Dan B: How Faith Heals
There are meaningful parallels between the story of Dan B. of Nottingham, Maryland and Job, the Biblical man who was severely tested but never wavered in his faith.
The difference between Dan and Job, however, is that Dan, also a man of great faith, wasn’t restored by a message from a burning bush or a voice from above. Instead, his revelation came from a caring and talented surgeon from Mercy Medical Center, Dr. Charles Edwards II.
A Painful Journey
Appropriately, the two met at church.
“I was told for 20 years there was no hope, no cure, no operation that could help my situation,” said Dan. “That was until I met Dr. Edwards.”
Dan’s long-time anguish was the result of an accident he suffered at the age of 19. At the time, Dan, a standout high school athlete in the Baltimore area, had secured a tryout with the Baltimore Orioles. But it was not to be.
Just prior to the tryout he was working a summer construction job and was helping a crew set an I-beam. His co-workers dropped the other end of the steel support. “I felt like my spine exploded,” he said. He suffered a cracked pelvis and severe damage to numerous discs and vertebrae. It would mark the beginning of a painful 39-year journey.
In the aftermath of the initial accident, Dan was in traction two weeks before having microlumbar discectomy surgery to relive pain from the lumbar herniated disc caused by the accident.
While it helped, the initial surgery was not a long-term cure, and turned out to be only the start – the first of 20 surgeries over nearly four decades he would have in an effort to recapture a pain-free life.
In the ensuing years, Dan would suffer his share of setbacks, but never lost his faith. In persistent pain, he had several failed surgeries, one of which resulted in a severe infection that threatened his life. Two surgeries required him to be in a full body cast for a total of one year.
He became addicted to pain medications and was in a severe depression. He nearly drowned. He was told by doctors there was no hope for him. He slid into a darkness he felt he could not escape.
Angel of Mercy
At one point, Dan fell asleep at the wheel while driving to a job in Virginia. He said he only survived after feeling two taps on his shoulder that awakened him. It was an angel, he says. A reminder that despite his trials, someone was looking out for him.
There was another angel who would awaken Dan as well, a literal angel of Mercy. Dr. Charles Edwards is Medical Director of The Maryland Spine Center at Mercy Medical Center. A gifted spine surgeon, he is also a man of faith and compassion.
Dan’s daughter Sarah, one of the lights of his life, is afflicted with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. To support Sarah, Dan and his caring wife Ruth began attending a church in Timonium, Maryland, which has an active faith-based Disabilities Ministry. As it turned out, one of the volunteers in that ministry was Dr. Charles Edwards.
He may not have known it at the moment he met Dr. Edwards, but Dan’s Job-like journey was nearing its end.
“Once I knew who Charles was, I spoke with him about my back and pain,” Dan noted. ”He said he would work with me but only if I was willing to manage my pain medications. It was hard, but I did.”
“So I went to see Dr. Edwards and when he looked at my MRI he said ‘I know exactly where your pain is coming from, and I can fix it.’ He was the first doctor to offer me any hope in 20 years.”
A Life with Joy and Purpose
Dr. Edwards performed two surgeries on Dan. The first was to insert artificial cervical discs in his neck. The second, a year later, was spinal reconstructive surgery, or more specifically lumbosacral fusion with instrumentation. The surgery is a major, complex operation that involves grafting bone to make a bridge between vertebrae that are next to each other, then inserting metal to hold the vertebrae together until new bone grows between them.
Combined, the two surgeries lasted a total of nearly 10 hours. Together, they took Dan to a higher place.
With a long rehab now mainly behind him, Dan’s Job-like trials seemed mostly over. Thanks to Dr. Edwards and the two surgeries, he’s walking upright and confidently again.
He’s completely free of painkillers. He’s gotten his real estate license and is selling houses. He’s taking marshal arts classes with a goal of getting his black belt and bench pressing 250 pounds by the time he’s 60. He and his family continue to live a strong faith-filled life. Dan is back walking in the light. And he’s still keeping the faith.
While he is not completely pain free, he says the surgeries performed by Dr. Edwards cut his pain in more than half. And for that, he thanks both his savior and his surgeon.
“Dr. Edwards saved my life, my future, my marriage and my family,” Dan noted. “He would always pray with me, he’s full of compassion and love. I told him once that when I look in his eyes I see Jesus and I meant it. He’s someone special.”
And as for Mercy Medical Center, Dan has similar praise. “Mercy is second to none,” he said. “The staff, the nurses in recovery, the food, everything about it was absolutely top notch. I would go there to be treated for anything.”
“What I want to tell people is that there is life after multiple surgeries, and there is life after detoxing from pain medication,” he concluded. “If you’re discussing spinal reconstructive surgery with Dr. Edwards, right now or being given the challenge of reducing your pain medications, know that the first step is the biggest and most challenging one. But you can do it. You can’t imagine what’s waiting for you on the other side - a new you, a new life. You’ll have joy and purpose."
“With Jesus and the right doctor, you can overcome anything.”
Dan B.'s Treatment Team