Karl H. sits at the edge of his bed at Christian Heights Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and begins to tap the keys to “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”
“And I know, He watches over me,” he sings before giving up. “That infection just kind of took me out,” he says, apologizing for the raspiness in his voice.
A poisonous spider bite brought the 59-year-old to his knees six months ago, but without the crippling incident, Karl says he probably wouldn’t have met the prayerful employees at the Pembroke nursing home, and his relationship with God wouldn’t have been restored.
“I was a minister, but I wasn’t living correctly,” he said. “I feel like this is my Job experience.”
To this day, Karl said the doctors don’t know what type of spider it was or what to call the infection.
“They ran test after test after test. The infection was so bad they had to open my legs up to debride it,” he said about his time at Baptist Health-Madisonville. “I ended up having to have two surgeries on both of my legs, and I stayed in the hospital about four or five months. I had lost everything.”
When Karl left the hospital, he was without a job and a place to stay. He was able to get a hotel room, but physically, he was still in pretty bad shape.
“I was weak, disoriented, scared — all of the above,” he said.
Debbie Nunn, Director of Admissions and Marketing at Christian Heights, remembers the day she picked him up from the hotel three months ago.
“When I met Mr. H., he was down,” she said. “He had lost his bed at the hospital and was going to be homeless. My heart just went out to him, and I brought him to our facility.”
Christian Heights specializes in short-term rehabilitation, long-term care and respite care.
Tammy Workman, administrator of the center, said there are approximately 40 employees between nursing and administration. Contract rehabilitation, dietary and maintenance staff also help the center function.
Workman, who has been working at the facility for a year and a half, said the company is filled with “prayer warriors.”
“These girls out here love these residents,” she said. “They go above and beyond.”
Nunn has been at the facility a little over a year. She and Workman both have over 20 years in the field of nursing and administration, and believe they were supposed to end up at Christian Heights. They also worked together in the past.
“We know this is where we’re supposed to be to do a job in our community,” said Nunn, who sees her job as a ministry.
In addition to morning prayer and Bible study, the staff organizes events such as Bingo, birthday parties, arts and crafts time for the residents, and try to get people in the community to come in to volunteer.
Workman said the Hoppers baseball team comes to visit during their summer season, Amish families come and sing Christmas carols, the center hosts a holiday dinner for Thanksgiving every year and an Angel Tree is set up so the residents get gifts at Christmas.
Karl said along with the nursing home staff, the Rev. Perry Greenwade at Little River Baptist Church and his own pastor, Gregory Whitlock Sr. at Miracle Deliverance House of Prayer in Clarksville, have been instrumental in getting him back on his feet.
Karl hopes other ministers and people in the community will reach out to residents in nursing homes.
“Some people just need someone to hold their hand or just talk to them,” he said.
Karl called Workman and Nunn his “angels.” He went on to say their focus on God has renewed his faith.
“All of these people just embraced me,” he said. “They loved on me and just encouraged me.”
Karl, who was a minister of music before he got injured, has started playing the piano again and plans to rejoin his self-titled gospel duo, Haley & Holland, on tour in Florida next month.
Workman said patients, like Karl, remind her that she’s doing what God called her to do.
“When I see him, he just inspires me to do better every day. Everybody has a calling in life and this is mine.”
Although a lot has happened over the past few months, Karl said it was all God’s way of realigning his life.
“Sometimes God will put you on your back to get your attention,” he said. “It has allowed me to do what God has called me to do.”