A father would do anything to save the life of his child, if it were within his limitations. Here’s what mine did.
I’ve been having shortness of breath for a few months. In April, I got a mild case of pneumonia, which compounded the shortness of breath. I got over the pneumonia, but the shortness of breath remained and something new was added – nausea and vomiting. My wife, Judy and I decided to visit what has come to be known in our household as my second home, Moreno Valley Community Hospital.
Once we were there and after running initial tests on me to try and find out what was going on, the doctors thought it could be three things: I either passed a kidney stone (there was blood in the urine) or pancreatitis, and due to the shortness of breath I was experiencing, they checked the heart.
No kidney stone was found and the pancreatitis proved to be a red herring. What was left was the shortness of breath. So an isotope stress test was ordered. (I didn’t know what type of stress test this was, I had two done the conventional way - on a tread mill - it was explained to me that a drug would be given to me that produces the same effects as a strenuous treadmill test, although no muscle movement is involved; I just lie back in bed and enjoy the effects of a vigorous work out.)
On the night when Judy and I got the results back from the stress test, I couldn’t have been in better company - I was surrounded by family (not my earthly family which would have been the cherry on the cake – I love my family, but my future family was there. My nurse from the first night I found out was a sister in the Lord; she was in the room. Tom and Kim, a couple from Judy’s and my home group popped in to say hi, and were in the room, also.) Since my earthly family couldn’t have been there, God arranged it so that part of my spiritual family was there. Like I said, I couldn’t have been in better company.
When the cardiologist came in to reveal the results, he had a serious demeanor on his face. I’ve met him before and he seemed to be a very decent man and a doctor with a kind beside manner, but his face told the story, there was something wrong. I’ve had some pain in and around the heart for the last several years, but nothing ever lasted more than a few seconds or moments. And nothing ever made me drop to my knees as the crushing pain of an oncoming myocardial infarction (heart attack for those who live in Lawndale). Nevertheless, in the family I grew up in, the men have had the bad hearts. My Dad was fifty-four when he had his first bypass and eventually succumbed to congestive heart failure when he was seventy-four years old. And Dad had some uncles that passed away due to heart problems. It’s like a curse, no male Fulton ever made it past their early to mid seventies or so it seems. I hope my brother and I will be the first.
The test revealed that there was some damage done to the lower left on the front and back sides of the heart. It also appeared that I might have had a “silent” heart attack somewhere in the early to recent past – meaning anywhere from a day before I went into the hospital to ten years ago. The doctor recommended that an angiogram be performed to see if a blockage was there or if any damage to the heart itself was done. This brings about a problem. I have stage four kidney failure with acute chronic kidney disease. To do this test, a contrast dye is injected into the blood stream to see flow around the heart. It has iodine in the dye, which destroys kidneys if it stays in the system too long so a possible outcome might be temporary dialysis, or the worst case scenario is that the kidneys are too far destroyed and the start of regular dialysis is needed for survival.
It seems that with each of my hospital stays, the more drastic they have become. For example: two years ago, dialysis was considered when I went into the hospital, not because of anything that was vehemently wrong with me, but due to nothing more than plain stupidity and pride on my part. I wasn’t taking a particular medicine that I believed wasn’t as important to my system as it really was. Besides, I didn’t like the taste of it. Dialysis maybe in my future, but I wasn’t ready for it then. My Grandfather and Dad were on dialysis for three to four years and capitulated to the great equalizer. I associate dialysis with death and I’m not ready to die yet. When dialysis was discussed again this time, I was ready to accept it. However, that all changed the following day because it could mean that I would have to retire from the job I love so well.
After consulting with another cardiologist for a second opinion, as well as my nephrologist, the doctor who recommended the angiogram asked what I did for a living. I told him that I work for a major rail line and I spend my days climbing up and down on locomotives. His reply when I told him this was a very grim, “we may have to talk about this.” I may have accepted that I might be ready for dialysis, but was I willing to give up my career that I waited a lifetime to get into? In a word, no.
Now, I’m kind of a quirky guy. I believe God talks to us through His word, the Bible. I also believe He uses other forms of media as well to reach out to a lost world. What do you do when a Bible isn’t at your disposal? I didn’t bring a Bible with me to the hospital, so all I had was TV. The night after the visit from the cardiologist, I watched an old Twilight Zone episode, “The Obsolete Man” with this underlying message – “you have purpose Jim; you are not obsolete to me.” I watched “The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe” the following night and spent the last forty-five minutes of the movie sobbing because of the act of love that was so demonstrative of His love towards His people that in my thinking I was reassured that no man is forgotten about and nothing is impossible for God. In other words, I’m not forgotten about and I’m still in the plan.
The day for the procedure arrived. When the crew for the ambulance company loaded me into the ambulance, I could hear music playing on the radio. I couldn’t make out the words; I just know it was music. The call signal for the radio station came on afterwards and I realized it was the local Christian station in our area. Realizing that I was now riding in God’s taxi, I turned to the nurse and asked for prayer for my kidneys. He obliged and there in the back of the ambulance, I felt more joy than I have felt in a very long time.
As the time for the procedure approached, I was prepped and watched some TV to help speed up time. I was told that the whole job would take anywhere from an half an hour to an hour and if anything was found that the doctor would fix the problem then. I was wheeled in and the anesthetist gave me some happy juice and the doctor started to perform his craft. Ten minutes later, he was done.
I was wheeled back to my spot and the doctor wanted to talk to Judy and me. He told us that he needed to talk to the radiologist at Moreno Valley Community because there was nothing wrong with my heart. In fact, I have a healthy heart. Let me repeat that -
I HAVE A HEALTHY HEART!
OK, yeah something could have been read wrong. But he’s a well educated man, as is the radiologist, and I also had a second opinion that confirmed what was found. If there was a mistake on the part of the radiologist, it would have been caught. Plus, bad hearts run in my family and I have been having pains in and around my heart for the past few years. And having looked at the final report on my heart, it reads as if it is a healthy heart.
So what about this heart? All I can say is that prayer was answered. I was bathed in lots of prayer from the day that the news came out on the angiogram. And I might add, that there were no swelling crescendos, no waving of magical wands over me, no James Earl Jones voiceover saying, “Jim, I am your Father!” Just God doing what He does naturally.
A miracle happens and an explanation is needed to explain it. I understand this. I also understand that science needs an answer and to some extent, so does a man of faith. Only a man of faith knows where to go to find his help. All I can say is it was a loving Dad doing what he could do to save the life of a son.