Archive for the ‘God’ 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!

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.


March 22nd, 2010

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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…