About this time last week (10:30am Wednesday morning), I was experiencing a type of pain that is hard to describe. While working with a shovel, turning and tilling the flowerbed soil in front of our house, I was going at it pretty hard. The bed was filled with roots from the pre-existing shrubbery and plants, and all that had to go if our beautification effort was to proceed as planned. Unlike in the movies, the pain came on gradually, not suddenly. What began as a somewhat minor irritation, within about 10 minutes became a debilitating squeeze around my chest and both arms, as I was acutely aware of my second heart attack.
In April 2005, while simply making the bed, I was struck with shortness of breath, and experienced something like an imaginary elephant sitting on my chest. After driving myself to the emergency room, resulting in an indeterminate diagnosis since my EKG was normal, and going through enough blood work to fund a small blood bank, it was finally determined later that evening I did indeed have my first heart attack. The cardiac surgeon put in a stent in my right lower artery, and after a few weeks I was pretty much back to normal.
Last week, the pain was more like being slowly squeezed by a giant anaconda, every breath another shocking nuance of the increasing attack on my heart. This time I was smarter and asked my wife to take my blood pressure (you don’t want to know), and immediately take me to the ER… again. The team was very professional. From the young man who took the original EKG reading, to the ER Doctor who leaped into action, and the other 14-15 people who hooked me up, took past information, or stood there monitoring everything going on, each individual seemed to know exactly what to do with speed and precision.
Less than 20-30 minutes later I was in the Cath Lab prepped and receiving meds, while a different cardiac surgeon looked at my heart for the second time. The original stent was blocked, so they put the ole ballon in the artery, opened it up, removed the blockage, and I was good to go. Literally. I mean it. Within minutes of the end of the procedure itself, I felt no different than any other day over the last 14 years since the first stent was put in. Unfortunately, everyone else thought it was a good idea to keep me for 48 hours (precisely) from the end of the procedure to monitor my vitals, blood, and strength.
Looking back on the whole thing, it’s more like a dream than an actual event. Oh, the pain was real enough, but in hindsight, it really lasted less than two and a half hours, from start to finish. I ate well, all my bodily functions were working fine. By the time I left the hospital I was a little sleep deprived, but what are hospitals for except making you stand up out of bed at 4am to take a weight measurement from a heart patient?
I don’t know why it happened again, neither did the Doctor. She indicated stents are not necessarily designed to last forever so I need to keep constant vigilance on my diet, exercise, and body awareness… pretty much like I have for 14 years now. All things being equal, I’m no worse for the experience, but I’d rather not do it again.
So, here’s the thing.
When events like this occur, I often ponder, sometimes out loud (to make sure I’m not just daydreaming), “Lord, why did this happen? Did you CAUSE this to get my attention? Did you ALLOW this to teach me something? What are you saying to me today through this event?”
The answer for me may sound simple to you, but here is what I believe:
- Whether caused or allowed, what I know is that God was in CONTROL from start to finish during the whole thing. I know this because He is my LORD, and one of the attributes of His Lordship is: God is in Control all the time.
- I’m not the most patient person in the world, and perhaps one of the worlds worst patients when I’m actually sick, much less hospitalized. So, it doesn’t escape me that perhaps this is just another way for God to say, “Jim, here’s another lesson on how to slow down and let ME be in Control.”
- In this matter of my heart, and heart condition, I know that the LORD has sole authority over my life. I know he has counted the days of my life, and the fleeting nature of my existence. (Psalm 39:4)
- Because I am still here, the LORD’s desire for me is to be faithful to spread His Word and His love through this blog. As LORD, He has promised never to leave me, nor forsake me.
So, here I am. I’m still here. I’m still writing. I’m still teaching.
And I will until He calls me home.
Right now, my heart is good to go … one way, or another.