By Michael Miller
God is in the details and, in Paul Perryman’s case, in the ruts.
The Samaritan Ministries member hit one of those ruts during the bicycling portion of an Ironman Triathlon in Oklahoma City on September 26, 2015. An Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and a full marathon. Paul, who lives in Flint, Texas, hit the unmarked rut in the road around the 100-mile mark of the bike ride.
He now sports five plates and 20 screws, all unnoticeable, in his face.
In the accident, his bike’s front tire wedged solidly in the asphalt gap, stopping the whole bike suddenly. Paul flew forward off the bike and landed on his face and head, with the rest of his body following. He sustained six broken bones and five cracked bones (if you’re not squeamish, you can read about them in detail at his blog) in his face and other parts of his head, as well as several broken teeth. A photo of his sunglasses shows distinct scrape marks where they met asphalt; the padding in his protective helmet was shredded. But God was already busy working things for His glory.
By the time everything was done, Paul would get top-notch medical care that resulted from some Holy Spirit connections, receive enough Special Prayer Need donations from Samaritan members to pay his medical bills, and finish an Ironman 7½ months later.
His need could not be shared as a regular need since the accident happened before he joined. But like everything else surrounding the accident and his recovery, “If I would step forward, the right person would kind of appear like the person was assigned to help me at that particular stage,” he says.
The generosity of fellow Samaritan members especially touched him.
“To me, this is the Body of Christ working together the way it should,” he says. “People who will never see me or know me this side of heaven sent money to help with my medical need.”
Paul stopped by the Samaritan office in early September to express his gratitude to staff for helping him out of a difficult financial situation. He earlier had acknowledged the members who helped him by sending a thank-you note to each of the 400 who directly sent their SPN donation to him. Even more had sent their gifts for Paul to the Samaritan office to then forward to him.
Those SPN gifts arriving in early 2016 encouraged him as he trained for the goal that still remained: completing a full Ironman, this one in The Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston, on May 14. Paul, who had run 12 marathons before trying an Ironman, had been unable to finish his first try at a full Ironman in May 2015, and, of course, had crashed in the Oklahoma City Redman Ironman in September 2015.
It had been a long road, even longer than the 140.6 miles of an Ironman.
The first two hospitals where he was taken were unable to help him for different reasons. Serendipitous connections from just a few weeks before, though, secured him treatment under the supervision of an ex-Army anesthesiologist and other ex-Army doctors experienced in piecing together broken faces.
Recovery began after a 4½-hour surgery. Paul began to regain his strength over the next few months, but even before he was able to begin training, he entered the 2016 Ironman TX.
In the meantime, there were hospital bills to deal with. He had a $25,000 USA Triathlon insurance policy which he could use since he was on the road in more ways than one when his accident happened. As a used-car salesman, he was used to negotiating and went to work, whittling down his original total of $121,000.
Paul joined Samaritan in late December 2015 at the urging of fellow Ironman triathlete and acquaintance Ann Hulley, a widow with nine children.
“Ann had tried several times to get me to join,” Paul says. “I figured if I ever got married and had kids, I’d get health insurance. ‘I’m doing the hardest event known to man. What do I need health insurance for? What could possibly go wrong?’” he adds with a lopsided grin.
He didn’t know about Special Prayer Needs until he saw the tear-off portion of his first share slip suggesting a donation to another member. It involved a pre-existing condition—which he also had.
“My eyes did a Bugs Bunny bugout,” he says.
At that point, he still owed $96,000.
He contacted Samaritan and started the process, understanding that there was no guarantee it would be offered as an SPN. He started getting checks in May, calling it a “huge uplift” for his preparation to attack the Ironman again. By the time the direct checks came in and the money sent to Samaritan for his SPN arrived, he had been given more than $24,000 through Special Prayer Needs donations.
“It was just trickling in, like water coming in streams, and that really built my faith because every day it would grow a little bit,” Paul says.
He then created a blog to tell his story and sent thank-you notes to every member who had helped him, including the internet address for the blog.
“So I’m being encouraged with these cards coming in May and here I am going to this race, but at the same time, the Lord built my faith,” he says. “I’ve never in my life heard of anybody paying for a pre-existing condition. I was used to helping others out, but I’ve never been the guy that needed help.
At the time I needed help, and it’s like God brought the harvest back to me.”
Paul not only made it back into training by December, but managed to finish an Ironman as well, completing the May 14, 2016, Ironman TX triathlon in The Woodlands, Texas, in 14 hours, 11 minutes, and 6 seconds, surviving high heat and humidity as well as a rain storm. He swam a 5K (3.1-mile) in October and will return, God willing, to the Ironman TX this year.
He praises God for not only getting him through his accident and providing him with great care, but also for working through the members of Samaritan Ministries and for helping him grow as a believer.
“Doing triathlons has disciplined me,” he says. “It has forced me and taught me how to deal with my fears, whatever they may be.”