Rev. Randall Mullins and his wife, Sharon Pavelda, are making a habit of dancing in medical facilities.
Earlier this year, the Memphis ministry couple danced in a local exam room while physicians tried to determine if Mullins had a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“The reality of being able to move, much less dance, in the face of a looming diagnosis of paralysis is all the more precious to us these days,” Sharon said then.
Mullins “failed” his first test in January. Physicians told him that he might choke to death if he didn’t stop eating by mouth. That swallowing water could be more dangerous than swallowing food. That he needed a feeding tube and more tests. That he might be dying.
On June 25, Mullins and Pavelda went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for more tests and more definitive results. While they waited, they danced in the clinic’s atrium.
“It was crowded at the time, filled with folks who had stopped to listen to two women, one playing the piano and one singing,” Pavelda said. “As we walked up, the singer began to sing Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy.’ What could we do? It was the first song we had ever danced to and the song we had danced to at our wedding, nine years and one month to the day before.
“Randall put down his briefcase filled with doctors reports and test results, took me in his arms, and danced me all over that floor. I have to say, it was glorious! I only had eyes for him, but when it was over and folks were applauding, we became acutely aware of how many people gathered around were in wheelchairs or were with those who were.”
Two days later, Mayo physicians told Mullins they had ruled out ALS. They think he has something called 12th nerve palsy, or paralysis of the tongue. It’s not fatal.
Afterward, as Mullins and Pavelda walked back through the sun-drenched atrium, a man was sitting at the piano playing the hymn, ‘He Touched Me.’
“As we got to the exit we knew we had to go back and dance our prayer of gratitude,” Mullins said. “So we did. We asked the pianist if he minded if we danced while he played and he said, ‘Dance!’ We twirled and spun and improvised with great joy.”
Mullins and Pavelda, both in their 60s are attending their son’s wedding this weekend in Louisville.
“As you can imagine, there will be dancing,” Pavelda said. “Maybe on tables even.”