How One Man Never Let Bad Health Slow Him Down
Mitchell Lee Turner
My father has been the biggest inspiration in my life, mainly because he always remained consistent in everything he ever did. Throughout my life, he guided me and educated me on making the right decisions. While I may have made some stumbles along the way, I have realized that everything he ever told me was the correct way to go about doing things. It wasn't until the end of my father's life that I realized he knew what was best for me, because he had already lived in my shoes. We were so much alike and I regret not realizing that earlier in life. I am going to share with you the remarkable story of my father, Mitchell Lee Turner, and how he overcame impossible obstacles that I have never heard of anyone else doing.
Early Life of Mitchell Turner
My father attended college so that he would have at least some form of higher education. He decided he wanted to go into art. My dad grew up reading comic books and I think that is what inspired his love or arts and crafts. His favorite comic book series was the Amazing Spider-man, created by Stan Lee, who single-handedly revived Marvel Comics Inc.. I secretly believe my father aspired to be a comic book artist because I would always see him sketching comic book super heroes and funny cartoons in his spare time. He would even draw up new characters and give them names and story lines. I think the main thing that dissuaded him from pursuing that dream was the lack of comic artist demand and potential relocation. He was a hometown guy and was satisfied staying right in the county limits for the remainder of his life. He had no desire to move to a big city to be an artist. His curiosity led him to participate in ceramic classes. Before you know it, he was making beautiful sculptures and creative face mugs and jugs, as he called them. The college hosted a sophomore art sell each year and with the money that he made at the art sell he bought his first pottery kick wheel.
After graduating college, he married his college sweetheart, my mother, Rose Harmon Turner. The two started off married life, as many do, with little money. While my mother settled for a job at a local bank, he went to work at a furniture factory overnights. Soon after that he went to work for my grandfather at a pulp wood yard until the economy went south and the wood yard had to close down. Soon after that he was able to work at a local pulp wood yard closer to where they lived at the time, but as work demand slowed he had to go into job search mode. The economy in this small town was still in a recession at that point. He moved on to work yet another factory job that he despised and soon quit. He practiced making pottery in his off time during this period to hone his skills.
Setting up shop
Without enough money to buy a kiln to fire his pottery, my father could not yet make a living off of the pottery that he was making so he had to find another job. A family friend kept approaching my mother at the bank where she worked, asking if he would like a job in the jewelry repair business. Persistently, the man finally called my father and offered him a job and my father accepted. The man taught him everything he knew about making and repairing jewelry and my father picked up from there. He became an expert jeweler and was soon able to make beautiful rings and necklaces as well as specially ordered custom pieces. After working as a jewelry repairman a few years, I can remember people asking is he could fix their jewelry for them. I even had teachers at school asking me to take things home for him to repair. I can't recall if I ever did. Most likely I forgot their request before school let out, as jewelry repair wasn't a key topic on my mind at that age for some reason. Soon after starting to work at the jewelry store, he was able to purchase his first kiln for firing his pottery, but he needed a place to make his pottery.
I don't know if any of you know how hot kilns get or the chemical fumes they emit, but they aren't really something you want in your household.
My grandfather had several logs from an old log cabin that my great grandfather had lived in when my dad was growing up. One day my dad approached my grandmother about the logs. She said if you will do something with them, I will pay for the roof and foundation for it. So he embarked on making a log cabin right in our own front yard. He also acquired part of an old log cabin from a friend and hired a guy to help him tow those logs to our house. The two cabins, however, had different notch patterns so he had to re-notch every single log. With just the help of my mother, he formed a log cabin that has become the landmark of where our house sits today. Everyone that has ever been in it falls in love with its' uniqueness.
Soon he was able to make and sell his pottery at arts and crafts festivals across Mississippi. He took this skill and made a living off of it in a small town in the state of Mississippi. People have traveled from hours away just to pick through pottery that he made. This, however, wasn't his only source of income.
While working at the jewelry store, my father was also working as a janitor at a local high school while simultaneously attending arts and crafts festivals during festival season. At one point in his career, he was actually selling pottery faster than he could make it. That's when he recruited us kids into helping making it. I was around 9 or 10 years old at the time so I was doing the rather easy tasks such as cutting out ornaments with his custom molds, mixing glazes and cutting pottery off of the slabs to prepare for the kiln. Gradually, he taught me everything he knew about making pottery, a skill set I still hold to this day.
Recreational Time & Fading Health
He spent most of his Saturdays and Sundays with my mother and their friends, going to each others' houses every other Sunday and having what some people may call, jam sessions.
The preacher that baptized my father taught him how to play the guitar and banjo. I can remember sitting in during these sessions when I was a little boy and nodding my head and tapping my feet to the music. To some of you these skills may not seem like anything extraordinary, but I haven't quite told you the whole story.
When he was only 20 years old my father fell ill with a severe case of strep throat, which is what doctors claimed may have been the origin of his many eventual health conditions. Soon after recovering from his illness he noticed that his legs had began to swell. He went to a doctor to see what might be causing this and was diagnosed with kidney disease. He was prescribed cortisone at that point to help with the leg pain he was suffering. After deciding that the doctor didn't know what he was talking about, my father continued to live life as if nothing was wrong, believing his kidneys had recovered. 8 years later, 1 month after I was born, his kidneys failed and he had to begin dialysis treatments. During this period he became too weak to perform the work he had been doing, so he stayed home to care for a 1 year old and 3 year old. Luckily, he was chosen early to receive a kidney transplant no more than 5 months after his kidneys had failed, which is extremely rare, as nowadays one may go years without receiving a transplant of any kind.
Unfortunately, the transplanted kidney failed within a couple years and he was forced to continue dialysis treatments, which he stayed on for the remainder of his life. About 8 years after getting the transplant he started having trouble standing up on his own. He called my mother home from work one day because he sensed something wasn't right. Later that night he calmly said to my mother, "Call them." He was going into shock. He was admitted to the hospital soon after. It was discovered that the reason for these troubles was fluid build up around his heart and lungs. It was so compressed that his left lung collapsed completely. The doctor's drained over 3 liters of fluid from around his heart. This episode affected him the worse out of all his illnesses over his lifetime because it put him in a wheelchair. The doctors told him that due to damage in the nerves in his legs that he would never be able to walk again. Can you imagine being 37 years old and told that you will never walk again?
I can honestly say if this were me in that situation, I probably
would've just given up and took my disability check, but not my father. My
dad started to work on standing up again. He would take his wheel chair
behind the couch and pull himself up with his arms until he was
standing. He did this every day. Apparently he did it several times a
day while I was at school. He added taking steps while holding onto the
back of the couch. After that we decided we have to get him a walker.
"This stubborn man is gonna walk again." We got him a walker,
and he used it for about 2 or 3 months. I want everyone to know that we
medically and scientifically was never supposed to be able to walk again
because of the nerve damage suffered in his legs. After using the
walker a few months he bought a cheap $5 cane from a value store. He
started using it to walk with and before you know it he was able to walk
hills and stairs. He still had balance troubles but managed very well.
He had a routine check up at the facility where he had dialysis every week and ran into a doctor while there. The doctor was one of the doctors that said he would never walk again. After seeing how well he was getting around, he was amazed. They decided to do an article in the newspaper, proclaiming that it was a medical miracle. For a man who wasn't supposed to ever walk again, he was pictured standing on one leg holding both arms out for balance.
After regaining his ability to walk again, my dad hopped right back into his old routine as if nothing ever happened. The man never seemed to stop running. 3 years later my mother awoke to a loud noise to find my father lying on the floor. He seemed to be having a heart attack. It was about 2 am when everything went down. My mother was on the phone with 911, holding a rag on my dad's forehead and aiming a fan towards him. I can remember being woken to hop into my rain boots and shorts and go to the entrance of the drive in the rain to hold a flashlight so the ambulance could locate our house.The ambulance took him to the hospital and he was admitted. After reviving, the doctor's couldn't figure out what may have caused this. So they came up with a brilliant idea. Let's let him have one of these spells again before we do anything or let him go. WHAT? REALLY? Their idea worked though. Soon enough my father had another episode just like the previously stated one. Only this time he died. Clear.... nothing. Clear.... nothing. Clear..... Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep. After 3 hits with the defibrillators my father's life was restored. He had heart arrhythmia. They did open heart surgery on him and placed an artificial valve into his heart and also a mini defibrillator in his upper chest, should he have another spell. He was 41 at the time.
Our family all knew that we had been blessed to have him as long as we did. I can remember asking him how long would he be satisfied living, knowing that he had already beaten the odds on several occasions. His answer to my question was, "I would like to see my kids graduate and become adults." While going for a routine blood check one day, the nurses obviously saw something irregular. They would not reveal what was so important, but said that he had to go to the emergency room immediately. It was later revealed that the irregularity was staph in his blood stream. My father was hospitalized on March 8th, 2006. My soon to be wife and I went to visit him on my 21rst birthday, March 11th, 2006. We played cards, talked about our upcoming marriage and about when he thought he was going to be able come home. We said goodbye for the night and I started to walk towards the door. I felt a terrible feeling, leaving him so I turned around, walked back up to my father, hugged him and said, "I love you dad." On March 12th 2006 I received a call from my mother, who was by his side at the hospital this whole time, saying I needed to get to the hospital because my father has went into shock. I can remember going as fast as my truck would literally go, risking my life as well as others with reckless speed driving, but for some reason one doesn't acknowledge that when faced with a loved one's possible death. About 30 minutes after the first call from my mother, I received a second. "He's gone." To all the doctors in the world, "I do not want your job." I can't imagine how hard it must be to tell a room full of loved ones that their father, son, brother, husband has died.
So that's the story of my father, a man who definitely kept going when nobody would have blamed him for giving up.
"What have you done with your life so far?"
Things that made it hard
There is so much that I didn't share throughout the story, because it would have drawn attention away from main points. But there is so much more to his ailments than the ones listed above.
Can you imagine coming off of the football field because your father had fallen down? Always being on guard so you could try to catch him if you were in a shopping center? These things are hard to live with, because I never wanted my father to fall in public. He was a proud man. Once a mighty man, silenced by the force of nature. Also seeing your father hurt every minute of the day isn't easy. When you are around someone that is hurting all the time, it is almost impossible for you to show pain. When you do, you feel ignorant, because the man next to you is in 3 times as much pain, constantly. There's so much more.
This was the last photo taken of him just a few months before he passed away. At the funeral I saw virtually everyone that I had ever known. I can't imagine what it would make a person feel like if they were showed that much care by so many people while they were alive. I saw relatives there that I had not seen for years and people that lived a ways off. I can't think of one person that knew him that did not come to his visitation. Throughout my life, I have never heard anybody say a bad thing about my father. I hope so much to be loved as much as he was by our small community.