On Feb. 18, Gunter ate at a local restaurant where he received food poisoning. Around 10:30 p.m. that night, he said he started trying to vomit.
“At about 6 o’clock the next morning, my wife got up to go to work, and I had been up all night with it. I finally threw up, and I threw up so vigorously that it tore a hole in my esophagus where it connects to my stomach; I started losing blood and bleeding on the inside,” Gunter said. “It didn’t take me very long to where I got so weak that I couldn’t walk, and then I passed out. She [his wife, Mary Jo Gunter] rushed to call the ambulance, and they rushed me to Princeton.”
While at Princeton Baptist Medical Center, Gunter continued to receive blood for six days and, unfortunately, he kept losing that blood.
Doctors performed three different procedures on Gunter. The first Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) was unsuccessful because Gunter had so much blood that doctors could not find the source of the bleeding. During the second EGD, doctors found what was causing the bleeding: a Mallory-Weiss tear, which is a tear in either the lower part of the esophagus or the upper part of the stomach, close to where the two join. When the doctors tried a procedure to clamp it, that didn’t work either.
Finally, doctors performed an endoscopic band ligation. This particular procedure is defined as placing tiny elastic bands around enlarged veins found in the esophagus and tying them off so they can no longer bleed. Gunter remained in the hospital for a total of 10 days. However, Gunter describes a miraculous work that occurred the Sunday he was in the hospital.
“I bled Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then the blood stopped on Sunday morning when everybody at church started praying for me. We had people from our church that were on a mission trip in Honduras, and of course they were praying for me over there,” Gunter said. “We had people in Arkansas, all over the place, praying for me, and that’s when the blood stopped Sunday morning.”
Gunter attends Hunter’s Chapel Holy Church of Christ where he has been a member and the church’s treasurer since 1986. He is the song director at the church and a member of the gospel singing group EverPraySing. Hunter’s Chapel presented a donation to the American Red Cross Walker-Marion Chapter Tuesday morning. The organization plans to hold a blood drive Friday, March 28, in honor of Gunter. The blood drive will be located at the Red Cross at 1101 Viking Drive in Jasper from noon until 5:30 p.m.
Pam Fikes, executive director of the Walker-Marion branch of Red Cross, said Gunter required several units of blood while in the hospital and now wants to give back. She also said in an email that the Red Cross expects at least 50 units to be taken Friday.
“When a patient is lying in the hospital and a bag of blood is brought in, they see that bag as a gift. Someone gave that blood to them,” Fikes said. “That blood is keeping them alive to see another day. There is no greater gift than the gift of life. Please donate — your blood donation will save a life. The need is constant. The gratification is instant."
Gunter is now recovering from his surgeries. He said he went through 21 units of blood within four days, and his doctors said it was the worst case they had ever seen.
He is grateful for those who prayed for him and gave blood because without them, he said he wouldn’t be here today.
“I’m recuperating, and it’s a slow go, but I’m headed the right way now. I’m getting stronger,” Gunter said. “I just appreciate all the prayers because that’s what brought me through. It just gave me a different outlook on people donating blood because that’s what saved my life.”
According to the American Red Cross website, in order to donate you must meet these requirements: weigh at least 110 pounds, be in general good health, meet the minimum age requirements and should not have donated blood in the last 56 days. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization which operates on community service.
Gunter’s opinion on the importance of giving blood is “to replenish the blood supply that they had to use on me to save my life, and I just hope all my friends will come out and donate blood.”
For more information on Friday’s blood drive you may contact the American Red Cross in Jasper at (205) 387-1478.