When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Saved The Day (For Real)

Emmanuel Pic and Letter

Back in my New York days, I was an EMT. Interning in different hospital emergency rooms prior to your certification is a requirement of training. On one of my assigned hospital shifts that serviced the inner city region, EMTs rushed in a 5 year old little boy suffering from a gun shot wound straight through his left hand. Let’s call him Chris. Chris was at a friend’s house where the boys were playing when they came across the homeowner’s gun. I don’t know the specifics, but essentially the friend raised the gun to “play shoot” him, the little boy raised his hand to say stop, and the loaded gun fired. Luckily for Chris, his hand is the only thing the bullet found.

Since he was at a friend’s house, his parents hadn’t been located and notified yet. So as the emergency room crew rushed to start work on Chris’ hand, the most helpful thing I could do was talk to Chris and try to calm him down. As you can imagine, parentless, scared, 5 year old gun shot victims in pain don’t like to hold still for doctors and nurses. As I held his good hand on the right, I asked him what his name was, where he went to school and a myriad of other small talk questions, but it wasn’t doing the job to sufficiently distract him from the doctors trying to work on his left. Chris was already hyperventilating as it was, and every time he would see the needle heading for his hand, he would freak out more and pull his arm away. If you didn’t know, 5 year old little boys who are hopped up on adrenaline are REALLY STRONG.

As I frantically searched my brain for material that could possibly be captivating to a 5 year old, I remembered the movie I had just seen the weekend before. In fact I remember rolling my eyes to my boyfriend as I agreed to the movie selection. It was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (we’re talking the original one here folks, circa 1990). I remember thinking what a waste of brain space, time and money. It turned out to be more entertaining than I had anticipated but I was still embarrassed to admit I went to see it.

“Chris, did you see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie?” It was as if a switch flipped. He turned his head away from his injured hand towards me, his eyes took on a completely different kind of excitement and he answered with a resounding “YEAH!”

“Which one was your favorite turtle? I liked Donatello the best.” And that was it. For the next hour Chris held my hand and we excitedly chatted about pizza obsessed turtles who practiced ninja moves with a rat sensei while the doctors attempted to reassemble his mangled palm. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

I was able to find a point of connection with him until his parents arrived to take over. Guys, I was pre-med. I cannot tell you the endless hours of studying calculus, chemistry, and physics that I thought would be so important that I haven’t used one iota in my lifetime. I would have never guessed that my knowledge of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would prove to be so valuable. I want you to remember that the next time you are having a conversation with someone about a topic that you think is ridiculous or boring. There is no such thing as useless information! You never know when you can pull that tidbit of information out to save the day!

Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”, is our sponsor child from Compassion. He is exactly 2 days younger than Zach, which was how we selected him back in 2012 when he was 11. That makes him 15 years old now and in the 9th grade. We were looking for a child close in age to our own, and I’m not gonna lie, who we thought would make an ideal pen pal. He lives with his mother on the plains of Chamwino near Dodoma, Tanzania. That is an 8 hour drive from Kilimanjaro National Park.

The homes there are typically made of clay walls, tin roofs and dirt floors. The primary language is Chigogo. I have no idea how to speak Chigogo! I didn’t even know such a language existed prior to Emmanuel. I can barely speak Spanish and I took 5 years of it in school.

We get the privilege of meeting Emmanuel on our Cause Trek while we are working at the Compassion Assisted Child Development Center near Kilimanjaro. They will be sending him on that 8 hour drive to meet us with a translator. I have no idea how he feels about that. Is he excited? Is he terrified? Most likely he has never been that far from home. I don’t even know if he has ever ridden in a vehicle before. (Note to self: ask these questions next letter.) I wish we were able to meet him at his home so he would be more comfortable. I wish we would be able to meet his mother.


I’m not sure yet how much time we’ll get together. We’ve been praying over this child for years now. We just received an updated picture this month and I was thrilled to see him taller and looking more like a young man opposed to a child, although still not smiling. I’ve been told that its normal NOT to smile for pictures there. How great it will be to see this kid smile and get a picture of it!  And to be able to hug him!

Then I thought about immediately after that initial exciting moment and a slight twinge of panic set in. What would I say? What would we talk about? I really want him to connect with us, to feel at ease and to have a special bonding moment but what could I possibly find as a point of connection when our lives are sooooo radically different? I’m pretty sure the TMNT aren’t going to work this time.

I’m just going to pray about it and hope that God guides me just like he did with a nonsensical movie about turtles fighting crime.

I have a feeling I will learn a lot from Emmanuel. Even though I don’t speak Chigogo.

To sponsor a child through Compassion go to compassion.com

Explain It Away Syndrome


Explain it Away Syndrome (Dictionary according to Holly)

[ik-spleyn it uh-wey sin-drohm]
1.  A condition which the patient has the ability to take any physical discomfort or irregularity and dismiss it with a seemingly logical, harmless explanation.

2.  A characteristic, or set of characteristics indicating the existence of a condition, problem, etc that are indicative of a particular disease or disorder that are ignored due to the patient’s inattentiveness, stubbornness, ignorance or just plain, flat out stupidity.

Inattentive, Negligent


In 2010 I had a Facebook epiphany. I realized while updating my profile that all the notable accomplishments in my life were from the distant past. So I did what any other sane person does when they start going through the “What am I doing with my life?” crisis and signed up for my first triathlon. I know, most people do 5K’s or 10K’s. The really crazy ones participate in races that require the word “marathon” in them. I’m pretty sure it’s the equivalent of a midlife crisis for when you can’t afford a fancy sports car. We decide we need to run for some reason. (Boy if that isn’t ever a manifestation for some deep seated psychological issue, I don’t know what is.)

But I hated running. Loathed it actually. My twisted logic rationalized that adding swimming and biking to a running event would make it more bearable. Instead of hating the whole thing, I would only dread 1/3 of it. Mathematically that makes perfect sense right? Triathlons are the sport of choice for people with ADD you know.

Subconsciously I believe I was trying to punish my body. Jeremiah and I were trying to have a baby for 2 1/2 years at that point. The only thing we had been successful at was a couple of miscarriages and a whole lot of heartache. We had been to the fertility clinic, I checked out Ok, Jeremiah checked out Ok, so there was no good reason why we weren’t already gushing over an adorable baby of our own. I explained it away as something wasn’t right chromosomal wise and it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t God’s timing, yada yada yada. I was MAD at my body for not cooperating. I was going to exert some kind of control over it whether it liked it or not and making it learn to run seemed like worthy punishment.

Besides, my weight had been creeping up slowly for some time now, even though my diet and exercise hadn’t changed. I explained it away as a slowing metabolism, so it would do me some good to up my exercise regimen.

Training began. I have been biking my entire life so that would be my strongest leg of the race. I’m a decent swimmer but had to wait for our neighborhood pool to open for the summer to build my endurance. Running however…seriously did I mention how much I hate running? I had a lot of work to do.

I regularly walked our dog throughout our neighborhood on a 5 mile loop multiple times a week. Covering the distance was not a problem. Covering the distance while attempting to run WAS a problem. I was slow and lumbered along awkwardly. I could speed walk past myself trying to run. I remember getting really annoyed at my dog pulling at the leash, looking over her shoulder at me as if to condescendingly say “Seriously, is that the best you can do?” It was hard. It seemed harder than everyone said learning to run would be. It was taking me longer to hit certain benchmarks than all my research said was normal. I explained it away as I was just not a natural runner.

The training was just straight BEATING. ME. UP. I would be wiped out afterwards. I was starting to take naps in order to function for the rest of the day. I was embarrassed that I was napping so I didn’t tell Jeremiah or anybody else for that matter. My legs would actually start to tingle from fatigue and I would need to sit down. I expected some tiredness initially but months into it I just kept getting worse. I explained it away as I was getting older and not able to perform athletically like I used to do. I felt old, defeated, and frustrated so you know how I would counter that? I would push myself harder the next day.

Stupid body. I was no quitter, I was not going to give up.

The mornings were the worst. I would wake up with my joints screaming. If I had slept on my side, it felt like my shoulders were crushing in on me from their weight. Gingerly straightening myself to sit up would make me wince, the pain from my feet first hitting the floor would cause me to catch my breath. The bones in my feet splaying out for the first time each day were agonizing. My first steps were so unsteady I looked like a foal learning how to walk as my ankles fought for strength to support myself.

I knew my body would eventually decline as I got older, I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon. I resembled people in the retirement homes when they tried to move, not that of a healthy 30 something year old. I explained it away as the beginnings of arthritis from aging and that the training was amplifying it.

And then there were my hands. My hands just refused to work, they wouldn’t have the strength to grip or grab things. I have lever style handles everywhere in my house except for the inside of my bathroom. I wasn’t able to grip the doorknob to let myself out in the mornings. I was literally STUCK IN MY BATHROOM! Now that’s pretty funny. I laughed at that one. Zach knew not to give me school papers to sign in the mornings because I couldn’t grip a pen (and didn’t want his teachers thinking I was drunk when I signed them). I had been dealing with what I called “wimpy hands” and “dropsy” for years. I explained it away as I must be sleeping on my arms causing them to fall asleep and must need to build up my hand strength.

The pain I was getting in my chest when I took deep breaths in? Must be a pulled muscle.

The increasing brain fog and inability to concentrate at work? I must be bored and unchallenged in my position.

My fingers, toes and nose turning ice cold to the point where they turn white and go numb at the slightest temperature drop? I must have given myself frostbite when I skied in my youth.

The sharp pain from my abdomen that woke me from my sleep? Who knows, but it eventually went away. (Yes, I ignore the warning lights in my vehicle if they go off eventually too. So shoot me.)

Friends, you were fearfully and wonderfully made by our omniscient creator. Our bodies are fascinating and complex right down to the cellular level. They are so intelligently designed that when something is wrong, they for the most part start to give us some WARNING SIGNS.

But you have to pay attention.

Don’t get so busy in your lives that you don’t even notice when those warning signs go off. Don’t be stubborn and think you are invincible and that nothing will ever happen to you. And for goodness sake when the thought finally does enter your mind that something could be wrong, love yourself enough to go check it out right away!

I am by no means encouraging you to become hypochondriacs. If it’s one freak occurrence, it’s probably nothing. But every once in a while, take a moment, step back and check in with yourself. This also goes for your physical, spiritual and emotional well being. You should regularly “check in” for your relationships, your career, and anything else that is of importance to you. Your body isn’t the only thing that sends out warning signs.

If I was just experiencing one or two things that seemed logical to dismiss, I can understand having explain it away syndrome. However, everything put together should have clued me in that something was wrong and to go get checked out. I had no idea what lay just around the corner for me. I had no idea I was a ticking time bomb.

Sometimes, it really is nothing. Sometimes it is.

Take the time to notice and take care of yourselves.