Baptism by Fire

Today I had the privilege of reliving a tragic, painful memory that also stands as a testament to the power of God and my perseverance.

In the early 90’s, I was active in my Alcoholism and working at A Luster Metal Finishing, a metal plating facility that at that time had many rigorous manual processes, required workers to have significant stamina and the capacity to endure, and was hot, dirty, and sometimes dangerous.

During the year and a half that I worked there, I tapped into a God I didn’t believe existed and a perseverance I didn’t know I possessed.

(Even my grandfather, who is now passed *RIP* and whom I respected immensely for his perseverance, as demonstrated by him holding difficult blue collar jobs for years, taking on jobs many others wouldn’t -even during the Depression, and building his family a house by himself -including digging the foundation by hand, said “good job” to me about my years at A Luster in one of the many conversations we had not long before he passed. High praise from a quiet man who was, and is, one of my heroes for the strength and endurance and integrity he had).

Another notable element to this story: I nearly died.

One night I went into work on the second shift, still hung over. At some point in the evening, a large heavy part I was plating fell into the cleaner tank -a 1600 gallon vat of concentrated sodium hydroxide (that means it eats human tissue) heated to 200 degrees.

Thank God I went in feet first rather than head first (certain death) and my sole co-worker happened to come down the stairs as I was hoisting myself out of the lava-like solution. When I removed my boots and socks, my skin peeled off with them.

He rushed me to the ER at the now closed Trinity Lutheran Hospital and they immediately threw me in a shower. Little did I know that that I had severe first and second degree thermal burns on 20% of my body. And that the pelting shower water, which felt like a blow torch running up and down my legs, was to rinse off the sodium hydroxide, which was continuing to eat my flesh.

I was in the hospital for two weeks to prevent infection and to administer whirlpool therapy, which stimulated the growth of new skin and enabled the therapists to “gently” scrub off the Eschar (dead tissue that prevents healing). This was all quite the adventure in pain, as second degree burns remove the skin to the extent that the nerves are exposed.

The torture (therapy) continued for several months on an out patient basis. Once I was healed enough, I was back on my grind at A Luster.

Unfortunately, I had a subsequent accident several months later (this one didn’t involve Alcohol, but did result in third degree burns and skin graft surgery). At that point, my career at A Luster was (involuntarily) cut short.

Which, believe it or not, disappointed me greatly. I loved the challenge and the opportunity to push myself to my limits and beyond.

Today, I was out with my sons, Quinn Tanner and Micah Tanner We were in the vicinity of the site of this powerful experience in my life -that went a long way towards forging me into the person I am today. So I told them the story and decided to get a couple of photos, while A Luster still stands and I am still alive.

As they pointed out, had I not survived my plunge into liquid fire, they wouldn’t be here today.

This is my testament to God and to perseverance in adversity. I thought it worth sharing and memorializing.

JM

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