JT Townsend visits the Parks after Brett’s brush with a robber and point blank gun shot to the abdomen.
It has been five years since I took the call from JT. He had just heard a report on the news. A young Navy man and personal trainer was visiting a client in a Jacksonville apartment complex when he heard a scream from behind the fitness complex and ran to see if he could help. He stepped right into the middle of a robbery in progress. The robber shot him point blank range in the abdomen, a near fatal wound. In a split second, this young husband and father’s entire life changed, and JT knew exactly what that was like.
Brett had gone directly into surgery, after the incident. His wife was told the next six hours were critical. He was placed in a medically induced coma for roughly twenty days and when he awoke, he had lost his right kidney, a portion of his colon and the lower part of his leg. He was now able to receive visitors.
We arranged to visit Brett at UF Shands Hospital, ironically, the same hospital, the same floor and the same nurses who had brought JT Townsend back from a near fatal spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic eight years before. It was strange JT admitted, he had not been back to this floor since he left after his initial injury. Like Brett, his family was told making it thru the first night was critical. The nurses would later tell us their minds immediately raced back to that October, night 2004 when young JT was brought in. The nurses doubted either man would survive their injuries.
Brett & Susan Parks
But, something miraculous happened. Both men held on surviving death defying trauma with strong faith in God believing He would help them inch back from seemingly impossible physical limitations. And, He did.
JT Townsend went on to start JT Townsend Foundation with a mission to help children and adults with neurological disabilities with adaptive equipment or financial assistance. Brett started A Second Shot Ministries so he could serve up a portion of inspiration. Brett also has written a book Today, Brett travels around the nation, speaking to churches, businesses and schools about that fateful day and how setting goals and never giving up helped him survive. Brett has also written a book titled “Brett Parks: Miracle Man: A Bullet That Ignited a Purpose-Filled Life”. Both of these champions took seemingly impossible situations and turned them into good.
Given these circumstances what would you do if you were given a second shot?
Smoke filled the air on a crisp fall Michigan morning. It was the weekend and neighbors were out in snuggly white cable knit sweaters, jeans and boots raking up mountains of bright red orange and yellow Maple leaves. Kids and dogs jumped happily into the mounds of crunchy dry leaves giggling and happy for the return of fall, a welcome change from the hot and humid summer months left behind. Spring and fall are such awesome seasons in the northern midwest. I loved fall the most.
Fall came early in Michigan. Temperatures began to dive once Labor Day arrived and school began. Mom could be found knitting brightly colored yarn that stretched like a clothes line from her knitting bag on the floor beside the chair as her long metal needles clicked and produced long scarves, warm caps and mittens. And, if Grandma Kathy was visiting, the house smelled of cinnamon and apples as her scrumptious pies with fancy sugared crusts baked in the oven.
Of course the Franklin Cider Mill was a frequent stop to grab a bag of freshly fried donuts and a jug of cider.The mill opened Labor Day weekend and stayed open producing cider and donuts until Thanksgiving Day. While you waited for your order you could observe the process. The huge press can hold up to sixty bushels of apples on each side. They would yield about three gallons of cider per bushel of apples The cider is not filtered, pasteurized or contain any form of preservative, just pure fruit juice that must be refrigerated.
Living in Florida and raising our family at the oceans edge has been wonderful, but I do wish they could experience just one fall day in my home state of Michigan, where the Upper Peninsular is often referred to as God’s country.