“I am thankful to be alive!” I realize that it is miraculous how God intervened in my life in 2003 in an emphatic providential way to spare me for a few more years on this old earth. Here are some of the amazing events – wondrous to me, anyway – that indicate the Lord was watching out for little old me.
I now realize that I had subtle signs earlier in the year that were trying to tell me that something was wrong. But I was clueless! Connie and I walk a lot, and I was getting “aches and pains” in my calves – thinking that they were just signs of creeping age. Now I realize they were blood circulation warnings Then I started in mid-summer to have tingling in my arms during 30-minute walks. Still, no lights going on in my brain.
Then I actually had to stop walking due to shortness of breath, but after a brief rest I started to walk again at a brisk clip. Along with these symptoms, that I was definitely ignoring, there was a gastric problem that was occurring on our thrice-weekly “power” walks.
Connie was bugging me to do something about seeing a doctor. Boy, was she way ahead of me! So, on a Sunday morning in August I discussed my health dilemma with close friend and fellow deacon Dr. Ron Hughes. Ron is our dear friend, and was our greatly trusted family physician. The Doc suggested that I take some medication for acid reflux and warned me to check back with him if things didn’t improve.
I had the sense to call for an appointment on August 25th, and found that they had a cancellation that morning. I went. Ron wisely said I needed a stress test. Wise, I say, as spelled with a capital “P” for the pervasive Providence of an all-knowing and all-powerful God.
When I heard that Sept. 3rd was the day for the stress test, I said, “Good! It won’t interfere with our trip planned for this Labor Day weekend – to Myrtle Beach.” So, we hooked up our trailer and headed for Myrtle Beach. We swam in the pool, jumped waves in the ocean, and took several bike rides totaling about 25 miles up and down The Grand Strand. Sure, I had to stop pedaling several times due to shortness of breath – but still no clue about how close I was to eternity.
To think that I could have had a heart attack on the way back from the beach – while towing the trailer – I just shudder. I could have taken Connie to heaven with me in that situation. Not too bright for this well traveled and experienced gray-headed guy. But I am catching on!
On Sept. 3rd I flunked the stress test flatly – in the first four minutes. The attending cardiologist was sitting right there and called Doc Hughes for permission to admit me into the hospital right on the spot. They were not going to let me out of their sight. The next morning I was first in line for a heart catheterization. I was evidently on the “we better get this guy in quick” list.
I remember, after coming out of the “heart cath” that the doctor showed me on the computer screen my offending blocked arteries. One main artery, he pointed out, is called the “widow maker.” Enough said about that! The only good news was that my consistent exercise had allowed me to develop a number of whispy capillaries that allowed a temporary (although tenuous) bypass around the blockages.
As I was exiting the heart cath area I was told that “in five minutes you are being transported by ambulance to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh.” I knew, of course, that this is where they do the heart surgery – and all I could do was go along for the ride.
One of my colleagues at Positive Action later said, “Why in the world was there an ambulance from Wake delivering a patient to Nash General?” No patient is ever sent from Wake Med to Rocky Mount. Well, the Lord, and the Wake County Sheriff Department, transported an incarcerated patient to the Nash County jurisdiction just so that the high-tech medical limo (staffed with a cardiac team) would be there for me. And would you believe that one of the EMT’s on that ambulance was a wonderful Christian (from England, no less) and we had great fellowship all the way to Raleigh. My Lord is a great God!!
Connie immediately called our three kids and miraculously they were all able to come by that evening. Our boys even made an incredible “eight minute “connection in Detroit – and their luggage also made it. What a blessing it was to have all of them with me through this ordeal!
The next morning, Sept. 5th, I was again first in line to go into the operating room. The final result was five blockages; most of them were 90%-100% blocked. Dr. Helton, the surgeon, told my family that I would have most assuredly had a fatal heart attack within 30 to 90 days. The Lord is so good! Later we found out that Dr. Helton performed the entire seven-hour surgery with an IV in his arm to help him fight off a kidney stone attack. Oh my, the miracles are piling up!
While recuperating I read Jerry Bridges’ wonderful book entitled Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts. I love Jerry’s insightful observation, “If we are to trust God, we must learn to see that He is continuously at work in every aspect and every moment of our lives.” And, “If God controls the circumstances of the sparrow, how much more does He control the circumstances that affect us.” You know, that is exactly what the Lord Jesus promises in Matthew 10:29-31. What a powerful truth!
God is good and wise. Why did the Lord take my dad in an airplane accident at age 45 and spare my life at age 62? I don’t understand it all – but I’m learning to trust Him.