The fluorescent lights hum overhead. Their dull buzz increases the vague fog creating a sense of dreaming. Has he been here for two minutes, two hours, or two days? He doesn’t know the reality of the furious work going on around him.
The work to save his life.
Now on his back, he can make out a number of men standing around him. They speak English, but use language he does not understand. They read charts and look at monitors giving commands, “The patient is critical. His blood pressure is dropping from the internal lacerations.”
In urgency, one of them says, “Get him in the OR stat!”
The confusion causes him to push out a cry for help. A question that shows his concern and longing for clarity.
“Am I going to be OK?”
Dr. Lee, his attending ER physician, stares down at him. His reply is anything but comforting.
“I’m not sure.”
In fleeting snapshots throughout his life, he gave consideration to what his final moments here on earth would look like. Would he want to cry? Would he be afraid?
In this moment, he does neither. He thinks of his wife and his daughters. He longs to hold them. To touch them and tell them so many things.
Yet, in the midst of this chaotic scene, he feels an odd sense of peace. Deep within him, he feels a presence. A communion with a purpose greater than his own. It creates a calmness he can’t explain. In this moment, he utters a prayer. “God. I know I’m hurt pretty bad, but I am at peace with you. Please be with my girls.”
That is all he remembers.
On April 22, 2011 Greg Sidden was taking a very usual bike ride down a country round in rural Yadkin County, just outside Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Greg was a phenomenal athlete and in the best shape of his life. He placed great pride in physical activity and exercise, and was currently training for an Ironman – an endurance race in which athletes complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a full marathon, 26.2 miles. The event takes competitors on a grueling 140.6-mile adventure which, on average, takes nearly thirteen hours to complete.
His training and his life were very structured. His routine gave him confidence. The confidence he needed to perform.
This morning, Greg was riding alone. His thoughts were his only company.
He thought of his wife and his two daughters. His faith in God, something he had embraced since the age of ten. He thought about his career as an Agency Manager with North Carolina Farm Bureau. He thought about his upcoming race and pushing through the finish line.
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted.
A white Chevrolet Impala turned short from the oncoming lane, cutting in front of Greg.
As he braced for impact, his body stiffened and he threw his arms up to protect his face. He had little, if any, time to react before he violently collided with the right-front quarter panel of the vehicle. His body was launched from his bicycle and thrust head first into the windshield. At impact, he ricocheted off the car and came to rest, lifeless, in a nearby ditch.
Greg remembers nothing of the accident, but would later learn that the impact from the wreck would leave the Impala totaled.
The human body is a miracle at work. More importantly, the physical trauma it can withstand is astounding. Greg’s left side was completely crushed. He broke every rib and shattered both arms. However, the life-threatening damage was internal: a punctured lung, lacerated spleen, liver, and kidney.
For seven days, he lay in critical condition at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.
His attending physicians met with his family to impart the gravity of the situation, confirming that he was a kidney donor. At any moment, his body could likely shut down.
Fortunately, it did not.
In time, the body will heal.
Greg has taught me, it is the mind and the soul where real healing occurs.
Less than 1-year after his crash, Greg was racing again. In October 2013, just over 2-years after his accident, Greg would finish the Ironman he set out to complete back in 2011.
It started with simple walks in the park as he was only able to travel steps at a time. It began with 5-minute bike rides pushing through the pain in his lungs as they became used to performing at such high levels again.
Since his accident, Greg has completed 4 Half Ironman races, 3 Marathons and the Granddaddy of them all, an Ironman.
When we talked about his physical accomplishments, I asked him, “Why?”
“As I lay there recovering, all I could think about was the gift I had been given. I felt like God gave me a wake-up call. As much as I hated to admit it, I wasn’t in control. Honestly, that realization has given me the greatest confidence you can imagine.”
In a moment’s time, Greg went from being in the best shape of his life, to nearly losing it.
In an odd way, humility has a way of finding you. When it does, it is your response that counts.
The virtuous conditions of humility and confidence seem to be independent of one another. Placed on the opposite side of the scale, the more you have of one, the less you have of the other.
In fact, Greg has taught me differently.
It is in humility where we find our greatest confidence. To walk in that confidence reflects great humility.
Greg understands that his confidence is not his own. God’s purpose in his life – God’s gift of life – has given him new eyes.
“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
Greg told me, “When everything is good it’s real easy to be positive. It’s real easy to have faith then. The real test is how you respond to the fire. I had to understand that maybe I needed to be tested a bit.”
Seeing how quickly it could all change – how quickly it could all be lost – gave Greg deep appreciation. He now lives with renewed purpose and efficiency, making the most of every day.
Actually, it was tragic news that helped Greg gain better understanding.
A few months after his collision, Greg learned that the exact same day of his accident, a father and his son lost their lives in a tragic cycling accident in Wilmington, North Carolina. David Doolittle (46) and Trey Doolittle (17) were hit head-on by a drunk driver early that same morning. Neither of them survived.
Greg doesn’t purpose to understand the reasons why he was spared. He doesn’t let the questions cripple him. He embraces his reality and continues, even taking part in a fundraiser put together in honor of the Doolittles for cycling safety and awareness.
“I refused to let this disable me, physically or mentally. I couldn’t stand the thought of getting hooked on pain medications as a way to cope. I didn’t want my girls to be afraid of any bad thing that could happen in life. I wanted to be an example to them in my faith, an example to everyone. God calls us to carry on.”
Although I wasn’t there, I have this image of Greg crossing the finish line last fall as he completed his Ironman in just under twelve hours.
I feel my emotion well up inside of me as I see this man embracing his gift of life. Resting in the confidence that God would have him to continue.
Greg’s story reminds us:
To live richly means to embrace the confidence we have in our high calling. The purpose to which we were destined. To walk humbly before our God.
Do you have stories that speak of humility and confidence? Would you like to share something with Greg? Please do so in the comments below.
Thank you for stopping by this edition of Monday Matters. If you would like more information about the Doolittle Memorial Ride, please email me at [email protected]. Have a great day! If you would like a free copy of my eBook "I Am Here: Becoming Unbroken" please enter your info here. The book is scheduled for release on April 1st. Matt