12/21/2011 10:49 am ET | Updated Feb 20, 2012

Nursing Angels and an Update to 'Its a Wonderful Life'

I need 10,000 angels, watching over me tonight
-- Martina McBride

At Thanksgiving, I had a lot to be thankful for. I was engaged to the woman of my dreams and my third grandchild had just been born. I had written a best-selling book and assembled a dream team for allowing my businesses to grow.

Since then, it's been a lot of doctors and hospitals.

I had lost the ability to urinate.

During my first trip to the emergency room, they drained eight liters of water from my bladder and told me I was lucky to be alive.

They sent me home with a catheter attached. It has been my almost constant companion since then.

I saw a urologist and we thought it might be an infection. It wasn't. Spent a week or so with the catheter. When I tried to take the catheter out, I wound up back in the hospital.

The urologist convinced me to operate and take out part of my prostate.

He hit the jackpot of my deepest fears. Surgery is the top of the list.

I've had one other surgery -- age five when I got my tonsils out.

My fear of surgery is magnified by 29 years as a structured settlement consultant, helping injury victims with their money.

I've seen a lot of things go wrong in hospitals. I had a client go in the hospital for a knee operation and come out with heart transplant.

Statistically, errors are rare, but I see the times when they are not. I have a heightened awareness of what can go wrong.

In an era of managed care and big chains, mistakes are made and people fall through the cracks.

I didn't want to be another one who fell through the cracks.

My second biggest fear is cancer, and especially prostate cancer.

My dad died of prostate cancer at age 59, and I watched him die a horribly painful death. I hit 53 in February. I fear that my genetic time bomb will go off when dad's did.

Any time I hear of a prostate problem, my mind immediately goes to cancer.

The first day played into my fears. I got to a chaotic hospital early, and after sitting through several exams and several hours, I was sent home because of what appeared to be a scheduling mix-up.

They then scheduled me for Friday surgery and a weekend stay. That played into another fear. I've seen bad things happen because patients were overlooked by understaffed weekend crews.

I try to give myself an edge. I came to the hospital with an entourage that Elvis would have envied. I told my thousand of Facebook friends which hospital I would be at. Two doctors are good friends and they called and emailed for updates a couple of times a day. I stopped at church for a blessing and updated my living will.

I was ready for anything -- but scared to death.

On the second try, the hospital staff fell over themselves and I was the first person taken to surgery. I woke up a few hours later, attached to my now-familiar catheter. Had a rough night, which includes a bad experience with one of the nurses.

Getting into it with a nurse was a traumatic experience.

I love nurses. My mother was an operating room nurse for 27 years, and my family and friends endowed a nursing scholarship at Eastern Kentucky University after her death.

It's impossible for me to not see my mother in every nurse I encounter. I treat them with the respect that mom deserved and didn't always get.

After the horrible night, I tried to call and email someone to help me and possibly get me out of the place. Early in the morning. Couldn't find anyone.

Then the shift changed and my guardian angel arrived.

In the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart's character) had a guardian angel who was an older, prissy man named Clarence.

My guardian angel was an early-20s nurse assistant from Nicholasville, Ky., named Crystal Hamblin.

Once Crystal and the registered nurse she works with, Sydney Napier Thigpen, came on the scene, life got better.

Crystal is going to school to be a massage therapist, has a 2 year old and works in the hospital every other weekend.

Crystal is street smart with tons of common sense. She is a source of calm, but she was dealing with a middle-age man who wanted to jump out of his skin.

She and I immediately became friends, and she walked me through some deep breathing exercises.

She helped me get out of bed and go to the bathroom, which the night nurse had refused to do.

She changed my gown that was full of blood, urine and vomit and changed my bed covers, which were full of the same.

The message hit me that little things are what life is all about.

Last month, I was worried about weighty world issues. At that moment, I just wanted to use the bathroom and to stop smelling my own vomit.

Sydney and I hit it off right away, too. Syd has the work ethic and concern for her patients that reminded me of mom.

Sydney was there on Sunday, when I went through the four most painful hours of my life.

I was excited on Sunday morning. The doctor told me I was leaving. My fiance was there to take me home.

They took the catheter out, and all I had to do was urinate.

Which I couldn't do.

Crystal came back and tried to get me to relax. No luck. I started feeling the same pain that got me in the emergency room the first time. I told Sydney to put the catheter back in.

Which she couldn't do. I had a blood clot blocking my urine flow.

Syndney called in the head nurse, Jennifer Watson, and eventually they called in another. They worked for two hours as hard as humans can work. Sweat poured off them.

They tried numerous (very painful) methods but could only get a partial clot removal. Finally the resident surgeon showed up.

It looked I would have to have emergency surgery.

I politely told the resident, William Rogers, that I had selected my urologist, Fred Hadley, because he came highly recommended from numerous sources.

I did not want to be operated on by a resident.

A lot of people would have been insulted; Dr. Rogers was not.

He calmly told he had significant hands-on experience and would try six options with surgery being the final one. He told me each attempt would be painful and carefully explained each option as he did them.

The procedures were incredibly painful, and as the area was inflamed it got more painful each time. However, the fifth option worked. I could literally feel the clot breaking and my urine shot out like a fire hose all over my newfound friends.

Who didn't seem to mind.

I met with the urologist today.

I don't have cancer. At all. I ditched the catheter and hope I never see it again.

I've spent my life chasing fame and glory, trying to achieve great things. I've never been one to stop and smell the roses. This forced me to.

I've been stunned by the outpouring of love, prayers and support.

Just like George Bailey, I've lived a wonderful life and have not always appreciated it.

I reconnected with the power of prayer.

During the year that dad was dying, I prayed every night. When I was going through pain on Sunday, I started praying again. It was comforting and gave me peace.

I found on Facebook that well over 100 people, of different faiths and backgrounds, prayed for me in their own ways.

It reminded me that prayer is a universal language.

I connected with some angels at the hospital. Crystal, Sydney and Jennifer will probably rarely get their names in the newspaper but get to see every day how they make a difference.

I also connected with the angels of above.

Prayer had been missing from my life for years, and I was reminded of why it is a tenet of every faith in the world.

I am blessed in many ways. I am blessed with health insurance and disability insurance. Many people have no health insurance and even fewer have disability insurance. Time off work can wipe them out.

I go into the New Year with a new sense of purpose.

If I can use the fame and fortune I've accumulated and keep the spirit of my angels in the front of my head, great things can happen.

I needed a kick in the balls to remind me.

Or maybe, a more painful sensation just a few inches higher.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the best-sellling author of the book "Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money."

McNay is an award-winning financial columnist and The Huffington Post contributor. You can read more about him at

He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Group ( which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianship's. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.

McNay serves as a consultant for self employed people, is a well-known public speaker and is an insurance consultant in the state of Kentucky.