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                                     Knoxville rallies behind minister
It may be next to impossible to prove the existence of miracles, but an ordeal for one Knoxville family may make a strong case in favor of it.

"I shouldn't be having this conversation with you," Pastor Jim Mead of the New Covenant Church said last week. Jim suffered an intra cranial hemorrhage and several mini strokes in his brain stem on Dec. 9. He was told that most people who suffer these attacks on the brain either find themselves confined to a wheelchair or dead.

Around 4 a.m. Dec. 9, Jim told his wife, Laura, that he felt funny. He was stumbling around and vomiting. They believed he had meningitis, so they went to the Knoxville hospital and clinics. He was transferred to the Knoxville VA Medical Center, then to the Des Moines VA. Jim underwent three CT scans and an MRI.

A VA neurologist asked Laura if Jim had suffered any head trauma. Jim was stroking and his brain was beginning to swell.

"I remember asking, 'Is there any hope?'" Laura said. "It was just an awful prognosis." Laura called Jim's parents to let them know what was going on.

Jim, who served five years with the Unites States Army needed emergency brain surgery. The VA typically has its patients receive that kind of treatment in Iowa City.

"I didn't have time," Jim said. He was transferred to Iowa Methodist Medical Center.

The stroke had affected both sides of his brain, a condition his doctors had never experienced before. If, after the operation, he slipped into a coma, there would have been no hope.

The Mead children, Brendan, Shaylee and Madelyn, had been left in the care of New Covenant's Associate Pastor, Ethan Book. Laura called them to let them know what had happened.

"We just prayed and gathered arouund Jim in the trauma room," Laura said. The doctors were not giving her a lot of hope. "I felt like, basically, we were saying goodbye."

As the family told Jim how much they love him, a surgical nurse looked on. Laura said the nurse was crying and asked permission to offer Jim up for prayer. Laura obliged.

"We were just surrounded by people who love God," Laura said. The emotion turned to laughter momentarily when young Madelyn said that she didn't want Daddy to die, "because he's the fun one."

Meanwhile, the community was rallying behind the Mead family. Word had spread about Jim's condition. As Book remembers it, the crowd in the waiting room grew to approximately 50 visitors.

"It was just unbelievable," Book said. "The were so many people there." People offered money, food, whatever the family needed. Book credits his church with having many leaders, willing to step up in times of crises, but those who showed support went beyond New Covenant's congregation

"It made you thankful for the community," Book said. The Mead's have an extensive list of people they want to thank for their assistance during the ordeal. Among those specifically mentioned were KHC, the Knoxville VA, Jason and Lily Maasdam, Ross Leeper, Jacke Duffy and Doug Wilson. Overall, they want the community to know how grateful they are for everyone who helped their family.

"I don't know how everything circulated," Laura said. "I was just overwhelmed."
During and after the surgery, Laura said they begged God for a miracle. She believes He delivered.

"When medicine ends, God is only getting started I think," Laura said. Jim never lost his faith, nor did he become angry with God. He and Laura live by the philosophy that God is good, even when one's circumstances are not.

"We're just full of gratitude," Laura said.

Laura never left Jim's side. She had been told that even though Jim survived, he would face months of therapy and he may never again be the man he was.

Jim believes God looked down upon him and showed mercy. Weeks after surgery, the only effect still noticeable is slurred speech.

"Given time, I think my speech will come back, too," Jim said. Laura said Jim was determined to adapt and overcome this challenge. He amazed physical therapists at the Knoxville VA with his progress. Not only have his physical abilities come back, but Laura says his memory and personality are there as well. She joked that when she asks him, "Have you lost your mind?" he can reply, "Yes, I have." Jokes aside, Jim says the support Laura has given him has been tremendous.

As a result of the stroke, Jim is on medication. He believes it is a small price to pay. The scientific reason behind Jim's stroke is not known for sure. Doctors have told the Mead's the likely cause is a "perfect storm" of conditions unique to Jim.

Jim was on blood pressure medication, then went off it. Around the same time, he got a cold, took medicine to treat it, which raised his blood pressure again. There is also a chance Jim has a congenital weakness in the muscle. On top of that he had a massage the day before. All of these things may have combined to cause the stroke.

Jim's ordeal did impact the message New Covenant's congregation received. Book said he did not have time to think about taking over the leadership of the church.

"We just have each other's backs'" Book said. He learned a lot about faith, watching in amazement at the faith Jim and Laura displayed as they faced this challenge.
"He's just a present example of want God can do," Book said.

Jim will return to the pulpit on Jan. 25. He has already resumed his work with the AWANA group. The first time he walked into an AWANA meeting after the surgery, the children were ecstatic. A similar reaction came when he made it to a church service earlier this month. Getting back to his old routine has helped his recovery, Jim believes.

Jim says God was testing him. Satan saw the positive impact he was having on the community and tried to strike him down.

"I think that God just said, 'You're going to be back'," Jim said. "if one more person comes to church, if one more person is saved, it's worth it."

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