Beyond the rhetoric: Bump in the road

Harry C. Alford

Harry C. Alford

Life can change quickly. All of a sudden the simplest things started becoming complicated. My logic and rationale were rattled. Headaches and bewilderment started zigzagging my mind. It wasn’t long before my wife Kay decided to take us to my primary care doctor. Within five minutes, he tested my knees with a hammer for deep tendon reflexes.

My left knee did not react. He ordered me to go to the nearest hospital (Johns Hopkins). He called ahead to the hospital and got me priority in the Emergency Room. It became apparent to the Emergency Room doctor that I was showing signs of pressure on the brain. A CT scan showed blood shifting my brain.

The medics turned me over to Dr. Thai. We would later find out that Dr. Thai is a highly competent brain surgeon.

In fact, he was the senior resident for the honorable Dr. Ben Carson. This calmed my concerns. He told me that we would go into surgery next morning. Many of my concerns were removed as it became obvious that I was in gifted hands.

We settled into Intensive Care Unit and began preparing for my surgery. Dr. Thai said that he would be in the next morning before dawn. The staff of the hospital was congenial and obviously well trained. Realizing that my life was now on the line I tried my best to fight off fear as it tried to break through my mental door. I could see fear in Kay’s eyes and knew that I had to become a ‘rock.’

We told no one at the time but eventually our twin sons would recognize the signals.

Midnight would come soon. The thought of such sensitive surgery made me contemplate my demise. The nurses told us that Dr. Thai prefers to do surgery around 7 am and would first appear at 5 am. As we sat in the ICU, time became evermore precious. I decided to console myself by silently repeating The Lord’s Prayer over and over. Fortunately, my faith remained strong. The staff of the hospital was very well organized and professional. They were truly a team as the night ticked by in anticipation of the surgery. There must have been a team of 30 people—40% of whom were Black with the sole mission of my operation. It was so impressive and assuring to Kay and me.

At 4 am, we became aware of the surgical staff mingling together in a waiting room. They were huddling in preparation of the big operation of the day. At 5 am, there was plenty of small talk and then it was announced that

Dr. Thai was in the building and would be coming in for the big moment. Around 7 am, I was taken to the operating table and heard those impressionable words: let’s apply the propofol. That is when they put you to sleep. This is the anesthesia that was involved in Michael Jackson’s quest for sleep. I knew that whatever was about to happen I would find out about it later if I survived. Propofol is the best sleep one can experience.

Then presto, I woke up with the capable staff standing around my bedside accompanied by my devoted wife Kay Kay. It wasn’t long before Dr. Thai came and talked to me in a very simple manor.

Kay would tell me later that Dr. Thai spoke with her and our sons and that I had done well. That was so relieving for her. Three days later, as predicted, I left the hospital. Medicine has come a long way. My physical faculties were slow but surprisingly intact. I thank our Lord in so many ways and couldn’t wait to arrive home and be surrounded by my wife and sons.

Reflection of that experience and my life were cause for a philosophical review. It occurred to me that so many people were depending on my duties as a leader in various facets of Black life, education, leadership, economic development, policy, calling a wicked man wicked and marching our multitudes to a better way of living. There was a great need for me to recover quickly even though it has only been a few days there would be thousands waiting for me to continue my work. I cannot let them down. So begins my road to recovery.

As I write this column only three days after brain surgery I am tussling with Kay about my demanding impatience to begin working. Hopefully it won’t be long before I am back to 100% or at least have an assistant to help me in my duties. God is great! And to deserve such a great God I must commit myself to the leadership and betterment of our people. I am not gone America. It was only a bump in the road. And the best is yet to come. I love you all.

(Alford is co-founder/CEO of National Black Chamber of Commerce. Visit , or <>.)