Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What My Son Taught Me on Vacation About Being a Christian

My son has gotten into a habit that I thoroughly enjoy now, but would be annoying if he were to continue it into his teenage years. He never wants to walk anywhere. As soon as we get out of the car, he will turn and look at me with arms uplifted and say," Daddy, carry me" to which I now reply, "You will look really funny riding on my shoulders when you are 16" as I pick him up.

He rides on my shoulders regardless of where we go. He wants me to carry him when we go to the supermarket, the park, Silver Dollar city, the mall, McDonald's or church. He may walk, but he never walks more than 2 or 3 minutes. Every time he asks, I stoop down and pick him up. I simply cannot tell him no.

The reason for refusing to tell him no is the memories I have of my father carrying me on his shoulders. I remember how connected I felt to my dad when I was perched right by his ear, whispering questions and telling him I loved him. I thought I could see everything, and I knew that my dad loved me. That is why I do not tell him no when he asks me, and he never walks more than a couple of minutes.

This all changed yesterday at Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom. He walked, which on occasion he does. What was different this time is that he never asked me to pick him up. We were at Animal Kingdom from 9 AM to 6:30 PM and he walked the entire time. I was surprised, but not truly amazed.

The reason for his walking yesterday is quite simple. He thoroughly enjoyed everything he saw and everything he did while at Disney. There was not a minute that his enthusiasm or curiosity was not piqued. Walking was no longer a chore, it was a path to fulfilling his desires.

As I reflected on the day I was reminded of Matthew 18:3, which says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

When it comes to our faith, a lot of us are like my son. We expect those around us to do all of the work for us. We expect our pastor and our small group leader to do all the research, and explain everything to us. We do not want to spend time doing anything for ourselves. We lack both enthusiasm and curiosity when it comes to God. Why is this?

The problem is that we do simple math, and think we have the equation worked out: Church + tithe + small group = saved. That is all that we think that we have to do. We may know that we need to do more, but we think that we can coast. We choose to forget the first of what Christ told us are the 2 commandments to live by in Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 10. It was also mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:5.

This command is to love God with our whole heart, mind, strength and soul. When you love something or someone that deeply it never leaves your mind. It is your first thought in the morning, and the last thing in your head as you go to sleep. It is something you enjoy, and it is not a chore.

Part of the issue here is that we are no longer curious when it comes to learning about Christ. I think most of us feel that after we get baptized everything is easy from here. We think, "I am saved, and that is all that I need to do. Why should I have to put time into a relationship?" I think that this is why a lot of marriages fail, too. Once the vows are exchanged and we put the ring on, we feel that we no longer need to work on building the relationship. That is probably a good subject for another blog.

We also lack enthusiasm, because worshiping God is not that the cool or hip thing to do. When your friends ask you why you did not come out last night, it is pretty lame to tell them it was because you were reading the Bible\meditating\praying. Why don't we stay home and do that. What is really so cool about hanging out with her friends.

I don't know about you, but I would much rather have eternal life than the friendship of some drunks and hedonists. That may sound harsh, but sometimes we have to be. Christ said he did not come to bring peace, but a sword that would divide households.

If we're to be divided from our own family, it would stand to reason that we would also be divided from our friends. We need to once again make reading the Bible, praying, meditating and reading books to assist us in living a Christian life a huge part of our life. We need to start enjoying building our relationship with Christ. If we are truly infused with the Holy Spirit we should be. If we are not enthused, than we need to look at what we are not doing right. I will write about how we can make Christ a major part of our lives in the future.


I am on vacation with my wife, it was our 1 year anniversary on Sunday, and my son who turns 4 on Thursday. They come first and foremost after God. This is my way of saying that there will be no new blogs until next Tuesday. I look forward to talking to you again in one week. God bless!

Monday, May 30, 2011

My Testimony Part 3

God had kept his part of the bargain, so I have attempted to keep mine. I am blessed enough to say that I have not gotten into a fight or smoked a cigarette since that night. I am a firm believer in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all through him who gives me strength." Are there days that do not go as planned? Of course, this is an imperfect world, and I believe that Satan tempts us more the better we do. Do I miss the money, of course? But I know what it is to have plenty and be miserable, and I know what it is to have nothing and be content. Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is.

I have learned the difference between want and need. Are there things that I want that I do not have? You bet, but I have no needs that are not met. I can do all through he who gives me strength. Do I miss the drugs sometimes? You bet. I can honestly say that I loved drugs and I love the way that they made me feel, but I hate the person they turned me into. I never want to be that person again. I am no longer obsessed by drugs, but the desire is still there on occasion. I have prayed for the desire to be lifted, and it has not happened. I find solace in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, "there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Personally I like triggers,  I feel that they allow me to realize how strong addiction is and see how much stronger still is my relationship with Christ. A relationship is not made strong during the easy times, but during the times of hardships and trials. I can do all through him who gives me strength. In the end, I am blessed by Christ. I have a wonderful life, where I can help empower people to make better life choices in the future.

I agree that life is about more than just helping yourself, which is why the 12th step is by far my favorite step. It is the pay check at the end of a long and hard work week. Let no one tell you that true recovery is easy, but it is worth it. You have to be true to yourself and to Christ, and realize that only by walking the walk can you truly influence others. James 1:27 says that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

We are born from this world, but we do not have to be of this world. I have discovered through my continued relationship with Christ that sin is not just doing the wrong thing, but also not doing the right thing. For me, that means not repaying evil with evil but praying for my enemies and those who wrong me. I am loud in the songs I sing of my overcoming addiction with the assistance of Christ in my life.

I know that some may judge me, and that is on them. I will not judge, for my relationship with Christ does not allow that. I cannot gauge other's relationships with Christ, but only my own.  However I will not be the excuse, either through my speech or my actions, which someone has for not entering into a relationship with Christ. I try to show love, forgiveness and compassion to all that I come in contact with. I do this because I would want the same done to me. I once heard it said that going to Church no more makes you a Christian than standing in a garage makes you a car. I agree with that, and I want to be known for my actions, not my words. I want others to see how accepting and nonjudgmental Christ is and come to faith in Him.

They can only see that side of Christ if it is displayed by us as Christians and it all starts with me. Christ has given me a beautiful son, a beautiful wife who has always put Christ first her whole life, a job I enjoy and a story that can be shared with others of how rock bottom can be transformed into a life worth living. I understand how many feel not worthy of Christ’s grace. I remember when I went to my pastor and explained to him about this incredible female that I had met and how I was not worthy of her because I sinned frequently in my past and was new to Christ while she had lived her entire life for Christ. I could not understand how this could be, and my pastor told me a story I will relate to you. 

It is a parable that Christ shared in Matthew about the landowner who hires men in the early morning to go and work his fields for a denarius, which was the common payment for a full day’s work. Three hours later he goes to the marketplace and gets more workers and sends them to his fields. Three hours later he does the same thing, then again three hours later and yet again two hours later. At the end of the day, he paid them all the same and the first hired grumbled about getting paid the same. The landowner told them to take their pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Are you envious because I am generous, he asked them. This parable was not at all about money, but was about God's grace. It means that no matter when in your life you heed God’s call, you will gain Eternal Life. So now, instead of focusing on what God has given others I focus on God's gracious benefits to me and I am thankful for all that have.

I have a life now through Christ that I never had without him and I can finally look in the mirror and love the person staring back at me. I went from a drug addicted felon with no hope and no self esteem to a Christian who can attempt to give to others the grace and hope that was given to me. I can truly do all through him who strengthens me, and so can you. I would strongly encourage anyone considering Celebrate Recovery to look into it, and remember that it is a lifelong commitment. It worked for me and it will work for you. It is not a magical cure; it needs to be actively worked on a daily basis. I hear some say that they are recovered, and to me that says that they are done. 
I am in recovery, because that to me means that I will continue to work at this program, on myself, and on a better relationship with Christ on a daily basis.

I still get frustrated, still get sad, still feel guilty, still feel lonely and I do not always do the right thing, but I strive to be Christ like and try to ensure that each day I live my life will be better than the day before it. I am no longer a hypocrite; I no longer hate or harbor resentments and anger. Instead I laugh, I cry, I love, I am quick to help and even quicker to forgive. What I once saw as weakness I now often see as strength. Some of those who were once my enemies have become my heroes. It is amazing how your outlook on life changes when you are in recovery.

I owe a lot to the 12 step programs, even more to celebrate recovery, and I owe it all to Christ, for with him all things are possible.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Testimony Part 2

Two days later, I left behind a house and all of my possessions, taking only a duffel bag of clothing with me. I told my friends I was going on a drug run to Texas, and I never came back. I showed up at the door of my mother’s house and asked her for a chance to stay there until I got back on my feet. That was in July of 2001. I did 90 NA meetings in 90 days, actually more like 150 meetings in 90 days. I found a job waiting tables. By the fall of 2002 I was enrolled in college at OTC with a scholarship from the GED I had taken 10 years prior in prison. I got my associates degree in 04, double Bachelors in Psychology and Sociology in 07 and a Masters in Social Work in May of 2009. I have worked at a residential and outpatient treatment center since January of 08, and I am now the counselor for Greene County Family Dependency Treatment Court.

I did much of this without belief in God. I was never an atheist, more of an agnostic. You could not prove to me that there was or was not a God. I was Thomas and there were no holes to stick my fingers into, so I did not believe. I was clean off of drugs for 7 years, but I was not in recovery. I was drinking, which I justified because alcohol was not my drug of choice. I was getting into fights all of the time. I would not start them, but I went out with friends who liked to start fights and then I would finish them. I was cussing, sleeping around if I got the chance, smoking cigarettes and basically reveling in all of my character defects. I saw a dominatrix on a regular basis to beat me with whips and canes and flogs, because I felt that I deserved the pain. I looked into the mirror and did not like the person that I saw, but I could always look at others and see that I was not as bad as them. I was not where I wanted to be but thank God I was not where I once was.

I thought that I was better. Then I had a bad stretch, possibly my worst stretch ever. My father committed suicide in February of 2008 and I broke up with the mother of my son in and she would not let me see my son for the first several months. I struggled and did not know what to really do. I was out of hope, and my job as a substance abuse counselor was to give hope to my clients. I began to feel that I was a fraud and they were all going to find out. I started to look at the people that I knew who were always happy and no matter what kept their hope and it turned out to be a couple that I knew who were Christians. I went up to my friend Nate and told him what was going on and he invited me to come to Church the following week for service followed by a BBQ. I came, and the first thing I remember seeing was the tattoo wall that hung up in the Church. It was the tattoos that members of the church had and the reasons why they had gotten them. People were dressed in shorts and t-shirts and I did not feel judged for who I was or how I was dressed. Then I heard that they had a recovery meeting, and the next week I checked it out.

I was so nervous that the leader asked me a couple of times if I was okay. I did not feel that I belonged, I was a lost cause. My friends told me to give God a chance to work on me. I probably would not have come back, but the Church was accepting and I did not feel judged. The tattoo wall helped me out a lot. There was also the Celebrate Recovery group that was there, and I came and listened.  I felt that I did not belong at first. I was nervous, and my knee would literally shake the entire time that I was in Church. I wanted the hope I saw people having, but I knew that I did not deserve it. There were people who were there who had not done all that I had done. I was a sinner and could not seem to stop sinning.

In church one day, we read Romans 7:14 and 19, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. For what I do is not the good I want to do, no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing" Wow, there I was in a nut shell. I wanted to do well, but I could not. I was not alone; this guy who is responsible for half of the New Testament felt the same way that I did. In factRomans 3:23 stated, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."   It was not only me it was everybody that was imperfect. This was what I now had to work on.

My faith was weak, and I needed to become strong. I was going to have to separate myself from others and make decisions that would alienate me from my friends. I did not want to be the reason to cause others to stumble, so I had to change a lot of my playmates and playgrounds once again. I would be alone once again, and being alone is something that I hated. James 1:2-4 says that we should, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking of anything."

I realized that the reason I had never been truly happy in my entire life was because I relied solely upon myself, and I could not do it alone. I had my friends, but I relied only on me. No one else was dependable. I always figured that my life sucked, and that was the reason why it got so rough sometimes. I read that in James and for the first time realized that it was the devil working against me finding Christ and building that relationship.

In verse 12 of James 1 it says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." If I could just work through the trials of this world, it had to be better, right? I would use my own words to answer that question, but Romans 8:18 says this best "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." I so look forward to living this life right regardless of the struggles that I face, because of all that I have to look forward to after.

I started off in Narcotics Anonymous talking the walk, and I know that now. I have seen what the difference is between being drug free and being in recovery. I was miserable drug free. I was part of this world drug free, and I was a great example of how to live for you and be completely miserable. I wanted to quit, and still I struggled. Finally, I had enough. I wanted to be the kind of dad that I would want my son to grow into.

I prayed and I made a deal with God one night while I was drinking I behind the wheel of my car going home and there was a police car behind me that was following me turn for turn. I began to start praying to God. (Begging is more like it) I told him that I would quit drinking and fighting and cussing if he would allow me to make it home without getting pulled over and take the cigarette addiction away. That police car followed me through every turn from the bar until I turned onto the street that I live on, and he simply kept going.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Joplin - My FIrst Day Experience

I can tell you that I have helped a lot of people through traumatic things in their lives. I mean a lot of them. I have sometimes also experienced them personally but I have always experienced them vicariously through other people. I will also tell you that I had seen the television reports, and had seen the interviews with Joplin residents that had experienced loss. I also had been forewarned by other counselors who had been to Joplin the two previous days, and was debriefed on what to expect from the people who had survived the tornado during the drive to Joplin from Springfield.

I can tell you that all of those things mentioned above had occurred. I felt that I was ready to go and do what I could to support the psychological and emotional needs that the people of Joplin had. I know how to compartmentalize, and deal with the grief and loss that they are experiencing. I have done that before. I am used to dealing with traumatic events. Some of them were horrific, mothers losing sons and wives losing husbands. I had dealt with those types of situations before. I knew I was ready.

I would have been telling you the truth.

I will tell you that I have seen a lot of traumatic things in my life. I mean a lot of them. I have either experienced them personally or vicariously through other people. I will also tell you that I had seen the television reports, and seen videos and pictures of the tornado affected areas of Joplin. I also had been forewarned by other counselors who had been to Joplin the two previous days, and was debriefed on what I could expect to see during the drive to Joplin from Springfield.

I can tell you that all of those things mentioned above had occurred. I felt that I was ready to go and see the wake of the EF 5 tornado that hit the city of Joplin, cutting a 6 mile swath through her heart. I know how to compartmentalize, and deal with seeing traumatic events. I have done that before. I am used to dealing with seeing traumatic events. Some of them were horrific, multiple vehicle accidents, shootings, even a tornado that had destroyed homes and taken lives. I had dealt with those types of situations before. I knew I was ready.

I would have been lying to you.

I had definitely lied to myself. Looking back, I do not feel that anyone can be prepared to see some of the things that I saw. The sheer magnitude of the damage is unreal. It is on a scale that seems impossible to me. I saw things that I do not care if I ever see again. I saw things that looked physically and scientifically impossible, and probably were due to the laws of physics and gravity.

I saw a Burger King that was reduced to rubble, yet I could tell it was a Burger King based on the kids play area that was still intact. Brick building decimated but plastic slides and tubes not the least disheveled. I saw a two story house in which the bottom floor was semi-intact. On the second floor 3 of the 4 walls were gone. They simply were no longer, but on the one wall that was left standing a flat screen television was still mounted on it.

Now I know what they mean when they ask, "Why does it take this one and not the one next to it?" I saw buildings with everything including windows intact, and the building next to it not be recognizable. The winds in an EF 5 tornado are unreal. I had heard that x-rays and medical records had been discovered as far as 70 miles away. On our way into town we passed people on 4 wheelers and horseback that were about 10 miles outside of Joplin. They were looking for the bodies of those missing......10 miles from the affected area.

The magnitude of this tornado did not dawn on me until I drove down the areas that were directly hit by the massive tornado. The drama that has enfolded for the lives of those who live in Joplin became real when I saw people with tents pitched picking through the remains of what was once their houses, just hoping to find one Christmas ornament that their children had made them, or a photo of their husband who blew away in the tornado and is still missing. I saw truly broken people that had lost everything: family members, their job, their home, their friends, their vehicles and their wallets. They literally had nothing and no way to get anything.There were people with plastic boxes and garbage bags sifting through the remains of their house, at times somewhat standing and at other times a three foot high pile of wood and bricks..

Do not get me wrong, I also saw people turn out in droves to help. I saw the United Way, Convoy of Hope, more church vans than I could count, the Red Cross, etc. Restaurants were giving out free food and people were handing out free water. The drivers license bureau was waving the fee for replacement licenses. People came out to volunteer in such numbers that they had to turn them away. I saw hope and compassion. I saw people who knew that they mattered because people were there to help them, and they were going to make it through it. I saw people that were resilient, who could still smile and laugh and see the positives to come out of the ashes and mayhem.
But I also saw us, and that brought reality home to me. I looked in the rearview mirror as we drove through the carnage, and I saw 2 sets of eyes struggling to hold back the tears. That is when I let my tears, the ones that I had not realized I was holding back, fall. I knew that my heart was broken and that my life was forever changed by what I had experienced over the course of my first day of many, counseling and supporting people in Joplin.

There was one emotion that was nagging me as I drove through Joplin. I could not quite put my finger on what I was feeling. As I was driving back to Springfield I realized what that emotion was. It was Empathy. What I realized was that I felt hopeless and desolate even though I knew I got to go home. How must they feel? They don't get to leave, they are home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

45 Seconds: Memoirs of an ER Doctor from May 22, 2011

45 Seconds: Memoirs of an ER Doctor from May 22, 2011

Emergency Department
after May 22 tornado
View more photos from our Flickr
My name is Dr. Kevin Kikta, and I was one of two emergency room doctors who were on duty at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, MO on Sunday, May 22, 2011. 
You never know that it will be the most important day of your life until the day is over.  The day started like any other day for me: waking up, eating, going to the gym, showering, and going to my 4:00 pm ER shift. As I drove to the hospital I mentally prepared for my shift as I always do, but nothing could ever have prepared me for what was going to happen on this shift.  Things were normal for the first hour and half.   At approximately 5:30 pm we received a warning that a tornado had been spotted. Although I work in Joplin and went to medical school in Oklahoma, I live in New Jersey, and I have never seen or been in a tornado.  I learned that a  “code gray” was being called.  We were to start bringing patients to safer spots within the ED and hospital.
At 5:42 pm a security guard yelled to everyone, “Take cover! We are about to get hit by a tornado!”  I ran with a pregnant RN, Shilo Cook, while others scattered to various places, to the only place that I was familiar with in the hospital without windows, a small doctor’s office in the ED. Together, Shilo and I tremored and huddled under a desk.  We heard a loud horrifying sound like a large locomotive ripping through the hospital.  The whole hospital shook and vibrated as we heard glass shattering, light bulbs popping, walls collapsing, people screaming,  the ceiling caving in above us, and water pipes breaking, showering water down on everything.  We suffered this in complete darkness, unaware of anyone else’s status, worried, scared. We could feel a tight pressure in our heads as the tornado annihilated the hospital and the surrounding area.  The whole process took about 45 seconds, but seemed like eternity. The hospital had just taken a direct hit from a category EF5 tornado.
Then it was over.  Just 45 seconds.  45 long seconds.  We looked at each other, terrified, and thanked God that we were alive.  We didn’t know, but hoped that it was safe enough to go back out to the ED, find the rest of the staff and patients, and assess our losses.
“Like a bomb went off. ”  That’s the only way that I can describe what we saw next.  Patients were coming into the ED in droves.  It was absolute, utter chaos.  They were limping, bleeding, crying, terrified, with debris and glass sticking out of them, just thankful to be alive.  The floor was covered with about 3 inches of water, there was no power, not even backup generators, rendering it completely dark and eerie in the ED.  The frightening aroma of methane gas leaking from the broken gas lines permeated the air; we knew, but did not dare mention aloud, what that meant.  I redoubled my pace.
We had to use flashlights to direct ourselves to the crying and wounded.  Where did all the flashlights come from?  I’ll never know, but immediately, and thankfully, my years of training in emergency procedures kicked in.  There was no power, but our mental generators were up and running, and on high test adrenaline.  We had no cell phone service in the first hour, so we were not even able to call for help and backup in the ED.

I remember a patient in his early 20’s gasping for breath, telling me that he was going to die.  After a quick exam, I removed the large shard of glass from his back, made the clinical diagnosis of a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and gathered supplies from wherever I could locate them to insert a thoracostomy tube in him.  He was a trooper; I’ll never forget his courage.  He allowed me to do this without any local anesthetic since none could be found. With his life threatening injuries I knew he was running out of time, and it had to be done.  Quickly.  Imagine my relief when I heard a big rush of air, and breath sounds again; fortunately, I was able to get him transported out. I immediately moved on to the next patient, an asthmatic in status asthmaticus.  We didn’t even have the option of trying a nebulizer treatment or steroids, but I was able to get him intubated using a flashlight that I held in my mouth.  A small child of approximately 3-4 years of age was crying; he had a large avulsion of skin to his neck and spine.  The gaping wound revealed his cervical spine and upper thoracic spine bones.  I could actually count his vertebrae with my fingers.  This was a child, his whole life ahead of him, suffering life threatening wounds in front of me, his eyes pleading me to help him..  We could not find any pediatric C collars in the darkness, and water from the shattered main pipes was once again showering down upon all of us. Fortunately, we were able to get him immobilized with towels, and start an IV with fluids and pain meds before shipping him out.  We felt paralyzed and helpless ourselves.   I didn’t even know a lot of the RN’s I was working with.  They were from departments scattered all over the hospital. It didn’t matter.  We worked as a team, determined to save lives.  There were no specialists available -- my orthopedist was trapped in the OR.  We were it, and we knew we had to get patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible.  As we were shuffling them out, the fire department showed up and helped us to evacuate.  Together we worked furiously, motivated by the knowledge and fear that the methane leaks could cause the hospital could blow up at any minute.
Things were no better outside of the ED. I saw a man crushed under a large SUV, still alive, begging for help; another one was dead, impaled by a street sign through his chest.   Wounded people were walking, staggering, all over, dazed and shocked.   All around us was chaos, reminding me of scenes in a war movie, or newsreels from bombings in Bagdad.  Except this was right in front of me and it had happened in just 45 seconds.  My own car was blown away.  Gone. Seemingly evaporated.  We searched within a half mile radius later that night, but never found the car, only the littered, crumpled remains of former cars.  And a John Deere tractor that had blown in from miles away.
Tragedy has a way of revealing human goodness.  As I worked, surrounded by devastation and suffering, I realized I was not alone.  The people of the community of Joplin were absolutely incredible.  Within minutes of the horrific event, local residents showed up in pickups and sport utility vehicles, all offering to help transport the wounded to other facilities, including Freeman, the trauma center literally across the street.  Ironically, it had sustained only minimal damage and was functioning (although I’m sure overwhelmed).  I carried on, grateful for the help of the community.   
Within hours I estimated that over 100 EMS units showed up from various towns, counties and  four different states. Considering the circumstances, their response time was miraculous.  Roads were blocked with downed utility lines, smashed up cars in piles, and they still made it through.
We continued to carry patients out of the hospital on anything that we could find: sheets, stretchers, broken doors, mattresses, wheelchairs—anything that could be used as a transport mechanism.
As I finished up what I could do at St John’s, I walked with two RN’s, Shilo Cook and Julie Vandorn, to a makeshift MASH center that was being set up miles away at Memorial Hall.  We walked where flourishing neighborhoods once stood, astonished to see only the disastrous remains of flattened homes, body parts, and dead people everywhere.  I saw a small dog just wimpering in circles over his master who was dead, unaware that his master would not ever play with him again.  At one point we tended to a young woman who just stood crying over her dead mother who was crushed by her own home.  The young woman covered her mother up with a blanket and then asked all of us,  “What should I do?”  We had no answer for her, but silence and tears.
By this time news crews and photographers were starting to swarm around, and we were able to get a ride to Memorial Hall from another RN.  The chaos was slightly more controlled at Memorial Hall.  I was relieved to see many of my colleagues, doctors from every specialty, helping out.  It was amazing to be able to see life again.  It was also amazing to see how fast workers mobilized to set up this MASH unit under the circumstances. Supplies, food, drink, generators, exam tables, all were there—except pharmaceutical pain meds. I sutured multiple lacerations, and splinted many fractures, including some open with bone exposed, and then intubated another patient with severe COPD, slightly better controlled conditions this time, but still less than optimal.
But we really needed pain meds.  I managed to go back to the St John’s with another physician, pharmacist, and a sheriff’s officer. Luckily, security let us in to a highly guarded pharmacy to bring back a garbage bucket sized supply of pain meds.
At about midnight I walked around the parking lot of St. John’s with local law enforcement officers looking for anyone who might be alive or trapped in crushed cars.  They spray-painted “X”s on the fortunate vehicles that had been searched without finding anyone inside. The unfortunate vehicles wore “X’s” and sprayed-on numerals, indicating the  number of dead inside,  crushed in their cars, cars  which now resembled flattened  recycled aluminum cans the tornado had crumpled  in her iron hands, an EF5 tornado, one of the worst in history, whipping through this quiet town with demonic strength.  I continued back to Memorial hall into the early morning hours until my ER colleagues told me it was time for me to go home.  I was completely exhausted.  I had seen enough of my first tornado. 
How can one describe these indescribable scenes of destruction?  The next day I saw news coverage of this horrible, deadly tornado.  It was excellent coverage, and Mike Bettes from the Weather Channel did a great job, but there is nothing that pictures and video can depict compared to seeing it in person. That video will play forever in my mind.
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone involved in helping during this nightmarish disaster.  My fellow doctors, RN’s, techs, and all of the staff from St. John’s.  I have worked at St John’s for approximately 2 years, and I have always been proud to say that I was a physician at St John’s in Joplin, MO.  The smart, selfless and immediate response of the professionals and the community during this catastrophe proves to me that St John’s and the surrounding community are special.  I am beyond proud.
To the members of this community, the health care workers from states away, and especially Freeman Medical Center, I commend everyone on unselfishly coming together and giving 110% the way that you all did, even in your own time of need. St John’s Regional Medical Center is gone, but her spirit and goodness lives on in each of you.
EMS, you should be proud of yourselves.  You were all excellent, and did a great job despite incredible difficulties and against all odds
For all of the injured who I treated, although I do not remember your names (nor would I expect you to remember mine) I will never forget your faces.  I’m glad that I was able to make a difference and help in the best way that I knew how, and hopefully give some of you a chance at rebuilding your lives again.  For those whom I was not able to get to or treat, I apologize whole heartedly.
Last, but not least, thank you, and God bless you, Mercy/St John’s for providing incredible care in good times and even more so, in times of the unthinkable, and for all the training that enabled us to be a team and treat the people and save lives. 
Kevin J. Kikta, DO
Department of Emergency Medicine
Mercy/St John’s Regional Medical Center, Joplin, MO

Every Day is Joplin

I was listening to the news, and I heard a reporter who had also been to the Middle East say, "It looks like Afghanistan. It looks like Bagdad, everything is leveled. It looks like there was an attack against Joplin." I had an epiphany after he said that. I am in no way discounting the pain and trauma that those in Joplin went through, and will continue to go through for quite some time. They went through a traumatic experience that will impact them for the rest of their lives in some cases. Their anger, their depression and their loss is horrific and no one should have to go through what they went through. Yet still, I had a thought.

The thought I had was probably pretty common for some people. That said, it was instantly profound for me. It may be profound for others. Once I had the thought, I could not believe that it had not dawned on me earlier. That thought was this - There are people who live through the carnage, fear and loss those in Joplin are experiencing on a daily basis. Seriously, think about it. Not a one time incident, but every single day they live in areas that are ravaged.

Think about the kids that live in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, the Ivory Coast, Uganda, Kosovo, Darfur or the Congo? In fact, what about all of the people who live there. Not knowing whether or not your home will be destroyed when you get off work. Not knowing if some government, or independent/gorilla/freedom/republic/people's army will take you or your family hostage. Not knowing if you will get kidnapped into an army on your way home from school, or kidnapped and sold into the sex slave industry.

I heard a father from Joplin talk about it taking him 4 hours to get his family reunited. He recounted the fear that was slowly eating him alive when he was unsure if they were all safe. Until he got them all together he did not know if they were all alive. Then he recounted the relief that he felt when he knew they were all alive. I thought of the parent who has a job in some of these countries that have to go to work each day and never know if their children or their home will be there, or if they will get arrested or killed on the way to work or home after. He goes through the same intense feelings as the man in Joplin. The difference is he goes through those feelings every day.

We are ready to run out and volunteer time and resources to help out those impacted by the tornado in Joplin on Sunday or in Oklahoma on Tuesday. That is commendable, and your resources and your time are greatly needed and extremely appreciated. It is even Biblical:

Matthew  25:5, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in."

1 John 3:17-18, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Sadly, it seems that some of us take a stance that is much akin to what George Carlin talked about in his stand up. He called it NIMBY, or not in my back yard. If it isn't NIMBY, then we do not really care about it. Or we may care, but we let other people take care of those situations. It seems to not be that big of a deal to some. The outreaches that I am seeing are occuring all over the place in the Springfield area. It makes me happy to this kind of support.

There is something that is bothering me about it, though. I do not remember seeing this kind of support when 230,000 were killed in the Indonisian tsunami in 2004, or when there were between 250,00-300,000 killed in the Haiti earthquake a little over a year ago. Nor did I see this kind of support when there were almost 140,000 killed in Myanmar during a 2008 cyclone.

Ther are other places outside of the United States that need help also, and there are resources like Convoy of Hope that get that help to them. I am a huge fan and supporter of Convoy of Hope and will some day do a blog on their organization for those who do not know. I hope that anyone reading this blog will listen to my recommendation here, I will even put it in all caps so it sticks out!


Keep up the good work that you are doing and do not ever stop. Teach your kids that community service is something that is done all of the time by setting that example for them!! God Bless you, and continue praying for those who were affected by the series of tornados we have experienced, as well as for those who are in war torn areas, where those who have faith are persecuted and also for those poor children who are getting kidnapped and sold into a lifetime of sexual slavery. Pray hard and pray often!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Testimony Part I - How It Begins

I am a believer in Jesus Christ who has been blessed with many trials and tribulations to work through, among them are chemical dependency, anger, criminal behavior, codependency, physical and emotional abuse, an adult child of family dysfunction and sexual addiction. With all of that going on you can believe I have some financial issues, too. I guess you could say that as I was younger I was an overachiever. My mother made predictions for me, such as, “you are going to be an alcoholic just like your dad and go to jail just like your brother.” I always tried to outdo her expectations, as you will see later. I wish that I could blame my beginning, but it was a pretty common start. My father and mother were on again and off again, but not when it came to their belief in God and Christ. I was brought up a Christian, and was up in front of the Church giving sermons by the 4th grade. My parents did not smoke cigarettes, nor did they use bad language. By the church's viewpoint we were the model Christian family. Three children, a collie, Church three times a week, a house on a double lot and the children and their father playing outside with each other on the weekends. Sadly, all was not as it seemed. My father worked 12 hour days at Caterpillar, and when he got home he drank in the garage. He still played with us kids and never was violent (although there were times my mother would hit my dad repeatedly and he would just stand there and take it), but eventually my mother had enough. She left him my first week of 5th grade without telling him where we went, and we did not see him for six months.

My mother sent us to live with her mother and father while she worked two jobs to get us a place of our own. This is where the story goes south, in my opinion. My grandfather was an abusive man, he would beat us to the point that he would not let us go to school for a week at a time. His combination of farmer and lots of money meant that when we missed school he said we were helping on the farm and he got away with it. We never said anything to our mother or the school because our grandpa threatened to kill my sister if we did and we believed him. After all, he shot at our uncle and got away with it. I began to fight a lot in the 5th grade, I would get beat at home and come to school and take it out on whomever. I guess that I have always fought since moving in with my grandfather and liked the pain; I guess that I figured I was to blame for my mom and dad splitting up and that was my penance. I also figured out that if I laughed while my grandfather switched me the beating would intensify and he would wear himself out and my brother would not get beat that day.

At a very young age I had managed to develop some severe anger and masochistic issues. I felt abandoned by God, and I stopped believing in him. Why believe in someone who was not there for me. My mother got a place of our own for us in the 6th grade, and she was smoking cigarettes by this time. I started to smoke too. It began with stealing her cigarettes and ended up my buying them off of other kids at school.

In the 7th grade my father got custody of me. He had not drunk in two years and had begun his own business that was doing well, but he worked overnights. I was quickly on the prowl late night, hanging out at the square and doing random acts of vandalism. I was a quick bloomer, the first weekend I got drunk was the first time that I smoked marijuana, did a line of cocaine, tripped acid, kissed a girl and managed to lose my virginity. From there it was all out. I began to hang out all night. My father tried to ground me for a week, and I came back a month later. It was the last time that he grounded me. He ended up getting remarried and we moved again, but it was more of the same; a lot of THC, alcohol, mini-thins, fighting and promiscuity.

I did not like my new stepmom, and I moved back to my mother’s for my senior year of high school. I was quickly in trouble with the law. I went to jail more times than I can remember for fighting, burglary and breaking and entering. I got into the world of methamphetamine, and soon after my world began to crumble. I was on probation and had numerous violations, and yet they never revoked my probation. They tried scared straight, county jail sentences and house arrest all to no avail. I actually liked county jail; I could catch up on my sleep and not worry about having to watch my back all the time. Finally I did not report to my PO for about 6 months. I had decided to take off and travel around the country without telling him. When I got tired of running I went to see him and told him I was ready for prison. He did not disappoint me, I was 20 and on my way to prison.

It was a long time coming, and I guess I saw it as inevitable. Some people have great stories about their 21st birthday. Mine sucked, I was in Booneville and it was a prison camp for kids 25 and under. It was nonstop fighting, and I learned how to be a better criminal. I also ended up getting my GED while I was at Booneville, which was the only positive thing that happened. I found God, but only to look good to the parole board. I got released to a party house when I paroled out. I was drunk an hour after I got out. I was high, spun and with a girl by the end of my first night out. How I managed to walk down my parole I will never know. I found out that manufacturing could get me more money, more dope and more girls and I was in. To make myself feel better I did good things with my money, like giving to charities and helping friends who did not do drugs pay their bills and raise their families. I cut the methamphetamine with a vitamin B complex powder because it was healthier than what everyone else used. I was making a lot of excuses to make myself feel better for what I was doing.

A year after I got out of prison I drove a car off an embankment drunk. Flew may be a better definition. I took a Firebird off a giant hill and flew 96 feet and was 32 feet in the air. I spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital and came out addicted to opiates. I was using IV by this time, as any other way was a waste in my opinion. Soon after I got arrested in Texarkana for possession with intent to distribute a week before my parole was up. I got off of parole just in time to get back on probation. My drug use by this time was getting ridiculous. I was using more and more meth to keep up with the amount of morphine I was using. I was staying awake for a week at a time, sleeping only on Sundays. I was working for most of the time as a bartender. It was an easy way to keep my PO happy and still sell a lot of drugs. I could always stop using a couple of days before I saw my PO, until the very end.

It got so bad that in 2000 I used an hour before I went to see my PO. When I walked into her office, she asked me a question that I did not want to hear. She asked me if I had been doing drugs. I went ahead and told her the truth. I was on meth, cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines. She told me because I was honest she would give me a chance, and I turned 28 in a residential substance abuse treatment facility a few weeks later. I completed it successfully and got out ready to show the world they were wrong. I quickly needed money and got sucked right back into the scene. I thought I would just put together a batch, but my use and my quality of life started back up worse than before I had quit. My first use ended with me not sleeping for a few days shy of a month. I used for the next year, and I went through the worst times of my life. I was shot at and shot back at people, came within 5 seconds of shooting a police officer, watched a few friends die from overdoses, overdosed a few times myself, saw a few friends get 25 years in prison or more, was either raided or at places that were several times, beat up several friends and almost killed a few people. I no longer cared about anything or anyone, not even myself. I loved drugs, I loved they way that they made me feel but I hated the person that they turned me into. I had a death wish, and I would put myself in life or death situations because I truly wanted to die.

After an overdose and a really bad drug deal where one of my partners got shot I was emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted. To steal a 12 Step slogan, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I went to my sister's house, which was my life line to sanity. She had never done drugs or even smoked a cigarette and actually had a legal job. She was the only person that I considered sane and safe left in my life. She was the only person in my life who I knew truly loved me for me and not for what I could get or do for them I told her that I wanted to get out and had no idea how. She told me she could make it easier for me. I asked her how, and her reply was, I want you to leave and get clean or I do not want to see you again. I cannot watch you kill yourself anymore.