Ischaemic attack. It was sudden and it was scary. The diagnosis was gangrene of the bowel, requiring immediate surgery. An investigation of the cause showed a blood clot blocking the supply of blood to the bowel. This was traced back to a scarred atrium working at a reduced rate, allowing blood clots to form which were then expelled from time to time. The blood clot which blocked the supply of blood to the bowel might have travelled to any part of the body.
The first surgery was partially successful; a second was needed a week later. When that proved also to be inadequate the patient was flown to a teaching hospital in the city where he could receive specialist care. Following the third operation the specialist left the operation site open; dressings were renewed twice or three times daily. Only when he was completely satisfied that the gangrene would not recur did he close and stitch the wound.
Will was hospitalised for four months, much of that time in intensive care. He was kept alive by drip feeding and prayer and had to learn to eat and drink again. It was another two months after he returned home before he had regained enough strength and body weight to venture out. And still the doctor saw him regularly for a further two or three months.
What about the scarred atrium? A blood thinning medication was prescribed which he will take for the rest of his life to prevent a recurrence of blood clots forming. No further action was taken to deal with the scarring of the atrium. What caused the scarring of the atrium? The heart specialist suggested that the most likely cause was stress.
Stress is a common factor of life. You might quite truthfully say that we cannot live without stress. Physical stress, emotional stress, mental stress, and yes, spiritual stress as well. We asked Dr. Worth and he shrugged.
“Who knows what stress caused the scarring – it could have been anything.”
Will continues to have atrial fibrillation which poses a problem for the machine that measures blood pressure. But after twenty-two years it is something you live with.
It was a time of testing, a time of learning and a time of leaning. Jesus told a father who sought healing for his son, “If you can believe...” to which the father cried desperately, “Lord, I believe ... help my unbelief!” After Will’s third operation was done, the doctor assisting the surgeon told the family, “We have done what we can. Now it is up to you to pray.”
I read that Sir Richard Doll told the Royal College of Physicians “cancer and ischaemic heart disease are both essentially avoidable.” This may be perfectly true if you know anything about the complication and the cause. We looked back over a number of years trying to pinpoint any time of stress that might have caused the problem but while admitting possibilities we were unable to fix on any particular time or event.
Today it is possible to go online, visit medical and quasi-medical sites for information on how to protect your physical fitness, of which heart health is a major factor. Much of the advice is contradictory, but there is a Book, an old Book, neither medical nor quasi-medical, which contains all the needful information on how to protect not only your physical fitness, but your mental and emotional fitness as well.
Walk with me into the words of Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man ... he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water ...” because “his delight is in the law of the Lord.” The rivers of water may flow through desert places, down steep mountainsides, in rocky ravines, or even underground, but the river is there. The Lord, too, is always there through whatever fiery trial life may throw at us. He is our Protector, Provider and Healer. He is the Heart of our faith.
The apostle Paul, wrote to the Ephesian church, “be strong in the Lord ... put on the whole armour
of God” the armour comprising not only the gospel of peace, truth and the helmet of salvation but
importantly the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith.
This is a true testimony of the hand of God in the lives of a family. Notwithstanding the skill of the
doctors who did all that they could do, the truth is that only God is the Healer. We give Him honour.
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