It was the morning of Oct. 13, 2017, an ominous date for some because yes, it was a Friday. At his home in Del Rio, Robert Parker planned to work in his shop that day. He and his adult sons, Troy and Travis, had been building an addition and Parker went out to clean up some tools.
As he lifted a box, he tripped and fell. Reaching out to lessen the impact his left hand struck a maize fork by a table. As he hit the floor, one of the long tines pierced his hand.
Hearing him shout, his wife Marlu ran out and quickly drove him to the emergency room, where he was treated.
The tine had missed all bones, and Parker thought as they drove back home this accident will heal quickly. During the night, the pain made him change his mind.
Parker woke up with his hand throbbing, his heart racing. He lifted his arm above his heart trying to alleviate the pain and went back to the emergency room. The doctors determined Parker’s hand was now so inflamed that he needed immediate care beyond their services.
Shortly thereafter, Parker lost consciousness. It would be almost nine days before he would be fully awake. Parker was quickly air-lifted by helicopter to Methodist Hospital in San Antonio.
The 150-mile trip took less than two hours; in that time, the lab techs had diagnosed the infection: “necrotizing fasciitis,” commonly called “flesh-eating bacteria.” It was fast moving and almost always fatal.
Throughout the night and morning hours, surgeons and staff labored to save Parker’s life. Sadly, however, the disease had so infected his hand and wrist that the only chance of saving his life was amputation.
Even with that his doctors would only give him a 50 percent chance of survival.
This gentle Christian family’s life had gone from a routine day to unbelievable nightmare in less than 36 hours! Parker’s life now seemed so close to ending.
As the morning slipped into afternoon, Parker was put in an “induced coma.” On Monday and Wednesday, still in a coma, Parker underwent two additional surgeries. The word spread quickly; relatives and friends everywhere prayed fervently for our Father’s mercy!
For another five days, Parker lay so quietly with tubes and wires all over him.
“My wife Kathy and I joined others who shared time at his bedside with his wife Marlu and son Troy,” Parker’s friend Harland R. Huntoon recalls.
Prayer seemed the only option. On the ninth day, the nurses told Marlu Parker would be brought out of his coma. They suggested no family be present because, for the patient this process often included loud yelling and violent gestures which could be very shocking.
Parker did fine, and slowly began to verbalize and regain his strength. His first words were garbled but soon he spoke clearer, always the same expression over and over, “His will not mine.”
The next day he was transferred to Methodist Texan Rehabilitation, also in San Antonio. In another two weeks, on Nov. 2, he was able to return home to Del Rio, but his crisis was far from over.
Parker would return to San Antonio several times, and by Jan. 3, 2018 Parker had received two more surgeries and had begun briefings about a “new hand.”
These “fitting” plans brought positive energy and excitement with thoughts of returning to some sense of “normalcy.”
The Hangar Center in San Antonio was the next site for Parker’s recovery. He learned of the doctors’ options to fit him with another “hand” and the fitting might take place in just a few weeks, but then it happened.
The positive recovery took a major step backward on March 3. Back home Parker fell and broke the ulna bone in his injured arm. The fitting was put on hold indefinitely. Returning to Methodist Hospital, Parker received seven screws to secure and strengthen the broken bone.
Finally, on June 15 the fitting began. This time Parker’s new hand would become a reality. In this apparatus were some serious wires but he told the technicians he would be doing some “hard labor” and he needed strong material to help him grip really firmly.
His device was activated by moving his arm forward to open and pulling backward to close.
Once again, Parker returned to his shop and his special hobby, “flint knapping.” He had some catching up to do because in November, the annual Val Verde County Archeology Fair was scheduled.
Parker and several colleagues started that event several years ago, and since 2000 over 10,000 visitors including hundreds of school children have marveled at the skill of Parker and his colleagues who, like their ancestors of old, fashioned arrow and spear heads from stone and other material. In spite of the loss, Parker’s skill would be on display once again.
“October 2018 marked his one-year anniversary and I visited in his home and listened again as he shared more of the details of these events,” Huntoon said.