader, who cared about their fellow students, who had shown compassion and showed dignity to their patients, and had been an inspiration to faculty and students alike. Tiffany's name was called, and she walked to the podium with tears streaming down her face. When she looked out at me, she could see that tears were streaming down my face too.

When I went to Turkey, I had no idea what it would take to get back, but God was at every turn, even getting me home a day early. I had made a promise to my daughter and God provided a way to keep it.

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