I’m only alive today because I got shot in the head.
The force of the bullet knocked me flat on my back in the middle of a pasture in the Ozark Mountains of southwestern Missouri. The air was heavy, the world fuzzy around me. Blood flowed down my forehead. A face appeared in my line of vision. My brother-in-law Scott.
“I’m going to get help!” he said. He was inches from me, but sounded miles away. “Stay still!”
Stay still? Where did he think I was going to go?
I had no idea where the shot came from. The details, like my vision, were a blur. Last thing I remembered, Scott and I had been checking the cattle fences on his property. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. My family and I had driven an hour to my sister’s house in the country to fill up on leftovers.
Before we could dig into turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, though, Scott had to do a quick drive-by of the fences. I tagged along. I’m a minister and a professor at a Bible college in Springfield. But I was no city boy. I’d grown up in the country. I knew my way around the land.
We hopped in Scott’s pickup and drove from fence to fence. We stopped to remove a fallen tree branch from one section and were walking back to the truck when it happened. One minute I was standing, the next I was on the ground, blood everywhere. I didn’t hear the whizz of a bullet. But I sure felt it. A gash ran from my forehead down the right side of my face. Who’d want to shoot a nice guy like me? I didn’t have any enemies.
Probably a deer hunter in the woods nearby had missed his shot. Rifle bullets can travel long distances, well beyond someone’s line of sight. I’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The sun beat down on me. I thought about my wife, Mychere, and our kids. We’d moved back to Missouri from West Virginia a few months earlier, leaving behind good jobs and a school the kids loved. But we’d felt God calling us here. Now I questioned it. Was it really his will for me to bleed to death in the Ozarks?
Scott’s face zoomed into focus once more. This time, Mychere was by his side. They hoisted me into the truck, then Scott hightailed it to the nearest hospital. I always disliked hospitals and avoided going to the doctor other than for my regular physical. No reason to. I was as healthy as a horse! But now I’d just been shot in the head. Why would God let this happen?
The truck bounced up and down on the gravel road. Mychere pressed a wet cloth to the wound. My head throbbed. My right eye was swollen shut. Was the stray bullet still in my skull? What if I didn’t make it? Would my kids grow up without their dad?
I was doubtful the on-call doctors at the little country hospital Scott took me to would know how to treat a gunshot wound to the head. But a CT scan revealed no sign of a bullet inside my skull. It had only grazed me, scary as that was. The doctor patched me up and I was good to go. At least I thought I was.
On Monday morning, my doctor in Springfield called. He’d received a copy of my CT scan. “I want you to get an MRI,” he told me. “Something caught my eye. It’s probably nothing, but just in case.”
I got an MRI as soon as possible. Getting crammed inside that little tube was no easy feat for a six-foot-three, 245-pound guy like myself. As I lay there, I wondered if some fragment of the bullet remained inside my head after all. A day later, I found out it wasn’t a bullet.
“Mark, there’s a tumor the size of a quarter sitting on your optic nerve,” my doctor said. “You’ll need immediate treatment. You could lose your vision…or worse.”
I’d never had any symptoms—no blurred vision, headaches, nothing. But according to my doctor, I had “the kind of tumor you don’t find unless you’re looking for it.” I entered treatment right away.
The scar the bullet left is barely visible now. My hair still grows a little funny in that spot. I never found out who shot me. The police also figured it was a hunter, far enough away that he never knew where his bullet ended up. But boy, am I ever thankful it ended up where it did.
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