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Afflicted by Mysterious Stomach Pain

Webster, NY

“I've been playing basketball since I was a little kid, very young, around three, four years old. That's like my place of peace. Um, I feel I'm at bliss when I'm there. So, the court is, in terms, my sanctuary.” In the Fall of 2017 junior Emmitt Holt was looking forward to another great year playing for Providence College. He says, “I know it was going to be a great season. The sky was the limit for us, honestly.”

But one night in early September, he started experiencing intense stomach pains. An hour later he called the team trainer. Emmitt recalls, “He gets there and I'm crawling down the hallway and I'm just in pain at this point. Like um, it's top notch pain, something I never felt before I just knew something was wrong.”

Emmitt was rushed to Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, Rhode Island. When the pain continued into the next morning, doctors suspected appendicitis and prepared for surgery. They also called his mother, Caroline. She says, “The first thing that I thought about after I got the message was, ‘Oh my God, what's going on? What's really going on?’ You know. Uh I believe in prayer, so I definitely prayed.” By the time she made the 6-hour drive, Emmitt was in recovery. His appendix was fine, and they couldn’t find anything wrong. She recalls, “Seeing him laying on that bed, really made me feel helpless. I just grabbed him and hugged him, you know. I'm sitting here looking at my child in pain, tubes, medicine, IVs, all this stuff on, and no one not really know what's going on. It-it's frustrating, it's aggravating. Uh cried many, many times. Just like, ‘God, you know, what is this all about?’"

Unable to keep food down, Emmitt was put on a feeding tube. He grew weaker with each passing day and his hopes for a great season were vanishing. He says, “I was very angry with God the future was looking amazing and then all of a sudden, we had this huge blockade, huge blockade.” Caroline recalls, “It was really a lot of trial, error, a lot of testing, a lot of blood work, because they honestly didn't know what was going on.”

After 2 weeks of testing, doctors still had no answers. By then, Emmitt had lost almost 20 pounds and was in constant pain. Frustrated, Caroline insisted Emmitt be moved to Massachusetts General in Boston to see a different group of doctors. She says, “Our prayers was definitely, ‘Lord, send someone with the wisdom and knowledge to figure out what is going on’.” Emmitt says, “There were plenty of nights where I yell out to God and questioned Him.”

As family, friends, and teammates prayed, Emmitt continued to decline. Now it wasn’t a matter of missing a season of basketball, it was about losing his life. “I had nightmares of that.” Caroline remembers, “I had questions about it. Questioned God about it. And, you know, and I said, ‘God, if you're gonna take him, you're gonna have to prepare me for this because this is not how his story should end’." Emmitt recalls, “Just being alone and letting my mind wander and having the devil talk to me in my ear. Um all of these factors, uh it led me to just have the mindset of if I die, I die.”

Then, in late October, 6 weeks after entering the hospital, Emmitt went into toxic shock and was rushed into surgery. Caroline says, “When I first initially heard that he had flatlined, I had this cold chill go all over my body. It just threw me into so many emotions, so many feelings. I mean, I can't put a word to all of the feelings and emotions I had. I was just really overwhelmed.” It was then they found the problem: an infection aggressively eating at his intestines. They operated on Emmitt for 6 hours removing 8 feet of small intestine and installing an ileostomy bag for waste. Still, they weren’t sure it was enough. Caroline remembers, “There was no surety, you know, there was no certainty, there was no nothing, no promises. Everyone was pretty much praying that it would go well.”  

The next day Emmitt was weak but stable, so they moved him to ICU. By then, Emmitt was sure his basketball career was over. Soon, Emmitt started to improve. Doctors worked with his conditioning coach to help him regain the 50 pounds he’d lost and build his strength back. His mom recalls, “When he was able to get out of that bed, and he was able to actually eat, and he was able to actually walk around. I did feel like my prayers was being answered.” As for Emmitt, another change was taking place. Emmitt says, “I found a new relationship with God while I was in the hospital, you know. God is first on everything.”

In late November, after 64 days in the hospital, Emmitt finally went home. He returned to college in January and later that Spring his ileostomy was reversed. That Fall, he walked out onto the court for his first home game of the season. Emmitt remembers, “For me to step onto the court, and I look up and everyone just starts applauding because they congratulate me on my success of beating this thing, whatever this was. Um, it was just a surreal feeling. It was – it was amazing.” Caroline says, “I was so excited for him, because the one thing he wanted back, God gave it back to him.”

Emmitt went on to grad school and played another season, until it was cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic. Now graduated, he still has dreams of going pro. But it’s not basketball that’s first in his mind. Emmitt says, “I give glory to God everywhere I go. I wouldn't be here without Him.” Caroline believes, “There's nothing impossible for God. Because I look at my son and he's a walking miracle.” Emmitt says, “I know God has a purpose for me on this Earth and I know I’m walking through it right now. I’m blessed to be able to do such. I’m just excited to see what comes next.”

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