When he needed surgery, Scouting helped ease his mind

Last December, Mike Landis (right) started experiencing numbness in his face and down his left arm. Concerned, he saw his doctor, who referred him to a specialist in Salem, Va. After an MRI, the specialist urged Landis to have surgery immediately. He had a ruptured disc in his neck that was pressing on a nerve.

“This would have caused me to lose the use of my arm and hand at some point if not operated on,” Landis says.

Less than a week before his surgery, the specialist called Landis, informing him that he was being called out of town on an emergency and was referring him to Dr. Gregory Riebel, an orthopedic surgeon at another clinic in town.

“I was getting extremely nervous about this now with all the last-minute changes happening and if I would get the care that I needed,” Landis says.

Those worries quickly melted away after talking with Dr. Riebel — a fellow Eagle Scout.

Power of a common bond

Dr. Riebel keeps Scouting plaques up around his office. He earned the Eagle Scout Award in 1977 in Ballston, N.Y., and served as an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 289 in Roanoke, Va., where his son earned Eagle a few years ago.

He often wears an Eagle pin on his cap when traveling around town. It has sparked a few conversations with others, giving him the opportunity to share what Scouting is all about with those who are curious as well as connecting him with strangers who are involved in Scouts.

“No use hiding your candle under a hat,” Dr. Rieble says.

When Landis discovered his surgeon is also an Eagle Scout, the needed procedure didn’t sound so intimidating.

“That was the turning point for me; it was like a weight was lifted and I knew that everything was going to be fine with me and the surgery,” says Landis, who earned his Eagle in 1969 in Covington, Va. “My heart relaxed, and I was at peace with it all.”

That peace stemmed from Landis knowing what it takes to earn the Eagle Scout Award and the character of those who become one.

“As we all know, that the trail to Eagle is not easy and you can’t get there by barely sliding though,” he says. “There is an honor and code that goes with being an Eagle and doing the best you can do all the time. This is why I felt comfortable with him doing my surgery.”

The surgery went well, and now with an artificial disc, Landis has had no pain or problems since the procedure.

“I attribute this to God, and him working through two Eagle Scouts to solve a common problem that brought us together,” Landis says.

About Michael Freeman 62 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.