Why Me, God?
Stunned and shocked Leola Harmon saw a huge trailer truck drift into her lane. The driver was slumped over the wheel. There was no chance to avoid a head on collision! She smashed into the windshield, slammed back against the steering wheel and then was hurled through the glass onto a snowbank in Anchorage, Alaska. Barely conscious and coming out of a daze, she heard a voice saying, “It’s alive – I saw it move!” She was an “it”, mutilated beyond recognition. Even in her shattered state, as an air force nurse at Elmendorf Hospital in Nov., 1968, she realized the implications of that statement.
At that hospital, staff stared in horror at the sight of their emaciated friend. They seemed paralyzed into inaction. Dr. J. Stallings burst into the room and took charge. “I’ll do the tracheotomy. Gary, you work on her legs. Ray, get a venocath into her – she’ll need blood and fluids. Major, tell X-ray to stand by. Nurse, call the operating room to get ready for orthopedic, obstetrics, general surgery, plastics and dental work. Round up every specialist on the base.”
Leola was 5 months pregnant, the baby was stillborn. Her husband came in with grief and pain on his face but when he saw the ‘frightening stranger’ he left without a word or a touch. In less than two years they divorced. “Give me 2 to 5 years to make you at least presentable,” the doctor told her. “God saved your life. Now it’s up to us to make the most of it. If you have the guts, I have the time and the skills.”
She lost her baby, her husband, her wellbeing and even her identity in one fell swoop. The swollen, discolored, distorted, toothless mass of tissue that was left comprised only a third of her face. It took years of plastic surgery, dental work and grafts from other parts of her body to rebuild. There were 35 operations in 7 years, including 4 innovative surgeries created by the doctor. Even after she was released from the hospital, two Girl Scouts selling cookies were so frightened when she answered the door that they dropped the cookies and fled.
Eventually returning to work she became that doctor’s research assistant and emergency nurse. Patients identified with her. When Dr. Stallings was gone for two months on an exchange appointment prior to setting up his own practice in Des Moines, Leola missed him terribly. His absence during those two months made her realize how dependent she had become on him. He wanted her to come with him as his nurse. But she decided it would not look good for a single nurse to follow a single doctor to Des Moines. She resolved to tell him when he returned that she would not be able to come. He responded by admitting to her that she was right and that he had missed her too. In a fumbling manner the doctor who was so in charge and so confident in his abilities had to muster the courage to say, “I think we should get married before we go there.” Leola became the wife of Dr. James O. Stallings and thanked God for giving her the answer to “Why Me?”
The road to recovery or success often leads through tough times.