“I am amazed that he is still alive!” Such were the words of the surgeon who had just catheterized my heart. I don’t remember that. I was awake and responding but too drugged up to remember later. They are words that my wife will never forget.
What followed was a trip to my third hospital in as many days, surgery that would stop my heart for over an hour, routing my blood through a Heart-Lung machine instead, and being sent home to recover at the end of a ten-day vacation I would wish on no one, ever.
Health-Park Medical Center is “State of the Art.” It looks like a five-star hotel with a lobby including a four-story atrium grander than that of any Naples Hotel. The food is good, the Doctors, nurses and staff, highly trained, skilled, and kind beyond imagination. People travel here, from around the world, to combine “Elective Surgery” with a tropical vacation… That I had the best care available, and that in a beautiful place, does not mean that I would recommend “Dying to Get There.”
The three main arteries to my heart had completely occluded. Over a period of years, my body had grown its own bypasses… new arteries to bypass the clogged ones that no one could find… damage invisible to EKGs and stress tests…. Presenting, in cardiac distress, my first EKGs came back normal; only a stress test showed a possible “Small blockage of a small artery….” Machines lying, as they have for the more than ten years I have complained of shortness of breath and a racing heart. Three main arteries completely blocked and the machine showed a “Possible” small blockage of a minor artery.
Sent to a second hospital, they were to catheterize my heart, with the understanding that the blocked artery “might be too small to stent.” What an eyeopener to awake and find that, in fact, I was days or minutes from a fatal heart attack… Yet, I had known it to be true for many years. I had been faced with the negative results of a hundred tests and been sent home from emergency rooms, diagnosed with “Gastric Distress” more times than I can count… Never give up! It was, the hand of God that saved my life. It was God who opened the eyes of my surgeons to the distress of my heart.
Faced with the diagnosis of a ninety-plus percent blockage of the three main arteries of life, I received the standard tips to say no to surgery, read a book, change my diet and save my own life. Sorry, flat on your back with a prognosis of imminent, sure, and certain death, is not the time to “read a book and change your diet”
What did I learn from all this? That the Psalmist knew his God, and that the phrase, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow if death, I will fear no evil” is not simply the work of a dead poet but a present and living reality for the child of God… You really can face death with no fear and peace in your heart… Really!