Last week I told the tale of my recent heart attacks, a tale that grew further legs this week with a continuing descent into the medical maelstrom and a deeper analysis of my broken system. You may ask: Where is God in this? This indeed was what I was asking, too.
We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. And our bodies, like cars, need regular inspection, care and maintenance, which I have been so poor at. These events of the latter years of life are reminders of the blessing that has traveled with me that now needs a new consideration of their needs.
My first heart attack was after the Christmas Eve service in Boardman, which I thought was just a chronic attack of indigestion. My second attack was the following Tuesday in the morning, which drove me to the urgent care, and there the angels among the humans drew blood and discovered the chemical relics of two heart attacks. I got a call from the lab later on that afternoon, inviting me to get to the local hospital immediately.
I stayed over at the hospital, which took more blood and got more similar results. The game, it appeared, was up. I was out of true in the plumb line of healthy living.
On Thursday I met my latest life teacher, Dr. C., a young, profoundly knowledgeable cardiologist who would escort me to new beginnings, or would at least assist in the closing down sale. (It is of course up to me.)
In my first meeting I gave him the sequence of events, the history of the trouble. Of course, I hoped he would tell me a different story, but the story got a little bleaker, more and more real. I was a diabetic; this did not bode well. I had liked to think that I was just a little diabetic, but this isn’t correct.
This Monday I had another electrocardiogram, where I spent a lot of time roaming around the inside of my own heart on a video screen with a knowledgeable technician. He liked the heart, in fact. He said that it was a little better than his. I puffed up. He said that there were only minor leaks, small things, nothing worth worrying about — and I felt un-puffed. On screen, my heart, with its wiggling valves, looked like a bloated goldfish with its mouth opening for air.
On Tuesday came the rough one. Well, the roughest one so far. This was the invasion into God’s territory, plunging into the biomechanics of my own body. The angiogram is a study of the arteries, the tangled forest of twigs that carries my body’s fluids. I was taken into a room that looked like the interior of the International Space Station. With a team dressed in flashy radiation-proof garb it felt like being on the deck of the Enterprise. The doctor went into my body system through a probe inserted in my wrist and navigated the probe through the snakes of arteries in my body through the video screen. I had chosen not to have a sedative as I wanted to experience this fully, just as an astronaut wants to space walk, not just watch. Not so much the science, just an intense curiosity of wanting to know about the complex universe of my innards — directly. This was an E-Ticket ride. It feels very odd to have someone thread a probe through one’s being. The dye when injected felt like a blast of warm coffee, and another chemical felt zingy, like a cold blast of soda.
Traveling though my body toward my heart, the probe squirted a dye that brought the squiggly mass of arteries into dark relief. It looked like a pool of jelly filled with algebraic symbols. Very mysterious.
Then Dr. C. broke open a bottle of reality. “Wow, you do have heart disease after all. Look at that. And that – and that.” We all marveled at the visible evidence of a life lived badly by a diabetic in denial.
There were three main arteries that led into my heart that had curious constructions. Their narrow constrictions spoke of plaque, the tortured goop that gummed up the sinuous beauty of my blood vessels. The artery in the middle was known by the gang as “The Widowmaker” and apparently my most significant artery named thus was similarly strangled by plaque. This, as you may guess, is bad. Very bad.
So I will be talking with a surgeon next week. The choices of stents or surgery (triple bypass) for sure, lifestyle changes for sure. Life or death, for sure!
God gives us life, and its precious equipment, so that we may live lives of service and love. Brothers and sisters, don’t wait — bring yourself and your equipment to healing, bring yourselves to the vision that God has for you. Look after your bodies and be well! Choose life! Do what I say, not what I did.
Colin Brown is pastor of Boardman’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Locust Road.