Andy Nelson: A Walking Miracle
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CBN.com - 81 year old Andy Nelson was never one to sit around. At 16 and a half, he forged his mother’s signature and joined the US Navy to fight in World War II. When normal sailor’s duties didn’t suit him, he joined the elite force called FROGMEN, the forerunners to today’s Navy SEALS.
“You had to be a good swimmer, which I was,” Andy said. “You had to be lean and mean, which I was, and stupid, which I was . . . so it all helped.”
He proudly displays his uniform, decorated with a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart he earned in Okinawa from grenade wounds.
For years he’s volunteered on the USS Yorktown, now a museum docked in Charleston. Even with type two diabetes, he’s managed to walk nearly every inch of this ship, telling her history, and talking about his own part in our country’s wars.
Andy never thought twice about climbing up and down the hundreds of steps on this ship. But then he noticed he was slowing down. At first he thought it was just age. As it turns out, it was something much more serious.
“First my toes were starting to get discolored,” Andy said. “I couldn’t feel things, I would stick something in, just jab my foot and couldn’t feel anything too much. I didn’t think too much about it until it started going up my leg, and I started getting black toes.”
Being the “tough guy” that he is, Andy ignored his symptoms. He didn’t even mention them to his wife Phyllis, who’s a retired nurse.
“I never noticed because he never complained, never said anything,” Phyllis said. “Until one evening he was sitting at the chair and he took his socks off. I just happened to glance down for some reason and I see his feet and I was appalled.”
Phyllis took Andy to the emergency room, and doctors there sent him immediately to vascular surgeon, Dr. Edward Morrison. What he saw was not promising - Andy had virtually no circulation to his feet, and gangrene had set in.
The doctor explained that three arteries in each leg supply blood to the lower legs and feet. In Andy’s case, all of them were totally blocked.
For an active man like Andy, the doctor’s final analysis was devastating.
Andy recalled the doctor’s words, “I hate to tell you, but there’s no easy cure. It’s double amputation.”
“It was like getting hit with a hand grenade,” Andy said. “The worst thing for me would be an old parasite just relying on someone else, everybody else to help you.”
Andy and Phyllis tried to imagine the life ahead of them.
“I just said Lord, you know that for better for worse, for sickness and in health, til death do you part,” Phyllis said. “I know you’ll give me the strength to do whatever I have to do.”
“I said the same thing,” Andy said. “God, give me the strength to go through this. Get me through it because you have gotten me through everything else and I have no reason to doubt you will walk this through with me.”
While they, and hundreds of friends and family members prayed for Andy, Phyllis says God gave her a word of knowledge.
“I knew that I knew that I knew that his legs weren’t going to be amputated,” Phyllis said. “I told a bible friend of mine, you know there’s something - I just feel a total peace about this.”
Phyllis began to notice some changes.
“I started seeing some color and less of the black,” Phyllis said. “Everyone one of his toes were totally black and what doc says were in the state of gangrene and I saw them clearing up.”
At the next office visit, there were signs of circulation, and feeling returned to Andy’s feet.
“They stuck the needles in the bottom of my feet and I yelled,” Andy said. “I felt them! I hadn’t felt that the week before. “
“By then they were totally turned around with no black in his feet no black in his toes,” Phyllis said. “Circulation going and they were warm - all the things that you look for in healthy feet.”
Phyllis remembers telling Andy, “I guess we need to give God some of the glory here.”
“He just looked at me and said, ‘We give God all the glory,’” Phyllis said.
“When I got dressed, I walked out of that place and I floated,” Andy said. “My mouth was hurting I was smiling so much and laughing and waving to everybody. Oh God, what a great feeling!”
“Doctor Morrison says there’s only one explanation – it was a miracle. I dressed the wound, God healed it. Humanity did not heal this man. Technology failed this man.”
Andy regained full use of his legs. He exercises regularly and he’s back to telling war stories to visitors to the Yorktown. Now he and Phyllis both have a story to tell.
“I want to tell people the story of God’s glory - God gets all the glory,” Phyllis said. “We do nothing. We’re not even worthy of what he gives us. He’s such a gracious loving God. And he does love us so much. I mean he went to the cross and shed his blood for us. It’s sounds kind of preachy, but that’s what he did, he gets all the glory.”
“You’ve got to have hope,” Phyllis said. It’s part of that Second Corinthians – that we walk by faith, not by sight - and if we have faith, we have hope.”
“It was such a gift to get back,” Andy said. “ And suddenly I’m walking on my own two feet again and every morning when I get up the first thing I do is look down and say Thank you God, Thank you so much.”
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