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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Thomas Moore, October 18, 2000. Interview R-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Struggling with health and healing through faith

Moore insisted on maintaining a demanding work schedule even as he sickened from what he eventually found out was diabetes. As he lay in a hospital bed, he experienced a vision in which he rose from a coffin. "God ain't ready for me yet," he declares. A remarkable recovery followed, aided by a smart diet, although Moore lost his toes to gangrene and suffered a diabetic episode that caused him to fall and break his hip.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Thomas Moore, October 18, 2000. Interview R-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

This is from Hillhaven. So you worked at Hillhaven?
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
Yes, sir!
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
Is that the place where you worked with all the seniors? Or did you work in some other places, too?
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
I worked some other places, too, but most of it was right there.
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
[Reading] "This certificate is awarded to Mr. John T. Moore in recognition of participation in the reality orientation training program. Hillhaven, Incorporated, Durham, North Carolina." This is from September 27, 1973. It says you did ten classroom hours. So this is when you were really getting some training?
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
Yeah, that's where I worked, got training, and everything. I stayed right there at that Hillhaven South for seven years. I know you know where Hillhaven South is—right over near Duke.
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
Before you started working with the elderly, what other sort of work had you done?
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
I was just doing home care, going and doing whatever needed to be done for them, staying three or two hours. I had three patients. You had to bathe the men and shave them, cut their toe nails and finger nails, fix them something for lunch. Then you'd let them sign your paper and go on to the next person. When you have three patients a day, that's a lot of work. After you do three patients, then you're tired. You go home and rest. Then I got ready to go to church and got myself together for that. I didn't let nothing worry me; I got along fine. Then I was working at Duke Hospital—
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
Oh really?
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
Yeah, I got sick—No, I was working at Hillhaven [unclear] when I got sick at 47 years old. I had a terrible attack hit me all me in chest, and didn't nobody know what it was. I went to Duke (Hospital). (The doctors) said, "Well, what we're going to have to do, Mr. Moore, is bore a hole in your chest and take some of the [unclear] out of there. I said, "Naw, I'm not no hog to bore into and take that bit. Y'all will never do that. Not going to experiment on me!" I left Duke and went on about my business. [hitting the table] That's exactly when I went to Hillhaven Center, and worked there for a long time. I used to go to work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then they'd need somebody else, and I'd just re-sign up and I'd work from 3 to 11 at night. Then sometimes after I had worked through that, then I'd still do the next shift. Working and working, it was a little bit too much. Then I worked at Woolworth at lunchtime on the lunch line—
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
Oh, you did? Did that come after Hillhaven or before?
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
Yeah, I'd leave Hillhaven and go up to the Woolworth's and rechange clothes, put on another white outfit and work on the lunch line till 2 o'clock. Then I'd come home, change uniforms again, and take care of one patient. My aunt used to tell me, "You doing too much, boy. You need to rest. I'd say, "I'll rest when I'm in my grave." She said, "I know that, but you need to rest now." She's still living. Bless her heart, she's 94 years old, but she's not able to get around. She's had two or three strokes in New York with her daughter. She's the mother of our church. But I got along fine. Then I got sick and they sent me to the doctor. I said, "I'm going to Dr. Kenny Banks over there by Lincoln." He checked me out and everything—oh, I meant to bring that letter. When he found out—. I stayed in the hospital. I believe it was '67 or '71, June and July. I couldn't stand for nothing to touch my body, no kind of heat or nothing.
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
This is when you were in the hospital.
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
I was in the hospital. I couldn't even stand in front of the air conditioner. They just kept me there with the sheet on. I was sick person, running temperatures and everything. [The doctor] came in there one day and said, "I'm going to take your blood and send it to Atlanta, Georgia, to be analyzed. They'll send it back to me within the same day." He flew it there and they flew it back. He came back and I was just laying there, resting. He came and shook me, "Mr. Moore, Mr. Moore." I said, "What is it, Doctor?" He said, "Don't do that, don't do that, don't do that. Don't sleep like that! You're going to go into a coma. You're a quanta-diabetic." I had sugar in my urine and in my blood. It was just eating me up. They put me on insulin, 100 units a day and 20 at night. I was laying there in the hospital—and I want you to listen to this; a lot of people don't believe this. [loudly, dramatically] I saw myself in the casket in the church. [pause] I saw my whole body in the church in the casket, and Mother Shaw's daughter came in and began to look at me and began to pray. She said, "Bishop Moore, you can't do this, you can't go like this, you gotta come back." She began to pray, and I saw myself just rising, just rising. I rose out of the casket. Then I woke up out of the sleep I was in. The doctor was just rolling and shaking me. I said, "I'm all right. I'm fine." "No, you wasn't. You was gone. We didn't know what to do for you." [clapping his hands lightly] I said, "I'm fine, I'm fine," heart monitors all on me, shooting i.v.'s. I said, "I'm am fine. Still here."
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
Thank God.
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
I'm still here. God ain't ready for me yet. My work is not done. I'm still pastor, still going, still doing. These people that live around here say, "You a miracle man." I say, "Call me what you want; I'm just an instrument for God, just a witness for him."
CHRISTOPHER WEBER:
That experience you had in the hospital, did that have a big affect on your life after that?
JOHN THOMAS MOORE:
Yeah, I got stronger and more powerful for the Lord. I get well and they didn't understand it. I told (the doctors), "I'm going home." They said, "No, you're not." I said, "I'm going home." They thought I couldn't walk. I began to walk around and visit people in the other wards. They said, "You got to lay down." I said, "I cannot sit down. I cannot. I cannot." I get weak sometimes, but the strength of the Lord brings me through. Now I am not even taking no insulin at all. He took me off of that. He took me off of the needle, said, "You don't need it no more." I just test my sugar every now and then. I don't never be more than 145, 150. It never gets way up. I eat like I ought to; I don't eat a whole lot of food, like people think I ought to eat. See, I don't eat that fried food and all that heavy starch food. I eat a lot of fruits and stuff like that, light stuff, and vegetables that will keep you going. You don't have to eat a whole lot of meat. If I eat any type of meat, it will be like turkey, fish, and chicken. All that other red meat and stuff I don't bother with. It's not good for you. Don't eat nobody's pork, no, no, no. And I don't eat no whole of dairy food. The Lord just keeps me going. I keeps myself going under the blood of Jesus. I fell about four or five months ago. I went to the dialysis, and came back and they said, "Mr. Moore, your auntie up there sick" I said, "What in the world?" I stay over at the dialysis four hours and a half. The people say it makes you weak. I don't really get that weak. But I'll go home and eat something, then I'll rest. So I rushed right on upstairs. I thought she was sitting in the chair, but she was stretched out right on the floor. I said, "I'm calling the paramedics right now." I called them and they came. I said, "You're going to the hospital." She said, "No, I'll wait for my daughter." I said, "Your daughter is coming in next month." I carried her on to Duke. At Duke they said she was dehydrated, wouldn't half eat, and everything was happening to her. They kept her. I said, "Aunt Rose, I'm going home. I'll be back Monday to see you. Was going to have service on Sunday." On Monday I came on out there and sat down to wait for the cab. I said, "Why doesn't my leg feel right?" I stretched it out and walked a little bit. Then the cab came out. I could just barely make it in the cab. I said, "What in the world?" I kept moving my leg, had me a sandwich, and got home. Put the sandwich on top of the table and was going to get me a glass of Gatoraid. I got that and said, "Oh, I got to go to the mailbox." [snapping] I got ready to get up and go to the mailbox and my legs went limp like a dishrag. I said, "What is this?" I got up again, and when I got up I just fell on the floor. When I fell on the floor I broke my left hip. I said, "Oh, God, I broke my left hip." It didn't excite me; I didn't get upset or nothing. So I crawled from the kitchen to the bedroom on my stomach; that was a hard job. I rested and pulled and got the telephone. Called the [unclear] and said, "Now I done fell and broke my hip and I'm laying on the floor. "Well, you lay real still, Mr. Moore." I called my neighbor, and she came running around there. I called Alicia to come and get me. They finally got me on the stretcher; there was a board they had to put me on. I done all right till we got in the emergency room and they put me on that cold, steel table. I said, "Get me off of here." So they covered me up in a blanket." The lady comes in and is taking my vital signs, testing my temp, testing my blood pressure and my heart. I said, "Look, y'all need to get me into X-Ray because my hip is broke." She said, "We don't know that." I said, "My hip is broke." "We don't know that." "My hip is broke." Finally the doctor come, and he got me from here across the hall to the x-rays. Took the x-rays, and I heard the doctors talking. [mimics doctors] Finally they come back. I say, "Can I see my x-ray? My hip is broken." "Well, we can tell you that it's broke, but we can't let you see it. Your doctor will have to see it. This was on a Saturday. [The doctor] came in and told me, "We're going to put you in the room, but at nine o'clock we're going to have to operate on you." They don't usually operate on Saturday for nobody. They had to rush me there. They done that operation, and in about three hours I came out. I said, "I'm fine." They put a pin in there; I got a steel pin in my hip. I couldn't hardly walk around or do nothing. So they put me in the bed and give me the i.v. I started making a prayer and talking to the Lord. (The Lord) said, "I think I want you to move." So I moved. In the meantime, I had to go to the [unclear] , because Dr. Daniel had cut off all of my toes, on account of I was a diabetic. They turned black like your bag. Gangrene had set in. First they took off on of the little toes. I went about a year without anything happening. Then he went and took an x-ray and (the doctor said my toes were) fractured at the bone. I said, "How in the world? I hadn't hit nothing. I hadn't dropped nothing on my toes. He said, "It's just happened." In the meantime they had to take me to the whirl pool and put me in the whirlpool.