Personal Stories: Chris Jones

This story really begins back in February with our son Baxter. Baxter’s left foot has a slight curve which has been there since birth and has gotten worse over time. Doctors in Dothan, AL and Nashville, TN told us that it was due to his position in the womb. He wore a cast for 6 weeks and then the doctors told us that his foot would correct itself once he started walking, but it has only gotten worse. In February he started complaining of his leg hurting and we kind of dismissed it at first, thinking that it was because of the way he was sitting on it when he would be in the floor playing.


We finally made him an appointment with his PCP. We saw Dr. Frisbie in March and she suggested that we take him to see an Orthopedist because she did not feel that his foot would get better and she could see where his foot being curved could cause his leg to hurt when he walks. My wife, Jenifer, suggested Dr. Richard McCarthy in Little Rock, AR because she has Congenital Scoliosis and he ha d cared for her since 1984 and he performed a Spinal Fusion on her back in July of 1993, and she would feel very comfortable in having him care for our son. So an appointment was made and we took Baxter to see Dr. McCarthy on May 1st. Dr. McCarthy immediately mentioned Marfan’s Syndrome and recommended genetic testing for Baxter. June 1, 2006 We went to see the geneticist, Dr. Mary Curtis, in Little Rock, AR and Baxter was tested for Marfan’s and received positive results on June 19, 2006.


Typically, it takes three months after the test to get results. The geneticist was pretty sure after seeing me that I had it as well and no test was needed unless I wanted it. The geneticist then recommended that echocardiograms be performed on me, Baxter, and our eighteen month old daughter, Garyn. In order to schedule the echocardiograms at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, we would need Primary Care Physician (PCP) referrals. Baxter and Garyn were already set up with PCP referrals, bu t I was not. So, we made an appointment for July 21, 2006, at 4:30pm (the earliest available). Before my appointment we found out we had no insurance. We applied for new insurance but it would be a month or so before we found out if we were accepted.


I considered canceling the appointment but something told me to keep that appointment with Dr. Frisbie on the 21st of July, and she agreed to see me regardless of our lack of insurance. On my appointment everything was going fine until she listened to my heart and immediately stated that I needed to see a Cardiologist due to a loud heart murmur that radiated up into my neck. Also upon physical examination she said it felt as though my aorta was enlarged. On Sunday, July 23rd, I had made prior arrangements, with our associate pastor, for my family to be anointed during the Sunday morning church service. Tuesday, July 25th, Jenifer called the company we had applied for insurance with and they said that it would still be a couple more weeks before they would know anything, but to save receipts for medical and prescription bills and once accepted we could send in a claim form.


The following Thursday, July 27th, I had an EKG, echocardiogram, and an abdominal ultrasound. Immediately I was supposed to see a Cardiologist, Dr. Hernandez. As soon as the Ultrasound Tech placed the echocardiogram instrument on my chest she said, “Wow” without even realizing it. Letting me know that something was wrong. Not to comforting. While we were waiting to see the doctor, his nurse came out and said that before the doctor would see me, he insisted that I have a CT angiogram also. Then, Dr. Hernandez saw me. His reaction was alarming, and he seemed hesitant to show me the results. He said that I had a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm that measured approximately 7.4 cm, and something had to be done.


He recommended a Methodist Hospital in TX or UAMS, because we did not have insurance he didn’t believe that the Methodist Hospital would accept us. Upon my questioning him about what we needed to do and where we needed to go he said that he could write out the diagnosis and we could take it to any ER at any hospital and they would not turn us away. Before he did that he wanted to check with another Cardiovascular Surgeon, Dr. McCoy, to see if he could possibly perform the surgery. Dr. McCoy said that if the aneurysm did not go down into the aortic root that he could do the surgery, and would regardless of insurance coverage. Dr. Hernandez and Dr. McCoy both agreed that something had to be done, “not today, not tomorrow, but within the next two weeks”, they said.


An appointment was made with Dr. McCoy for August 2, 2006. We went home and called our pastors, Brother James and Danny Spears. They came and prayed with us and Danny shared that we did not need to worry about anything…bills included. Which unloaded a huge burden since I am our only income and the company I work for does not have any short t erm disability insurance or anything. We just didn’t want to lose our house. Bro. Danny told us, “the least of your worries should be nothing”. The church will take care of things. On Thursday night, July 27th, it was mentioned by several people in Dothan, AL to contact Dr. Leland Eaton and see what he would recommend. Thursday night we called my cousin, Marcy to see if she could get in touch with Emily Eaton Stein, Dr. Eaton’s daughter, and have her contact her dad, to see what he thought we needed to do.


My mom and dad and my brother arrived at our house in Arkansas around 5am. Emily Eaton Stein called Marcy Friday morning at 7:45am and Marcy explained to her what was going on with me. She immediately offered to call her dad and see if he knew anybody that could perform the surgery. Meanwhile, Jenifer and I were about to arrive at Sparks Hospital in Fort Smith, AR to get the results of the CT angiogram that would determine if Dr. McCoy would be able to perform the surgery . Marcy called just before we arrived at the hospital and said that Dr. Eaton would like to get me to UAB in Birmingham, AL as soon as possible. She gave me Dr. Eaton’s number and had given him ours as well.


I called Dr. Eaton, and briefed him on what was going on. Dr. Eaton expressed the importance of getting me to Birmingham as soon as possible and told me to get all of my records and he would “orchestrate and execute” the rest. Immediately after talking with Dr. Eaton, I had an incredible peace about the entire situation. After talking with Dr. Eaton, we continued to the hospital where we were informed that the aneurysm did go down into the aortic root, so Dr. McCoy would not have been able to perform the operation anyway. At this point, we collected all of my test results to take with us to UAB in Birmingham, AL. Saturday morning we packed up and went to Alabama.


We stopped in Russellville, AL to stay with Marcy and Doug before going on into Birmingham. We got into Birmingham Sunday afternoon. Dr. Eaton called and said that I needed to be at his office Monday at 10:30 am. Monday, July 31st, we arrived at Dr. Eaton’s office around 10 am and shortly thereafter, were called back. Once we saw Dr. Eaton he listened to my heart and reviewed the records we brought and then instructed me, with concern and fear as a father would instruct his son, to not do anything! “Do not walk, do not so much as lift your little finger. You will be picked up in a wheelchair and taken anywhere you go”.


We left Dr. Eaton’s office and went straight to UAB Hospital where I was admitted. That afternoon Jenifer spoke with her parents back in Arkansas. They were taking care of our stuff and picking up our mail for us. They told us that we had received a packet where we had applied for new insurance and we were accepted and that coverage was effective as of July 22nd and that the 14 day waiting period had been deleted. Wow! What a blessing! Jenifer spoke with someone a t the hospital regarding the insurance and they said they would file it. Later that evening Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Kirklin came in and said that this was not an emergency because there was no dissection but something needed to be done soon. Tuesday, August 1st, Dr. Eaton’s daughter, Ellen, came in. She said that her dad had paged her and told her to meet him there. Shortly after Ellen arrived, Dr. Eaton came in.


He asked if it would be alright if Ellen listened to my heart (she is graduating Med School in May, I believe). Dr. Eaton then gave me a note with several different scriptures that he had typed out. He then said “since I am still an ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church, I think we should pray”. At that point everyone in the room held hands and Dr. Eaton led us in prayer. During the prayer you could tell that the room was overwhelmingly filled with the Holy Spirit. I grew up with Ellen and it was awesome to see Dr. Eaton in the role of father, doctor and elder.

This was a very special time for me. Wednesday, August 2nd, was a pretty quiet day. I had a 3D Echo. We were told this was to get exact measurements needed for the procedure. The nurse came in and shaved me from my chest to my ankles. Thursday, August 3rd, Surgery Day. We had been told that the surgery would be at 1:00 and they would probably get me about 12 or 12:30. The nurse that morning told me they would probably get me early. Our former pastor from First Freewill Baptist Dothan was on his way and we didn’t know if he would make it in before they came to get me. He arrived just after 11:30, he led us in prayer and they came to get me at 11:45. Once they rolled me down for surgery, they had me outside of the operating room. The Anesthesiologist came up and stated that he was going to begin wrapping my head and preparing me for surgery. At that point a woman in purple came up beside me. She had on a hair cap and a breathing mask.


She asked me if I was Christopher Jone s and I said, “yes”. She then asked if I knew Lewis and Alicia Humphreys and I said that I did. She unzipped a little pocket on her suit and pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it and said she had an email she wanted to read me. She read me the email and said, “people all over the US are praying for you and God will be with us through this “. As soon as she finished they immediately rolled me into the operating room. I am told I was out of surgery at about 8:45 pm. I was in CICU until early Saturday afternoon when I was moved to a room. I do remember Dr. Eaton coming into CICU on Friday and how encouraging he was to me. Above everything else that happened through out this experience, I will remember that moment the most. Just knowing that God had lead both of us to one another and the outcome seemed to be so overwhelming for the both of us. I will cherish it forever. Sunday, August 6th, I was told that I would be able to go home on Monday pending a clear echo. Monday,

August 7th, I had an echo and when we got the results they told me that I had some fluid around my heart and in my lungs and they were going to keep me in the hospital a few more days to try and get the fluid off. We were very disappointed at first but knew that God must have a reason for keeping me there. They did another echo on Wednesday, August 9th and the fluid in my lungs was gone and that around the heart wasn’t so bad. They were also checking to make sure my heart was getting stronger.

Dr.’s Kirklin and Rodriguez came around Wednesday night and told me that we would be able to leave the hospital Thursday morning, but we could not return home to Arkansas. Dr. Kirklin wanted to see me in the clinic again on Monday and a 9 hour trip home and back then back home again would be too much too soon. So we went to my mom and dad’s in Dothan. Sunday, August 13th we made plans to go to church. Since we were affiliated with First Presbyterian and First Freewill Baptist, we mad e plans to go to both churches. First Pres Sunday morning and First FWB Sunday night. Sunday morning when we were on our way to church Pastor Charley called to check on us and Jenifer told him that we were in Dothan and would be at church in the next 10 minutes.

While at church we found out that another couple there, The Keyton’s had taken their infant daughter to UAB for heart surgery on Monday. That night at First FWB I had the opportunity to get up and give a briefing of my testimony. I say a briefing because I wasn’t really prepared to do it, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to allow others to see how God moved in this situation. Both services were very special to me. I just want to make sure that God gets all the honor, glory and praise for this. Monday, August 14th we left my mom and dad’s around 8:00 am going to Birmingham. It’s about a 3 ˝ hour trip and my appointment was not until 2:30, but we decided we wanted to get there early in order to visit wit

h The Keyton’s. We wanted to let them know that God is still on the throne and he can do anything and that Hannah was going to be fine, not that they had any doubt. We knew that the surgery was supposed to start around noon. I believe we got there around 11:30 and as we got into the waiting room, The Keyton’s were just coming in from delivering Hannah to the nurses who would prepare her for surgery. It was such a blessing for us to get to visit with them and be there to help take their minds off of things for the first couple of hours of Hannah’s surgery. We feel now that is the reason that God didn’t allow us to go home on Monday, and that is why when we were released we went to Dothan and would have to back in the clinic on Monday. That afternoon at my appointment I had a chest x-ray and an echo and then saw the doctor and found out that the amount of fluid had increased and they were going to put me back in the hospital on Tuesday. Tuesday, August 15th I was back in th

e hospital and on medication to help get the fluid off. I had another echo on Thursday, August 17th. Because the echo was so late in the day Thursday, we didn’t get the results until late Friday evening. The fluid had gone down and they let me go again, but not home yet. I had to be checked again on Monday. So we left Saturday, August 19th and went to Russellville, AL to my cousin’s house. Monday, August 21st we went back to Birmingham and had another echo and were finally released to go home. Praise the Lord! This whole experience is almost impossible to describe well enough for anyone to understand the impact that it all had on me and my family. There is no doubt in my mind, especially knowing our story and what we know of Dr. Eaton’s story that, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his footsteps.” Proverbs 16:9

Christopher Lamar Jones

The following is the Cardiologist's story-Just so you can see how God brought us together in this situation.

Christopher Jones is now 26 years old, married and the father of 2 children. When he was 16 years old his older sister had a cardiac arrest and did not survive. She was in her third trimester of pregnancy and made it to the Emergency Department of a local hospital in Dothan, Alabama. An obstetrician was providentially in the ER when the ambulance brought her in under full resuscitation and although she did not survive, the baby was saved by an emergency C-section and is 10 years old today. The cause of the mother’s death was determined to be a ruptured aortic aneurysm due to an inherited condition known as Marfan’s syndrome. Marfan’s is a condition that affects the connective tissue of the arteries, joints, and other organs. It is notorious for causing asymptomatic expansion of the aorta leading to aneurysms that can spontaneously rupture with little or no warning and this is what had occurred. Christopher and his brother were advised they should have screening echocardiogram s of their aorta to determine if they had the same condition as the sister. The doctor that made this recommendation apparently was not aware that the changes affecting the aorta usually are not apparent until late adolescence or early adulthood. Christopher was only 16 years old at the time and because his echocardiogram was normal he was told he didn’t have Marfan’ syndrome. There was no recommendation made for annual or even periodic follow-up echocardiograms as he got older.

I vaguely remember Christopher from the church I attended in Dothan, Alabama. He was the age of my daughters and they all went to Sunday School together. He grew up, married, moved to Arkansas and I lost track of him until recently.

In the winter of 2006, my son was employed by the Department of Economics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He spent 6 months of his senior year studying abroad in Brazil and upon his graduation, he was offered a job to stay on at the University and direct the foreign exchange program he had participated in as an undergraduate. He was very excited when he called last winter to tell me he would be going back to Brazil in the summer and he wanted me to come down for 2 weeks at the end of his stay to sightsee and fish for Peacock Bass in the headwaters of the Amazon. Laurence has facility in Portuguese and one of his Brazilian students and his roommate in Lexington would accompany us. Eagerly I made plans for the trip. In May, I reserved a seat from Miami to Sao Paulo on Varig Airlines, I applied for a tourist Visa, and went through the process of innocualtions…typhoid, yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, and even 3 rabies vaccinations. I had my passport, a ntimalaria medication, my camera and flyrod. I had even purchased a CD with beginning Portuguese instructions.

Laurence left the US on June 29 and got to Sao Paulo but his flight to Rio de Janeiro was cancelled and he got to Rio the next day. He told me there was some problem with the airline and its creditors. Searching the internet I found that Varig airline had been placed under restructure protection in the courts in Brazil and was trying to get back on its feet. I contacted a travel agent about one month before my anticipated date of departure for Brazil and found that just about everything but the most expensive tickets on first class were booked on United and American. Also we planned to use Varig for our internal travels once we got to Brazil.

Anxiously I awaited a decision on July 19 as to whether the Brazilian bankruptcy court judge would allow a Brazilian airfreight company to take over Varig with an infusion of $475 million to keep it in the air. By now I had concern and apprehension about my trip. If I got there would I be stuck for days/ weeks getting back. The judge allowed the takeover on July 19 but for some reason my apprehension only increased. I monitored my flight itinerary daily on the internet and begin the think about packing my bags. Still I was waking up at 4 and 5 AM every morning feeling very apprehensive. I did not fear for my own safety or welfare but had a tremendous apprehension about the trip that would not go away.

About July 21 I noted on my itinerary in the internet that one of my connecting flights, Sao Paulo to Rio, was cancelled. I called the airline and they graciously scheduled me on another flight. I was told to call about 3 days before departure for final confirmation. On July 26 I checked the internet and found that they had cancelled the replacement flight. They were not notifying me but I was finding this out myself by monitoring the schedules. I went home that evening prepared to spend 30 minutes on hold on the telephone getting another flight. The man I spoke to was “Albert”. He pulled up my reservation and then advised me “Sir, your flight from Miami to Sao Paulo has been cancelled, we will refund your money”. He did not offer to reschedule, just refund. Turns out the company had never even submitted the charge to my credit card when I made my reservation in May. Now I realized that all my apprehension and anxiety was not just imagined. I was not going to Brazil, at least this year. I called my son that night and he was very disappointed. I felt like I had really let him down.

The next day I met a friend, an older gentleman, for lunch. I told him the whole story and said the entire family was a bit down about it. When our meal came he returned the blessing and I remember his prayers that God would intercede and the disappointment of my son and my wife, on my son’s behalf, would resolve. Strange that I don’t remember him saying anything about “thank you for the food we are about to receive” but knowing him I am sure he covered that as well.

Now back to Christopher Jones, a young married father in Arkansas. On the day after my friend and I met for lunch, Christopher learned he had the same condition that killed his sister. An orthopedist had told him that his young son might have Marfan’s and that Christopher had the typical appearance and that he needed to “get checked”. Christopher had applied for health insurance but was still awaiting notification and at his wife’s insistence he went to have an echocardiogram. This showed he had a very large aortic aneurysm, a leaking aortic valve and he needed urgent surgery.

The following morning I was in my office seeing patients and my oldest daughter called me. She was a friend of Christopher’s cousin who had just called my daughter knowing I was a cardiologist. My daughter Emily asked “Dad, what does Chris need to do, this sounds bad”. I told her to have Christopher call me and he was on the phone within 5 minutes. From his brief description I knew he needed to get to a major medical center with very experienced heart surgeons because the operation he needed was no “blue plate special” as heart operations go. I told him to get to Birmingham and I would see him in the office as soon as possible and to bring all his records and x-rays with him. That was on Friday, July 28. I spoke with him by cell phone several times over the weekend and he arrived in Birmingham Sunday so I would see him the following morning. I had plenty of empty room in the clinic to see him Monday because I had originally planned only to work a few hours that Monday A M because I would have been leaving very early the next morning for Miami to catch a flight to Brazil. Now I had all the time in the world to take care of this problem.

When I arrived at the clinic Monday AM a copy of Christopher’s echocardiogram was waiting for me, it had been overnighted from Arkansas.

My partner and I actually reviewed it before I saw Christopher and it was the biggest aneurysm of the proximal aorta either of us had ever seen. After I examined and talked with Christopher I had my staff place him in a wheelchair with instructions to go straight to University Hospital and do nothing more than “lift a finger”. I was on the phone to the office of Dr. Jim Kirklin, the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UAB. He was tied up with an administrative “site visit” and I could not even reach him by cell phone. The other cardiac surgeon I would have called had left the Friday before and was out of the country. I told Dr. Kirklin’s secretary that I had a serious problem with a 26 year old who had a massive aortic aneurysm, vague chest pain, and needed to be in the hospital for surgery at the earliest opportunity.

“And, by the way” I added, “he has no health insurance”. Her response was something like “ Oh well, they never have insurance, do they?” with a bit of a giggle in her voice. “ I will reserve him a bed on Dr. Kirklin’s service, Dr. Eaton. Will he be coming through the admitting office or the emergency room?”

Christopher’s surgery was performed 3 days later with no complications. Dr. Kirklin told the family the aneurysm was “huge” meaning ready to rupture at any time. The day after he was admitted I went to see Christopher and his family in the hospital. As he lay in his hospital bed I saw a certain peace in his countenance and as I shook his hand he gave me a smile that was worth more the ten trips to Brazil. I returned to see him the following morning on the day of his surgery to be done later that afternoon. I told him he was going to have “big time surgery” but he was at one of the best places to have it. His wife said “Dr. Eaton, he has been at peace ever since he first talked to you last Friday”.

Now by this time I feel a little shaky, butterflies in the stomach, and know I have had a very close encounter with the Holy Spirit. Not to say this might not have worked out without me, but it’s hard to get an immediate referral this fast when you have no health insurance unless you have an advocate within the system. That’s just what I was…advocate within the system. And this was all orchestrated by God through the Holy Spirit beginning even months before it happened. How many times does an airline make you a reservation and “fail” to charge your credit card. God knew I wasn’t going to use that ticket.

I saw Christopher in the ICU yesterday and he is doing well. I also saw his family and for another “unknown” reason this week I just “stumbled across” Psalm 139:16-17. I copied the verses off the computer and gave them to his wife to give to him the day he leaves the hospital. I told her to be sure he never thinks that either Dr. Kirklin or I saved Chris’s life, we were just placed in a certain place at a certain time to be available according to God’s good will. The day before Chris’s surgery I had hurriedly copied off the computer some scriptural verses for him to have in the hospital. Some had been shared with me years ago by Pastor Baxter in Dothan, Psalms he liked for hospital visitation. I took the liberty to add Jeremiah 29: 11 at the end of the Psalms to assure Chris he had a hope and a future.

When I first was exposed to the 6th Chapter of Isaiah, I recall the feeling that being that close to the presence of God must be very awesome, frightening, almost terrifying experience. More recently I recall how “in holy fear” Noah labored on the building of the ark. “Holy fear” is how I can express the apprehension and anxiety I experience the entire month of July, 2006 being very uncertain of my plans to travel to Brazil. I am still not over this and it has been a life-changing experience. I always thought a person had a sense of peace and tranquility when they were within the will of God. This worked the other way around.

And about Brazil…I know I will get there soon at a time of God’s choice. Otherwise, why would the Holy Spirit have allowed me to have to get all those painful vaccinations? And there is also the issue of who will pay for

Christopher’s hospitalization. The day before his surgery his wife was notified that the application for insurance they filed weeks ago had been accepted and likely would go into effect as of the date of the original application. This is unreal and very, very humbling.

Contact Christopher


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