By Mark Ellis —
He was one of the top insurance agents in his company, preparing to build his dream house, living an active California lifestyle. Then disaster struck.
“I had pneumonia earlier in the year and I went to the doctor and he prescribed an antibiotic that was new on the market,” says Chris Dolkas, 66. At the time of the illness, he was in his early 40s.
He took one tablet of Ofloxin in the afternoon. “By 11 that night I thought I was having a stroke or a heart attack,” he recounts. “I was laying on the bathroom floor shaking, I couldn’t talk. I thought it was over.”
His wife, Tricia, sleeping peacefully in the next room, was six-months pregnant. “I didn’t want to trouble her, so I just lay on the bathroom floor shaking, thinking I wouldn’t see my fifth kid born.”
Dolkas had been a nominal, fair-weather Christian up to this point. “I used to call myself a karate Christian. I would go to church kicking and screaming,” he says.
He attended church because it was a good thing to do for his children. “I would go and play the part. But up to that point it was all about me. God didn’t have the wheel. I was very prideful. I thought it was all my doing that my business was successful.”
But as Dolkas writhed on the cold marble floor, something remarkable happened.
“Right as I passed out, I had this amazingly warm feeling of God’s hands lifting me up and saying, I’ve got you…you’re going to be OK.”
“It was really the most poignant moment ever in my life. It was unequivocal. I was shaking in seizure mode. Then all of a sudden I knew I would be all right.”
Ofloxin (now off the market) was in a category of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones, which includes Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox and many others commonly prescribed.
“This antibiotic had the propensity to bind to soft tissue,” Dolkas notes. “It would adhere to ligaments and tendons. It also bound to the central part of my brain and destroyed my autonomic system.”
The autonomic nervous system controls many unconscious bodily functions such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, urination, and digestion.
“When my wife found me on the floor the next morning, I couldn’t tell her what happened, because I couldn’t talk — it was like I had a stroke. I couldn’t put thoughts or words together. My balance was completely gone.
“I walked like Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy; I straddled sideways.”
His doctors were baffled, thinking he had a stroke or Parkinson’s disease, MS, or perhaps small lesions on his brain. “Nobody attributed it to the antibiotic even though it started that day,” he says.
Swallowing food was a challenge. “I would choke on whatever I was eating,” he says.
His bathroom functions were impaired. “My brain can’t tell my bladder to release the urine.”
“I spent 8 to 10 days a month sleeping because everything was shut down and didn’t work.” When he slept he had to sit up.
If he attempted to drive a car, he kept a plastic bag handy because he suffered from motion sickness.
For the next two years Dolkas and his wife wandered through a maze of medical prognostication and speculation. Doctors were not sure what happened, but certain he was now disabled. They advised him to sell his home and business, and apply for disability relief.
But the assurance he received from God on the night of the incident gave him hope, despite the horrible outward circumstances. “All along my faith kept telling me (to trust in) the feeling I got that night from God, saying ‘I’ve got you.’
There was a dichotomy that ran through his mind. “I was very angry but held on to the feeling that God was taking care of me. Because of that I didn’t give up.”
“I would like to say I was a believer before this happened, but it wasn’t coming from my heart and soul. I didn’t even deserve to have him come in and comfort me and let me know I would be OK.”
Financially, Dolkas and his wife struggled. “We got in a lot of debt. To make it seem like everything was okay we relied on equity lines of credit on our house.”
Then one day a breakthrough arrived in their long quest to understand what happened. In a meeting with his neurologist, the doctor showed them a transcript from the Oprah Winfrey show featuring a New York Times writer whose wife had taken the same medication and had the same adverse reaction.
“Chris, you wont believe this,” the doctor said, “but there are a lot of people who have this. I think we might have an avenue for you.”
Dolkas and his wife flew back to meet with Dr. David Flockhart, a leading expert on the dangerous side effects associated with fluoroquinolones. “He had already seen 600 patients who had an adverse reaction to this. He was the guru,” Dolkas discovered.
“Am I dying? Do I have Parkinson’s or MS?” Dolkas asked the doctor.
Dr. Flockhart gave them a realistic view of what they faced and brought renewed hope. “Now we knew what was wrong and we could go about fixing it. We worked through his network to put life back together.”
“Putting life back together was putting God first,” Dolkas says. “The whole time I felt God tell me, Chris you’re going to be OK.”
Dolkas went through months of physical and occupational rehabilitation. “I lost a lot of bodily functions and I still don’t have all of them back, which isn’t obvious to anyone looking at me. My balance came back. I do almost every sport I did before. As many things as are wrong, way more of them are right.”
His material dreams have been tempered by reality. “I have a different life now but a way better life because God became the focus for me and my family. When I let go everything got better,” he says.
“We were probably going to set the wrong values for our kids prior to this. It was more about accomplishments and stuff instead of values and faith being most important. Our kids are close and have values. They can see we had everything taken away from us and we’re not bitter.
“I would not have what I have spiritually now if I hadn’t taken that pill. I don’t fear death. I know everything I have is a gift and I’m in a better place.”
“That moment when I was laying on the bathroom floor was so profound. There was no question that God was lifting me up and holding me. I was like a little baby being cradled in his arms. I didn’t know if he was taking me to heaven right then. He said it would be all right. I didn’t know what that meant. It was such a strong overwhelming feeling it didn’t leave me.”
Dolkas believes if he was born again at an evangelistic meeting, he might have wandered. “God works in a way that he knows you’re going to get it. If I was at a revival I might be moved by emotion but give it up and walk away from it. I’m a strong personality and I always wanted to grab the wheel. I don’t even try to grab the wheel anymore because this was such a strong statement from God.
“He never let go of me.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here