You're only old when your back goes out more than you do.
- Fayard Nicholas
Every year on August 31, Cam Tribolet celebrates the best and worst day of his life–the day everything changed for him, the day he died.
That summer night in 1986 was just like any other night for then 23-year-old Cam.
If I hurry, I can still make last call, he thought.
He pulled his keys from his pocket, popped the top on a beer and left the strip club, determined to find a bar still open. Headed across Fort Wayne, Indiana, about 3 a.m., he stopped at the red light and glanced at the four-door blue car next to him in the turn lane. The light was red for what seemed like a lifetime.
Just then, one of the men got out of the car and walked over to Cam’s truck. Cam rolled down the window to see what he wanted and was met with a punch to the face. As Cam tried to escape, the man pulled out a gun and shot him three times in the stomach.
Somehow, Cam managed to drive away, headed for the closest hospital, but after only a few blocks he passed out, crossed the center line and crashed behind a nearby bar that was just about to close.
Hearing the loud noise, people from inside the bar rushed outside to find him unconscious and bleeding. Minutes later, Cam was at St. Joseph’s Hospital undergoing emergency surgery.
One bullet had pierced his aorta. Another had punctured his bowel. And, the last bullet had torn through his intestines and lodged in his back. Because his bowel had spilled out into his body, Cam became toxic and went into cardiac arrest.
That’s the first time Cam died, there would be 12 more encounters with death before he finally escaped its grip once and for all.
Weeks later, his eyes fluttered open.
My feet really hurt, he thought, trying to get the attention of a nearby nurse, but he couldn’t speak, so he groaned.
“You had to have a tracheotomy, Mr. Tribolet,” the nurse stated very matter-of-factly. “Don’t try to speak.”
With that, she handed him a pen and paper, explaining that he had been in an accident and was currently receiving treatment in a hospital. He couldn’t remember much of anything that had transpired.
“Write it,” she instructed.
He scribbled, “My feet hurt!”
The nurse read his words and very bluntly said, “Your feet can’t hurt, Mr. Tribolet. You don’t have any legs.”
Immediately, Cam looked down at his legs which were covered by a blanket, and realized part of them were missing. So overcome with emotion, he had to be restrained. Cam had awakened to a new reality, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to live anymore.
Thankfully, Cam’s story doesn’t end there, it only begins, as he chronicles in his recent book, Dead 13 Times: Learning to Live After Dying (Whitaker House).
I first met Cam a couple of years ago through his sweet wife, Sue, who had originally been his physical therapist before becoming his girlfriend and eventual spouse.
Cam’s life is truly a love story–the love Sue had for him, always believing in him even when he didn’t believe in himself–and the love of a Heavenly Father who pursued him and loved him long before Cam returned that love.
After hearing Cam’s story, I was deeply moved. Never again could I make excuses and say “I can’t” when faced with a challenge, knowing that Cam has met every challenge in his life with a “never give up” attitude.
Cam Tribolet is many things–a living miracle, a committed Christian, a loving husband and father, an amputee, am inspirational public speaker, a TV personality, a hunter, a skier, a mountain climber, a volunteer, an architectural engineer, a college graduate, and a man with an amazing testimony.
“I am a living testimony of God’s faithfulness and resurrection power,” he shared. “And, I’m here to tell you that miracles do happen if you’ll give God control of your heart and life.”
And, here’s the best news: God is no respecter of persons so what he did for Cam, he will do for you.
“God will be there to help you up when you stumble, and he will carry you when you can’t walk anymore,” Cam added. “He is a faithful God–I speak from experience.”
You can read more about Cam’s story and his book here.
Michelle Medlock Adams is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, with more than 60 books and 1,000 articles for newspapers and magazines to her name. She was won several SELAH Awards (best children’s book and book of the year for God Knows You in 2014 and best children’s book for My Big Book of Prayers in 2012), and her book Divine Stories of the Yahweh Sisterhood was named a Family Christian Bookstores Premiere Pick in 2006. When not working on her own assignments, Michelle ghostwrites books for celebrities and some of today’s most effective and popular ministers.
Michelle is married to her high school sweetheart, Jeff. They have two college-aged daughters, Abby and Allyson, as well as a small petting zoo. When not writing or teaching writing, Michelle enjoys cheering on the Indiana University Men’s Basketball team, the Chicago Cubbies and the LA Kings. Find out more about Michelle at her website.