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Chaplain assistant sees blessing in adversity

Staff Sgt. Anthony Bean, 21st Space Wing chaplain assistant, takes time during his day to pray in the sanctuary of the Base Chapel at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Aug. 8, 2016. Bean had multiple brain surgeries which ultimately strengthened his mission toward serving Airmen and the unseen troubles they may face. It has been six months since Bean had a seizure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Bean, 21st Space Wing chaplain assistant, takes time during his day to pray in the sanctuary of the Base Chapel at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Aug. 8, 2016. Bean had multiple brain surgeries which ultimately strengthened his mission toward serving Airmen and the unseen troubles they may face. It has been six months since Bean had a seizure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Bean, 21st Space Wing chaplain assistant, suffered from an extensive brain infection in 2015 that caused him to have seizures. Bean had multiple brain surgeries which ultimately strengthened his mission toward serving Airmen and the unseen troubles they may face at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Bean, 21st Space Wing chaplain assistant, suffered from an extensive brain infection in 2015 that caused him to have seizures. Bean had multiple brain surgeries which ultimately strengthened his mission toward serving Airmen and the unseen troubles they may face at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It was March and he and his wife were moving. It was still around the time of year where the cold hasn’t realized it over-stayed its welcome.

He thought nothing of a little numbness in his hand since he was in and out carrying boxes to their vehicle. It wasn’t until after they moved he realized the numbness in his hand had nothing to do with being outside during the cold.

“I remember being at work, feeling numbness and it was making me sick,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Bean, 21st Space Wing chaplain assistant. “The numbness began to spread and felt like an intense tingling sensation. I told my manager I was going home but I never made it home that day. I woke up in the hospital after having a seizure driving home.”

Bean ended up having multiple brain surgeries after that day, yet remarkably took this low point as a blessing, renewed his personal faith and strengthened his service towards the unseen troubles Airmen face.

“It was really scary,” said Bean. “I woke up 10 hours later in the emergency room. Part of me thought I was dying but, I kept thinking, ‘If I die, my wife is going to kill me!’”

With his sense of humor unaffected, Bean met with doctors to understand what was exactly happening inside his body. The doctors explained that he didn’t have a tumor, but a serious infection spreading around the right side of his brain, he said.

Bean was transferred out of the emergency room and into a facility that could handle treating brain infections. They told him he needed brain surgery.

With the seriousness of the surgery looming in his mind, Bean said he was comforted knowing his pastor and his Air Force family were reaching out to him and praying for his speedy recovery.

“The surgery went off without a hitch,” said Bean. “After three weeks, they sent me home — I finally thought I was out of the woods.”

His family was relieved the surgery went well. His mother and grandmother flew in to see him the day he left the hospital. The day that was supposed to be centered around celebrating with friends and family at his home, changed very quickly after Bean’s brain had a different idea.

“The day I came home from the hospital was the worst day up until that point in the whole experience,” said Bean. “I felt so sick and my body wouldn’t let me keep down my anti-seizure medicine. I ended up having the worst seizure I had ever had that day. I was in a lot of pain.”

Bean’s wife had to call an ambulance because he kept slipping in and out of consciousness and did not have enough strength to hold up his body weight. Bean had another seizure strong enough to make him black out, he said. Before he knew it, he was back in the hospital in the same situation he was before his surgery.

Doctors were in and out of his room. They explained how the infected site on his brain had doubled since his last surgery. Thoughts were bouncing off the walls of his mind as the doctors started enlightening Bean on the immediate procedures that were necessary. One thought resonated with Bean during this time.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to be able to stay in the Air Force’,” said Bean. “I’ve broken my leg before, I got some medicine, I recovered and I came back. At that point I just didn’t think I could come back, not with this. I saw all of my hard work fading away from me.”

Bean said he did what chaplain assistants do best, and he prayed. He prayed that God would deliver to him the best course of action for his life. Bean knew he wanted to stay in the Air Force, but he only wanted to stay in if God wanted him to, he said.

Bean’s surgery went even better than the first time and his road to recovery was more manageable than he originally thought.

It has been six months since his last seizure and the doctors are optimistic of his future. He completed a physical training assessment, where he scored an 89 percent, though he was disappointed that he wasn’t able to push it over a 90, he said.

Looking on his experiences and troubles his brain caused, he gained a deeper understanding of his mission and his role as a chaplain assistant.

“Your brain is something people don’t see,” said Bean. “There were things going on with my brain that was affecting me physically. That is very similar to people who come to the chapel for help. They are hurting in some ways that you can’t see. I have to be cognizant of that and be willing to look beyond what I can physically see in order to help what I cannot.”

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Staff Sgt. Bean is a chaplain’s assistant at the Peterson Air Force Base Chapel. The chapel provides religious services for all denominations and does not exclude anyone based on religious preference.*

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