|Testimony of Walter Brink|
I was very fit and active and participated in triathlon involving rowing, cycling and jogging. I was at the Hoedspruit Air Force Base where I did my national service, and where we had a lot of time for exercise. At the base, there were two main groups of people, those who were active and those who were not. Because I was with the active lot and was very fit I thought I was a little better than the others, in the sense that every now and then I went to Church and you have the impression that what you do in your own power you can place yourself above the rest and you think you are alright.
We went scuba diving in the Blyde River 20km from Hoedspruit Air Force Base. We really wanted to do a night dive and arrived already in the afternoon, unpacked our gear and got everything ready and in the late afternoon before sunset, we decided first to go and check the visibility in the water. The pool in which we were to dive was about 200m long, 30m at its widest and 8m deep. There were many beautiful trees on the banks of the river. We went into the water to swim in a circle to determine the visibility. About 30m from the shore on our return about 6m deep I was at the bottom of the river swimming and I was looking at a fish in the water which was stationary. The water was very clear and clean and the view was good.
A SUDDEN ATTACK
Suddenly I felt on my right side an overwhelming blow. I knew immediately that it was a hippopotamus. The hippo rammed me on my hip and I tumbled backwards in the water. While I was tumbling, I thought to myself that I would take one deep breath and just be calm in this matter and when I hit the bottom I would shoot myself upwards. While I was thinking this and I was in a horizontal position looking up, suddenly I felt this terrible pressure on my pelvis with the tooth that pierced my thigh. It was very painful at the time. When the hippo closed his mouth, the pressure and pain on my pelvis was extreme. The hippo began to shake me up and down. At that moment I knew I was not as "alright" as I thought I was and I cried from deep within my soul "Lord, I cannot die now." The Hippo shook me up and down and suddenly threw me out of his mouth. I was immediately very calm under water. A calmness that you cannot describe. My goggles were off, the oxygen bottles were off, I bit the mouthpiece so hard I lost my two front teeth. Even my diving shoes on my feet were off. I had to orient myself to determine where the top was and I looked up and I saw the sun shining through the water right above me. While I saw the sun suddenly it was eclipsed by the blood and the mud in the water. I had very old diving equipment where the "buoyancy compensator" is separate from the diving cylinder; they call it a "horse collar". My lungs were full of air and I knew I had to go up but I could feel nothing in my lower body. I felt around my body and I found the mouthpiece of my diving equipment and placed it in my mouth and blew the air into my diving suit. I started with my two arms to swim to the surface of the water. The last meter or two felt like a very long time to me. When I broke the surface, the other two guys had already surfaced. They were on their way down to find me. While diving, other friends came to visit us and the guys in the water shouting to them that they should go to the base and say that someone is hurt.
While they were taking me out of the water I had lost all colour. I could distinguish only two colours black and grey. Black were the shady spots and the light grey spots or which was reflected by the sun. They swam me out to the bank of the river and placed me on the top of a sleeping bag to carry me up the river bank to transfer me to a vehicle that was waiting. They put me on the back seat with my two feet against the window of the rear door. The driver of the vehicle said to me he wants to close the door. I then told him he can close the door because I have no feeling in the bottom of my body. On the way to the hospital, the colours returned. I was very tired and the guys just pleaded with me that I should not close my eyes, but I told them that I would speak to them but I cannot keep my eyes open. When we got to the hospital in the military base they injected me and I woke up when they were putting me in the helicopter and I woke up once again during the flight to 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
SURGERY AND PROGNOSIS
I regained consciousness in the military hospital at the theatre. The theatre sister said that I was going immediately into the theatre now. The next morning I woke up but I was heavily sedated and was not properly conscious. The Monday morning at 07:00am I was fully conscious and my room in the intensive care unit was full of people. The surgeon, urologist, neurologist, therapists, psychologists and many others including the minister was there. The doctor asked me if I knew what had happened to me and I told him that I had been bitten by the hippo. I was still as calm as I was under the water. A calmness you cannot describe. The doctor then told me that the tooth of the hippo went through my buttock, through my pelvis; past my bladder while the bladder is not torn there is a lot of nerve damage. And that from now on I will always wear a catheter. Because of the pounding and shaking in the water my rectum was torn (this is the last part of your colon) and that there was not enough of the rectum over to join it again. So from now on I will wear a colostomy. The third thing is that even though my pelvis was not broken the last vertebra in my back was broken and that I was not going to walk again and that I am basically a paraplegic with a colostomy and a catheter. I said to the Doctor that I heard what he had said, but that I had received a second chance. Constantly for the next two days they were with me to hear about my mental well-being. Meanwhile, I built up a good relationship with the surgeon's assistant. Every third day I returned to theatre. In this period in the intensive care unit there was every day someone dying and it caused me to wonder because the staff comes to you and says they have not had one in such serious condition like you and then you think that the guys who are not so badly injured die, so your chances are certainly good that you will die also.
I was already three times in theatre and that morning very early the surgeon arrived. He seems very concerned and studied the blood report taken in the early morning hours. He looked for the sister and told her that I was to go first to the theatre. She was to move the other guys on the theatre schedule and those who are not very important must be cancelled. In the period that I was in the hospital, I thought that when I come out I might be a pastor or missionary. When the Doctor turned to get ready for theatre, the calmness that I had experienced all the time suddenly left me and an extreme fear came over me. I got a thought, I cannot say it was the Lord who spoke to me, but I got a very strong thought that I have already had 10 days of my second chance and what have I done with my second chance for which I was so very glad and thankful for. When the Doctor left, his assistant came in and I asked him what is going on because I did not see him for a few days. He then told me that the results of the tests show that there is severe sepsis (blood poisoning) in my belly. I asked him if they could cut me in half, as I am not able to use my legs at all, and I have a catheter and a colostomy. He then told me that they could just amputate a leg or an arm but they cannot cut a man in half. He turned around to go and get ready for theatre. The most terrible fear overwhelmed me and I lay in anxiety in my bed and I knew that I was dying.
Just then the English Pastor walked past my room, I called him and asked him to pray for me because today I'm going to die and I'm convinced of that. The English Pastor then told me that he cannot pray for me because I was not in his church and he turned around and walked out of my room. The fear got only worse. I felt like I had fallen into a dark dungeon. Just then the Jewish Rabbi walked by my room and I called him into my room. He then told me he could do nothing for me because I'm not Jewish. The fear gets even worse and the sister was coming with my theatre bed. Behind them I saw Pastor of the church to which I belong. I waved to him so that he could come quickly to me, because I knew that if he was in the room then the sister would wait. The Pastor came in. I took him by his hand and asked him please to pray for me because I am going to die today. He looked at his watch and he told me that he cannot pray for me now as he is a little late for he has to collect the tea club's money, but he said he will leave his card and visit me later. He put down his card on my bed table and he left. The fear was now overwhelming and I decided that if I died today and I have to appear before the Heavenly Father, I wanted to know what the name of this Pastor is because he had not prayed for me. (That is the Pastor’s work to get you into Heaven). When they placed me on the theatre bed I took the card to read the Pastor’s name. Instead of reading his name, I read the last piece of the card the second part of Roman 8:31. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Intensive Care and the theatre were not far apart. As they pushed me on the bed and the overhead lights passed by, that verse was in my head like a tumble dryer turning around. They left me outside of the theatre and there was no one in the hallway and I was very scared and afraid.
Later someone came and pushed me over the sterile line and I lay there on my own with this verse spinning through my head and in anguish of the devil standing next to my bed. I prayed a very emotional prayer and said; “Lord, I should have died under the water, you have saved me from the jaws of the hippo and brought me out of the water, and to this day preserved, and kept me in the hospital. Whoever scares me has no right on me for You say in Your word that You are on my side and who can be against me, and I know You're on my side.” I felt suddenly from the tips of my toes a feeling like "PINS and NEEDLES" slowly moving over my body from the tips of my toes to the crown of my head and then suddenly the calmness and the peace was back. They wheeled me in and put me on the theatre table. I smiled at the Doctor and the Doctor asked why I was smiling at him because he knew that I really knew how bad it was with me. I told him that I know two things. Number one; that when they open and close me up that I will be healthier than when I came in and Number two; and I say this with great respect because they are highly educated people that they are only tools in the hands of the Lord.
They injected me with anaesthetic and 7 hours later I woke up in my room in the intensive care unit. When I woke up I was immediately wide awake. The surgeon's assistant was walking up and down beside my bed and I asked him how it went with the operation. I was delighted that I had returned to my room in the intensive care unit and still had the calm and peace over me. He shook his head and began to tell of the night when the helicopter landed. I said to him I know what happened that night. He started to tell of the first time when they opened me after I arrived at the hospital and said that my kidneys were badly bruised and I started to get septic in my belly that they were afraid that I was entering into kidney failure. I then told him he had already told me that, I wanted to know what happened this morning. He explained to me the last time they opened me the sepsis had spread rapidly and they did everything in their ability to combat it but the blood count tests this morning showed that it had got worse. I asked again what happened this morning. He shook his head and looked at me and told me that this morning when they opened me on the operating table there was no sign of sepsis in my belly. He looked at me and told me "you are busy getting better."
HEALING AND HEALTH
I then spent the next three months in hospital. My intestine is completely healed; I do not have a colostomy. I had to learn to walk again; I am not in a wheelchair. My bladder has healed and I do not have a catheter. It happened when I was 23 years old. Today I am 47 years old. I am married and have a daughter which they said would not be possible. Glory to God in the Highest.
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"TO SERVE THE PRESENT AGE,
MY CALLING TO FULFIL,
O MAY IT ALL MY POWERS ENGAGE,
TO DO MY MASTER'S WILL!"
MAYNARD G. JAMES