HIGH POINT — People in Sunday School weren’t surprised when Benny Link rose to speak. They know Link likes to talk; he’s a car salesman. He wanted to announce his eighth anniversary.
It was Oct. 26, the day eight years earlier when Link had a double lung transplant and a triple heart bypass surgery — all at the same time — at Duke Medical Center. “I want everybody to know that eight years ago today I was in surgery,” he said. “The doctors had said that the operation would extend my life five to seven years. I’ve made eight years. I beat the odds.”
His class at Oak View Baptist Church in High Point know the story of how Link, now 72, spent 12 hours on the operating table in an operation that even doctors thought Link’s chances of survival were dim.
“I am a miracle. I thank God for that,” Link said. “I thank God for answering prayers.”
He added, “The technology is so good today … and it is really important to do what your doctor tells you. I credit the doctors and prayer for making it eight years.”
There were many prayers — not only his family but also his church friends and an orderly at the hospital. Link said he remembers like yesterday being rushed to the hospital in Durham after having gone four other times for the operations only to find the surgery couldn’t be done.
“My wife Jenny and I went out to eat on my anniversary and talked about what all happened that day when I had the operation,” he said. “It was really hard on her too. She has really looked after me. When I was being operated on she would go in and out of the chapel (at the hospital) and pray,” Link said. “Jenny has taken good care of me.”
Before going into the operating room, Link told his family he loved them. “I knew God would look after me but I didn’t think I would make it. I was afraid I’d have a stroke or become an invalid,” he said.
Not only did he survive, Link still works full time selling cars, which has been his profession for 53 years. His enthusiasm for selling cars hasn’t waned but he admits he sometimes doesn’t have the energy that he had a few years ago.
Even his tired days are better than the 19 months experienced before the operation, he said. He dragged an oxygen tank with him as he hustled around the sales lot at Crescent Ford on Old Winston Road in High Point. Link still sold about 20 cars per month.
He is still keeping pace and has sold more than 12,000 Fords in his career, he said.
“Retire?” he said. “I can’t retire now because the medicine I have to take costs so much,” he said. “My out-of-pocket money for medicine is tremendous,” he said.
In the next breath, he said he probably wouldn’t retire even if he didn’t have the big medical bills. “I love what I do, and I love working with people,” he said.
Link had a minor medical problem a couple years ago when fungus was found on one lung, he said. “The doctors gave me medicine and it cleared up in about three days.” There hasn’t been any sign of his body rejecting his new lungs, he said. He goes to Duke Medical Center every three to four months for checkups, and follows a strict exercise regimen at the fitness center at High Point Regional Health Systems.
“I have worked out 192 times this year, and more than 1,000 times since my operation,” he said. “I do weights, the treadmill, walk and ride the bike — I walk and ride the bike most of the time.”
He looks back on spending 12 hours in the operating room and 12 days recovering in intensive care as a blessing. There were four hours of therapy daily for 23 days. “I had to learn how to breathe all over again and how to walk. Sixty-five days after the operation, Link was released from the hospital.
Benny and Jenny Link shared those memories again that anniversary day, and agreed that the last eight of their 34 years together have been the most precious.
“I think what happened to me made me a better person. I feel closer to God than I ever did.
He has been so good to me,” Link said. “I hope people will remember me as a person you could believe in rather than as a person who was rich. Well, I guess I’m rich too — rich in blessings.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Burchette, a retired writer/editor at the Greensboro News & Record, can be contacted at [email protected].)