The day before Leo’s surgery was a Wednesday. It is the only day I teach outside the home, with 7 neighbor-kids all in a cute suburb. I asked Leo before I left
“Are you sure you want me to leave you here alone?”
His response: “One of us has to keep working!”.
So, with that, I got in the car and headed towards my first student’s house. On the way, I called a dear friend from our small group and let her know that Leo would be having surgery the next day, and to just pass the word along to pray. She suggested that maybe instead of the group meeting at her house, they would all come over to ours to pray, worship and bring us food. I was so grateful!
I got through my first 2 lessons with no problem, but all of a sudden, during my 3rd lesson, I got a panicked call from Leo.
“Nena! Canela is having her puppies!”.
What?!?! Of course… the only day I’m not either at home, or 5 minutes from home.
“Do you want me to come home??” (I had whelped pups before, but Leo’s only experience was watching the YouTube videos in preparation.).
“No, I think I can do it.”
It turns out that Leo also decided not to cancel a guitar lesson, so he put Canela outside while he taught (I would’ve paid money to watch him teach while high on the drugs they gave him… lol!).
When he went to let her in, he couldn’t find her. She didn’t come running to him like she normally does. He found her in her favorite spot under our hammock, in a pile of leaves that hadn’t been cleaned up from the winter. One puppy was already out.
We had a box for her all ready to go in the kitchen, so Leo had to drag it- with his good arm- out to the back patio, reach for the puppy that had already been born, and get Canela in the box.
About every 20 minutes or so, he’d send me another pic or video. She was such a pro! He even had time to set up the ipad to record the birth out on the back patio.
I called another friend who loves Canela and really wanted to be there for the birth, and she headed right over to be with them.
Again, I kept asking “Do you need me to come home?” Leo always answered the same way: “One of us needs to keep working!” So, I kept plugging away at my lessons, finished and got home with just 15 minutes to spare before people started coming over. Canela birthed the last puppy just as I was walking in the door. It was beautiful. She did an amazing job!
I had just a few minutes to clean the kitchen and living room, try to organize space for 12 people, and make sure that Canela was doing well before people started arriving.
It was crazy! (But when, in our lives have things like this never been crazy?).
Worship that night was so beautiful. We will remember that evening for possibly the rest of our lives. We were overwhelmed with so many things, and to have our dearest friends over to pray for and encourage us, lifting up the name of Jesus in the middle of our situation… that was priceless!
The puppies were born into a house of worship, and the peace that we all felt was tangible.
A good friend had been over all day helping Leo move a wall in our basement; and although our friend had to leave for the night, Leo was driven and wanted to get the ceiling torn out.
I was up in the living room trying to finish up a project for the day when I heard a loud crash, and “NENA!!!” Canela and I immediately ran downstairs, turned the corner into the room he had been working in and saw him laying on the ground, holding his right elbow. Canela immediately jumps on him, causing him to scream out.
“I think I dislocated my elbow”.
I carefully stepped around the broken bits of drywall that he was laying on and saw a dislocated elbow for the first time in my life.
My sister is an over-night nurse at a local ER, so as soon as I could get my thoughts together, I ran back upstairs to get my phone to call her.
She didn’t answer, but I quickly fired out a text and found out that she wasn’t on that night.
My mind was racing…
Should I move him?
Should we call an ambulance?
Can we afford an ambulance?
I asked “Do you think I can get you up?”
“Carefully, please. I am in a lot of pain.”
I ran back upstairs to get my shoes so I wouldn’t step on any nails in the drywall rubble.
I’m grateful that I am strong and that Leo is light, as I got him on his feet ok, and then helped him get upstairs.
I quickly ran back down because we had taken out the windows of our split-level basement so the guys could easily put the new drywall in through that space instead of winding down all the stairs and tight corners to get into the basement.
We don’t live in the ghetto, but leaving a hole in our house with recording equipment and a myriad of expensive instruments didn’t sit well with me.
I tried to put the windows in myself, but I was shaking and couldn’t concentrate.
“NENA! What are you doing? We need to go!!!”
“I need to put these windows in!”
“NO! I am in so much pain, we need to get to the ER.”
I carefully get Leo into the car, start on our way to the ER and then call my neighbor. No answer. Call again. No answer.
I call my boss, who lives just 5 minutes away.
He says he can come.
The neighbor calls back to see if everything is ok.
While I’m on the phone with her, I miss the turn for the ER, and have to make a u-turn up the road a bit. Leo is getting more and more frustrated with me.
I swear he felt every single bump on the road in the 3 miles from our house to the hospital. I tried to drive carefully, yet quickly. It wasn’t easy… he would wince each time there was even the slightest variance in the road.
We arrived, and immediately the staff recognized me as Leslie’s sister. We look a lot alike, and I’d been there the year before for a few nights with a friend.
They got us into a room, and immediately gave Leo some drugs to ease his pain. The results of the x-ray showed that it, indeed, was dislocated… and that they’d need to “reduce” it. I guess “relocation” wasn’t the correct word. Imagine that. Lol!
They explained that the best way to do this is to give him a drug that would knock him out for 7 minutes. They started telling me all the risks… his heart could stop, he could stop breathing, etc. I quickly texted my sister: how often did people die in the process of getting their arm relocated?
“Don’t worry about that. If anything happens, we know what to do.” her text said. “But I would recommend you not be in there when they do the procedure. It’s not an easily-forgettable sound”.
We signed the papers, and the guys all came in to do the procedure. I told Leo that Leslie recommended I step out of the room.
“You’re not going to be in here?!?” He asked with a panicked look in his eyes.
“Ok. I guess I’ll be here.” I put my hand on his left arm, and stood by his side. As they pumped the milky white liquid into his arm, he looked into my eyes.
“No importa lo que pasa. Te amo. Tu eres mi mejor aventura. Te amo con todo mi corazon.”
And he slumped down. The doctors checked to make sure he was out, got into place and quickly slid his elbow back into place… without a sound.
As he started waking up, he was speaking… at first I wasn’t sure if he was speaking in tongues, as I couldn’t understand a word.
And then, he started making sense, in English.
“Our bodies are so fragile, our lives are so fragile. We are so fragile. We have to let Jesus take the wheel. JESUS, take the wheel! Jesus take the wheel!”
The entire staff in the room started cracking up. This Colombian man was quoting a Carrie Underwood song as he was coming out of anesthesia. I wish I would’ve recorded it!
My dad showed up shortly afterwards and was with us while they put Leo back together. The nurse recommended that we get in touch with an orthopedic surgeon a.s.a.p. They gave Leo good drugs, and we were on our way home.
The next morning, we called around and were able to get in to OrthoNeuro the very next day, 8am. We took it easy all day, and then I had to go to work later (ie. run a rehearsal for the International Festival) that evening. The band all took time to pray for Leo’s healing and strength; and our rehearsal was the best yet.
We arrived at the Orthopedic surgeon’s office, hopeful that he would say there were just torn ligaments/muscles, and that surgery wouldn’t be necessary. However, that’s not what ended up happening.
Shortly after the surgeon entered and introduced himself, he said something like “Well, this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen. You did the tri-fecta of bone breakage in your elbow. You need surgery. Tomorrow.”
Leo almost passed out on the table he was sitting on. He laid down right away and the surgeon explained that his radial head was broken, amongst other things. The surgery would try to put whatever bone pieces back together using screws, and we would see how that would work.
We expressed the importance of Leo’s elbow as a guitar player. The surgeon confirmed that even with the surgery, it could take a year to fully recover. We drove home in silence, praying in our hearts that it wouldn’t take that long.
When we first moved back to the US 3 1/2 years ago, we had absolutely no idea what the next steps were. We just knew that we needed to be here.
So, we moved into my parent’s basement, and watched God provide everything we needed in His timing.
One of the most important things was for Leo to find a job. Unfortunately, his degree in Jazz Composition and Improvisation doesn’t really count for much here, so his desire to teach music wasn’t going to be an option.
He decided to fast. He knew that God had brought us here, and that He had a plan for us that we couldn’t see.
Through those days of job-searching and prayer, the Lord kept bringing him back to Guitar Center’s website; but there were never any job postings listed. So, Leo decided to just go to the store and check out the situation. As he walked around the store he realized that they didn’t have anyone who spoke Spanish, let alone any other international diversity on their staff.
So, he found the manager and introduced himself.
The manager posted a job opening that day, just so Leo could apply.
And, just like that, my kind, humble, ESL, pastor’s heart man was thrown into the world of retail.
I suppose there were some good days thrown in those first few months, but most days were grueling.
In Colombia, it is terribly rude to not introduce yourself and say hello before starting a conversation. In the US, it’s common.
It’s also, apparently, common to say “No, I want to talk to someone who speaks English” when someone with an accent answers the phone.
There were so many times Leo would come home absolutely mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.
And that was before winter hit, and he had to drive 30 minutes from my parent’s farm to the store in the freezing cold, snowy and icy roads. (something he had never done before).
But, every once in a while he’d come home with a story from the day that didn’t include people being rude, and those were precious.
There was one day when a widow came in and wanted something that would help her read music, as she was almost blind. Leo took his time showing her different things, talking with her and making her laugh. By the time they were done, she had tears in her eyes and told him that he reminded her of her husband who had passed. She was so grateful that he had taken time with her.
There was another day that a man came in and started talking with Leo about all different kinds of things related to sound, and then the man just paused, put his hand on Leo’s shoulder and said “Brother, are you a Christ-follower?”. Leo lit up, so grateful that the man noticed! As it turns out, that man was a pastor, and Leo has continued to help their church out with sound over the years.
Eventually, the Lord provided a place for us to live, just 2 miles from the store. And, it seemed like every time we went out for a date around the area, there were people who knew Leo.
Then, as we built our recording studio, people he had made a good connection with in the store started coming over to the house and recording beautiful music. In the last 2 years, he has recorded and produced songs and albums for people from the Bahamas, Kenya, Peru, Colombia, the Congo, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and good ole’ USA.
He started finding purpose beyond just selling stuff and making commission (2%, if you were wondering). He started connecting with immigrant pastors, and offered his help to install their sound systems and train up their media teams.
I think he has been to every immigrant church in the city… African, Asian, Latino… and even one of the new Lesbian churches downtown. That is a story for another post. 🙂
He has taken such good care of people, that now, even on Sundays, he’ll facetime with a church or two when they are in crisis, in-between his own worship practice.
He is one of the hardest workers I know, taking advantage of all the different opportunities that the Lord has given him.
And now, we are stepping out on a new adventure: He quit Guitar Center on Friday. It is time for him to start doing more of what he loves, and the time he was putting in at the store just didn’t allow for him to do that.
So, spread the word! Leo is available for installing sound and training up media teams, recording projects, latin jazz gigs; guitar, bass or recording lessons, etc. We are so excited to see what the Lord is going to do!
We will always be grateful for the 3 1/2 years that Leo spent at Guitar Center. It is where he learned how to communicate not only with Anglos, but with all different races and economic levels. It’s where he put to use his amazing people skills, and built lasting friendships with other musicians here in the city. It’s where he spoke value to Spanish-speaking pastors and worship leaders, hearing what their struggles are beyond just a sound system.
The employee prices on sound equipment and instruments didn’t hurt either. 🙂
On to the next season!