Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

And with those words from Dr. Collins of Buxmont Cardiology, I officially became a cardiac patient. But let’s rewind…

On Monday, March 12, 2012, I had a new experience… chest pains. At 41, carrying a healthy weight, and eating more or less okay, it was both unexpected and disconcerting. Late that night, after a wonderful neighbor came over at a terrible hour to care for our sleeping children, Erin and I headed on over to Grandview Hospital. After the usual checkups and check-ins, I was a true medical bafflement. Normal (mostly) EKG, no cardiac enzymes, and none of the “classic” symptoms of a heart attack. After 18 hours of poking, prodding, sampling, testing, scanning, and endless questions, we all decided low potassium was the culprit. Drink the nasty powder, retest, send me home with no orders other than “see your doctor” and “follow up with the cardiologist.”

That day, my diet underwent a radical change. And my exercise regimen became more than “play with my kids.” And so the real fun started. I felt better… really better. Except I didn’t feel better when I really got my heart pumping. Then I felt pain. Not crippling pain, but the “I really should slow down a little” pain. I mentioned this to Dr. Collins, who became more curious. I still fit no real profile, but this exercise induced chest pain was worth another look. So he scheduled a stress echo (I had previously passed a non-stress echo with flying colors), and told me to “stop doing that” with the heavier exercise until we had things narrowed down.

“Well… it’s abnormal…” was the unofficial diagnosis. The official one was unstable angina, likely in the left anterior descending artery (LAD). He scheduled me for cardiac catheterization the following Monday morning and gave me a literal handful of pills to take between that Friday afternoon and Monday morning. Oh, and he also gave specific instructions to do nothing that whole weekend.

Monday morning came along and I made the acquaintance of Dr. Nainesh Patel, a cardiac interventionist who came down from Lehigh Valley Hospital. He was, like everyone before him, skeptical of what he would find, given my complete lack of fitting any profile of a cardiac patient. “Huh… you have a blockage” was the unofficial diagnosis a few minutes later. “Can you fix that here?”, asked I.  “Oh yeah… no problem.” Those are good words to hear.  It wasn’t until after the procedure, when they returned me to the prep room that I got the full meaning of “blockage”, when the white board in the room read, “LAD 99% blocked”.  And then it wasn’t… all before 9:00am.

But I’ve gone from someone whose drug of choice is caffeine, and who can probably count the total number of pills taken in a year on one… maybe two hands, to a 41 year old cardiac patient who takes a handful of pills and supplements on a daily basis.

So what are the takeaway lessons?

  1. Apparently, God doesn’t want me dead yet. I had chest pains without a heart attack. I had doctors who ignored the profile and ran (very expensive) tests anyway. I had a 99% blocked “widow maker” and had only twinges of discomfort.
  2. We should listen to our bodies, and tell our doctors what we think they’re saying. I could have dismissed my discomfort as age, lack of regular exercise, or just one of those things. Thankfully, I didn’t. They could have done the same. Thankfully, they didn’t either.
  3. Modern American medicine rocks. Seriously. I’m just over one month post-treatment, and I’m jogging with no pain (other than the burn one gets when jogging, hehe). By all accounts, I should spend many years as a “maintenance” cardiac patient- just check in every few months to make sure nothing “abnormal” is going on again.
  4. Modern American insurance… not so much. Don’t worry Grandview and the good docs… you’ll get paid for your labors… sometime. But I wonder if Aetna doesn’t actually want me dead.
  5. Friends and family are awesome. I won’t embarrass anyone else, but you all know who you are. Thank you.
  6. Kids, even younger ones, handle things better when you just explain what’s going one. Obviously, put it in age appropriate terms, but don’t sugar coat or pretend like nothing is happening.

This is probably not the last post on this topic, but after over a month, it’s time to out myself. Hi, I’m Craig. And I’m a 41 year old cardiac patient. But I’m still here!

I’m not a psycho. And I’m pretty sure I could find at least one counselor or even an MD who would agree with that assessment. But wow, I’ve sure been on a bout of crazy the last few days.

My poor dead Benz

It all started back on May 10th. I crashed my beloved (well, okay it was more a love/hate thing) Benz into the back of a sizable truck. The car took my beating, and left me with only a slightly sore nose from the airbag. They sure don’t build them like that any more.

My history with this car is a bit sordid- it began its time in my life with a couple thousand in “must have” repairs, including an unfortunate incident where the injector pump stopped working with the car was at the local Mercedes dealership for service. If you’ve ever owned an older German auto, you know they’re rock solid when they work, but quite pricey when they need fixed. Hence the love/hate thing.

But I cracked it up good. No texting while driving for me. No talking with my BFF while cruising down 202. Nope, I was just hungry and distracted. Thankfully, the truck fared much better, and no one was hurt.

A good friend was kind enough to let me drive his truck around for awhile. It’s big, older, a gas hog, and cost me nothing in rent. Good friends are a good thing, and I’m thankful for one who let me use his truck while I scoured craigslist and ebay for a good deal on a replacement vehicle.

Montero

But back to crazy…  Last week, I got in touch with a young woman in Easton who was selling this  ’96 Montero. All largely went well with the communications, the test drive, and the money discussions. I put down a deposit, and planned to close the deal by the end of the week.

Now begins the crazy… I picked up a comment made by one of the sellers on Facebook. While not altogether flattering, I probably read WAY more into it than I should have. I started an email thread with them about the issues they raised in the FB comment. I huffed and I puffed. I questioned their integrity and tried to pressure them into a lower price, though the one we agreed to was certainly fair enough. Ultimately, we did the deal, and I drove home with my new Montero.

Shortly after, I discovered a problem- one that will have my new car in the shop this week. Is it possible the seller knew? I think so. But not necessarily. Now mind you, these folks have met my previous concerns with additional work, and even got the car inspected prior to closing the sale- something they didn’t need to do, as the inspection stickers still had a couple weeks on them.

How do I respond? I threaten to report their mechanic shop for failing to do a proper inspection. It would certainly get them investigated. It might even cost them their inspection licence.  Did they gloss over some things? Maybe. But probably no worse than any other shop does- especially when dealing with someone they know and regularly work with.  Could or should they have found this problem? Maybe.

But it’s all about MY attitude- first toward the sellers, then toward their mechanic of all people.  I was plotting ways to ruin their lives and businesses. I was enjoying the idea that I could totally nail them with costs and troubles that would FAR outweigh whatever perceived wrong they might have done to me. Would it make it right for me? Probably not. And that’s the crazy.

See, they may actually BE what they seem to be. Decent, hard working people selling a truck they loved to someone they hope will enjoy it as well. Are they perfect, and completely forthcoming? No, but probably not the scoundrels I’ve imagined in my crazy state. And even if they ARE those scoundrels, it’s not MY vengeance, or even justice to dish out.  Over the past few hours, I’ve been touched (more like head smacked) by the words in Romans 12:19 – New Living Translation (©2007) Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.

If they’re decent, I’ve planned to harm the innocent. If they’re not decent, then my faith tells me to leave the judging to God. Either way, I’ve spent some time in crazy land. And I KNEW IT. I’m not that guy. Or maybe I am. But I don’t WANT to be that guy.

So who is that guy? It’s me. Maybe not the me I want to be. Certainly not the me I ought to be. But it’s me. We all spend some time in crazy. But I think I’m done being there for this episode. For now, I just want to get the car fixed up right, and enjoy my new vehicle. Oh, and I’ll try not to skip lunch and drive hungry down 202 🙂

 

Good Morning Amman

Six months ago, I expected to be seeing this right about now. It’s morning in the Al Rabieh section of Amman, north of Fifth Circle.  I was going to spend a couple days in the city, connecting with new and old friends, then take a ride up to Ajlun to meet up with some good friends.  I was really looking forward to it, and some of those friends were counting on it.

But life throws us curves. The unexpected happens- sometimes “good unexpected” and sometimes disappointing. Instead of waking up in Amman right now, I’m preparing to go bed in Pennsylvania. Instead of arid air, city sounds, and clear blue skies, I get humidity, the smells of farm country, and rumbles of thunder. Disappointing unexpected.

But instead of time with good friends in a faraway land, I got a long weekend with my family. Instead of exotic shopping, struggling to find the right words in another language, and white knuckles from adventurous taxi rides; I got multiple get-togethers with friends all around the area, fantastic conversations with many of them, and relatively calm drives on mostly empty roads. “Good unexpected.”

We go through life and we make plans. We pray for God’s blessing on our plans and somehow expect that because WE prayed for it to happen, that it must be Divinely ordained. It’s a silly sort of arrogance in the best light. Something far worse in any other.  Reality crashes in on even the most seemingly “good” plans and dreams and presents us with a picture far different than the one in our minds.

In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans.”  The question for use, for me specifically, is what do we do with reality? Do we curse it and rage against it for not conforming to our “better” plans? Do we begrudgingly accept it, silently pouting about “what might have been”? Or do we recognize that the Divine Mind might actually have knowledge and perspective that is beyond our own, and that this disappointing reality might really be the opening to something far greater?  In other words, will we not just ACCEPT our reality, but relish in it?

I’m going to miss seeing my friends in Jordan this week. I’m going to miss serving them, sharing meals and tea with them, spending long evenings talking with them. I’m going to miss their kids, who have been a real delight in my life the last couple years of visiting them.

But I won’t waste the reality I have here. I’m going to enjoy my kids. I’m going to share meals with my family, and hopefully coffee with some of my friends here. I’m going to talk long into the evening with my wife and others about the dreams in our heads, and how this reality might be taking us there.

We’ve already started, sharing some of our thoughts and dreams with friends at one of our several get-togethers this weekend. As it turns out, they have similar dreams of their own, and might be able to help make our dreams a reality. Now isn’t that funny?  At that moment, I could have been sleeping in Amman. Instead, we were very awake, eagerly discussing “what might be” instead of “what might have been.”

How about you? What reality is crashing in on your dream?  What are you making of it? I’d love to hear about it.

Get ready…

April 15th, 2010

Comments ( 0 )

For some months- okay, probably much longer than that, I have had a sense of… something.  I’ve had a feeling of restlessness, and it’s one I haven’t had for a long time.  The last time, I started a business.  Before that, I moved to a state I had only visited once.  Both have been profoundly transformative events, and I wouldn’t trade them.

It’s tingling again.  Life is much more complicated now, of course.  There is family.  There is a business. There are some deep community roots- I have lived longer here than anywhere else in my life. There is a mortgage, bills to pay, a path to a good and satisfying future on this present course.  There is nothing wrong with the life I have right now. Any changes I would make are fairly mundane.

But there is this sense.  Up until a couple days ago, I couldn’t quite put it to words- something very frustrating for someone who loves language and usually struggles more to stop the words rather than start them.  Then it hit me yesterday.  “Get ready.”  Ready for what?  When?  How? No answers there, just “Get ready.”

What does that mean?  Inquiring minds want to know, and the answers are pretty thin right now.

But here’s what we’re doing:

  • Reduce.  We’ve acquired a lot of stuff. We need a lot less stuff.  You want any of our stuff? Turns out several local thrift shops and consignment stores do. You better hurry.
  • Review. What do we hold dear? What’s really important to us? How do we demonstrate that?
  • Reconnect. Over the years, we have formed some great friendships that we’ve let go by the wayside.  Over the past few months, we’ve been reconnecting to some of them. What fun!
  • Relax. Seriously. It’s the toughest thing, especially when feeling restless. But if the next few months or years look like that last couple times I got restless, there will be plenty enough stress and change to come.

So for now, we get ready.  Tune in for more.

Disappointment

March 22nd, 2010

Comments ( 0 )

It’s a bit of a disappointing start to the week.  There’s little point in going into all the details, but the experience brings up a lot of questions and thoughts.  Disappointment happens.  It is a part of life- we disappoint others when we make promises we cannot keep.  Others do the same to us.  Sometimes, circumstances bring on the disappointment.  It is never enjoyable.

As a person of faith- specifically Christian faith, I am taught to believe certain things about disappointment:

  1. It is inevitable. People are flawed, as is the world we live it. Thus we will all be disappointed.
  2. Neither disappointment, nor specific disappointments come as a surprise to God.  In fact, nothing does.  One of the pastors at my church often reminds us that nothing happens but by the expressed or permissive Will of the Almighty.
  3. All things happen for a purpose, and the closing of a door should only direct us to a different one- or to a time when we will be ready to step through the one that is currently closed.
  4. Our Redeemer has experienced real and personal disappointment. Thus we have a very empathetic ally with whom to share the feelings we experience when life does not go exactly as we think it should.

But it’s still no fun.  It is especially not fun when we have to share disappointing news with others- which is where I find myself this week.  I hate disappointing people.  I suppose a psychotherapist could have a great several sessions with me on this.  But it is an ingrained part of my emotional DNA.  I would rather suffer silently.  I would prefer to muscle through and MAKE the impossible happen.  There are times I would rather fail miserably rather than deliver disappointing news.  But before I wrote this, I already owned up to it.  I delivered the tough news.  Guess what- it doesn’t feel any better.

Ah, but back to my four part list above.  It may not feel better, but it is better.  It has to be.  A friend of mine wrote yesterday that “How you feel about God during the suffering times is how you really feel about God.”  It’s an easy statement when the doors are swinging wide for me and mine, but a bit tougher to swallow when they are not.  But truth works that way- it is true regardless of feelings, circumstances, or the opinions of me or others.  Nevertheless, I will trust and accept as truth that my disappointing week is just that- MY disappointing WEEK.  And something else awaits.  I wonder what…