PAIN: Part VI: Epilogue


I had been told by the cardiologist three things as I was leaving the hospital.  The first thing involved my weight.  I struggle with my weight, because I love my breads and desserts.  Anything sweet speaks to my palate and doesn’t usually get by my hands and feet who are in sink to accomplish what my palate says.  If only the hands and feet had their own minds to resist fulfilling the desires of my sweet teeth.  Right now I have my palate, my hands and feet working together along with the wonderful hands of my wife helping to put only healthy things into my body.

The second edict from the doctor centered around keeping a low profile in my driving and my exercise.  I was told that if we went to Flagstaff for the weekend, I was not to drive the whole way and that I couldn’t play golf.  Now those two things are very hard to not do.  Don’t get me wrong, Nadine is a very good driver, but not having that steering wheel in my hands forces me to deal with control issues that feel uncomfortable.  I don’t feel like I have control issues in our relationship, but I guess they manifest themselves when I am in the passenger seat and she is driving.  I had to shut my eyes and pretend to be sleeping in order to resist the temptation to tell her how to drive.  The golf was no real problem as we took three fairly long walks over the weekend and spent time together.

Well, yesterday was the follow-up appointment following the angiogram and stent they put in a little over a week ago.  I was put on the table and given an EKG which turned out very well.  After a brief wait in the room, Dr. Khaled came in and gave me the good news that the surgery was very successful and that everything looked normal including the incision into my femoral artery.  He told me that I was free to begin playing golf and could drive as well.  What great news.  I got a new chance at life with the stent and thanked him so much for what he had done.

Sometimes we are given a new chance on life and are so excited about the differences we see in our body that we fail to stop and express appreciation for those who were instrumental for giving us back that life.  I can think of three that have been an integral part of where I am right now.  First person to thank is the Lord for holding off a potential massive heart attack until the doctors could place the stent in my LAD artery.  The second person is my wife who stepped up to the plate and got the necessary help I needed so quickly.  She has also been instrumental in changing the diet I need to be on to continue to maintain a healthy heart.  The third person is obviously the doctor who saw the problem and took the necessary steps to fix the problem.

On this journey, we need the support of friends and family as well as professionals at times to handle issues we are unable to handle.  When they come along for support and guidance, give them the expressions of appreciation that they deserve.

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Appreciating Different Styles


One of the greatest joys Nadine and I have is coming up to our little retreat and gaining spiritual, emotional and physical retreat.  We pull away as often as we can to enjoy the pleasures of the mountain air.  This weekend it has rained every day so not only do we get the coolness of the environment but the smells that come during and after the rains.  This morning we have been sitting out on our deck, drinking coffee with our Cavalier King Charles, but I have begun to observe the way the chickadees, the black throat sparrow, and the hummingbirds come to the feeder to eat.

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There are some who come to the feeder and just get one seed and leave.  They take the seed to a ponderosa tree limb and sit there enjoying their new-found seed.  Once they have eaten it they come and get another seed, doing the same thing with it.

There are a couple of chickadees that love to come to the bird feeder and hang upside down.  They aren’t hungry, but hang on the side of the bottom of the feeder and look upside down, as if they were doing an acrobatics trick for us.  After a bit they leave without taking any seeds.  They woodpeckers do the same thing, except they put all their body on the bottom of the feeder with their heads above the bottom and take seeds in this awkward way.  They are so big that they can’t stand on the feeder like the other birds  and eat.

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There are some who are very shy and go from one limb to another limb, inching closer to the feeder, with the last step going onto the roof before jumping onto the feeder.  They are very cautious and can be spooked very easily.  They usually get one or two seeds and fly away.

There are others that have no shyness at all and fly right to the feeder and sit.  And sit.  And sit.  They are hungry and care less whether any other bird or person or dog is around.  They want their food and won’t leave until they get their fill.

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As for the hummingbirds, some come to the red delicious nectar and get its fill all the while flying in mid-air.  Others come to the feeder and sit and drink and drink and drink.

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It’s only as you take time to sit and observe that differences begin to emerge in their eating habits.  This experience began to give me some insight as to what happens with people.  There are so many different ways in which people live and move and pattern their lives.  Some are very shy, while others are very assertive.  Some have very conservative views of living while others make choices that would cause some to criticize or ridicule.

We may not pattern our lives with those we are critical of, but wouldn’t it be a better place if we were to live our lives like these birds?  They have all different kind of eating patterns, but are respectful of other birds who don’t eat the same as they do.

It reminds me of Jesus when He was criticized for eating with the tax collectors and sinners.  The conservatives were critical how He accepted and loved everyone with no strings attached.  How different it might be if Republicans and Democrats could apply this principle to running our government.  I guess that is wishful thinking.

On this journey we have the opportunity to turn our criticism of others into appreciating them as one of the family of God’s creation.  Let the birds of today begin to impact your perspective of how you fly in this world.

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PAIN Part V: The Divine Intercept


I am home and recovering nicely.  I do have to take blood thinners in the morning and at night to prevent the stent from closing.  It’s a small price to pay for pain-free chest and arm pain.  As I look back on the experience from the start of the chest pain to right now, I have so many places where the Lord intercepted and intersected my life to get my attention.

The first intercept happened when I decided to contact a doctor to get my chest checked out.  You see, when I have any pain, I don’t take medication to relieve the pain.  I believe it’s there to get us to slow down and allow the body to heal itself of whatever obstruction that is causing the pain.  In this instance, I was trying to seek out medical help as I knew that this was more than a passing pain.  For me to seek help for this is truly a divine intercept.

I was in Nadine’s shop and was trying to connect with my old doctor when she heard from the next room my conversation and came into the room asking what I was doing.  God knew that this process needed to be speeded up and He made her aware of something she needed to be a part of.  I did say that she was angry because she is my wife but had been left out of the situation, but she quickly shifted into action and got the name of an Internist that I could call.

I called the new doctor to get an appointment.  I assumed that it would take a few weeks, but he had an opening in three days and I got off the phone with an appointment in less than 5 days.  In his office, the doctor did some ordinary tests, asked me several questions, and then stated, “I am really concerned about the symptoms you are having.  We need to get these chest pains checked out immediately.”  He realized  he was dealing with a real problem.  God was divinely intercepting the doctors perspective to give him wisdom as to what possibly could be going on.  The internist realized he needed a speciality doctor to take over and called his friend, the cardiologist who over the phone set up an appointment for the next day.  Unheard of right?  Divine intervention.

Within a week of meeting the cardiologist, I was given an ultrasound, EKG, Nuclear stress test, chemical stress test (because I failed the Nuclear one), had two meetings with the cardiologist, had an angiogram and put in a stent.  All in one week.  From my first doctor visit to the hospital, the time frame was two weeks.  Divine intervention.

While I was having my angiogram, I was awake and my cardiologist close to the end of the procedure said to me, “This was an excellent outcome.  It was more than excellent.”  He is a man of few words, but I gathered from him that he was overwhelmed by the positive outcome of the procedure.  I can only conclude that it was the hand of God working in and through the doctors that caused this response.

Finally, I see where God’s intersection in all of this came from my attitude through this one month plus process which I have detailed in this series.  I was totally calm and at peace, knowing that the Lord was guiding and directing my initial searching out a doctor to the final outcome.  This peace culminated when I was lying on the operating table and was watching the procedure throughout without being queezy or fainting.  There was a lot of blood, but I layed there asking questions of the doctors throughout the process.  That is a miracle.

On this journey, there will be times when it becomes evident that the Lord is right there beside you as you walk along, especially when the road gets tough.  He does care for his own children and those who put their trust in Him.  It’s never too late to turn to the Lord for help and guidance for whatever you are facing.

 

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PAIN Part IV: The Number 99


I was to report to the hospital at 9:30 a.m. to get checked in and was there right on time.  We walked into the hospital entrance and were ushered to the admission desk.  As with all new medical experiences, there were reams and reams of paperwork.  I almost asked Nadine to massage my left hand after filling out all the paperwork, but there was no time as the lady came, called my name and off we went to the surgery center.

When getting ready for an angiogram, all clothing needed to be taken off and replaced by a green with blue leaves fits all gown.  I hate green clothes for myself.  Blue leaves?  You’ve got to be kidding.  There were no choices to pick from.  It was one fits all and on it went.  Once I got into the bed trying to cover my back side, the next step was painful.

The male nurse looked at both my arms and decided to use my right arm to insert an IV.  He wrapped a blue rubber band around my upper arm to pop out my veins.  Stick one.  He missed and apologized.  Stick two.  He missed and apologized again.  Stick three.  He missed.  Lets pause for one minute.  I hate needles and can faint with the sight of blood.  I was getting a little woozy when my nurse called another nurse to come over to help put in an IV.  I asked the second nurse if he was good at finding veins and he said he was.  Success, but my arm hurt from all the pokes.

Just about the time that the IV was inserted, I was carted away to the surgical room, after saying goodbye to Nadine.  I was wheeled into a room with hundreds of very complex machines.  I was transferred to the operating table where 5 different surgical nurses began prepping me for the angiogram I was to experience.  I realized at that time that I wouldn’t be out, but could watch the procedure.  I made sure to tell my doctor that I needed to feel no pain and he reassured me that no pain would be felt.

The catheter was inserted into my right femoral artery and within a matter of 3-5 minutes I could see my heart with all the arteries running outside the heart.  There it was.  The LAD (Left Anterior Descending) artery that was blocked.  There was the culprit that caused my chest and arm pain when I moved.  What shocked me the most was when the doctor said that it was 99% blocked.  99%.  The doctor said, “You were only a hairline away from having a massive heart attack.  Let me say again 99% blockage.

The doctor placed a stint where the blockage was and they closed up the hole in my right leg.  It was done.  It was finished.  I was wheeled back to the room where the recovery process started.  It was surreal and might I add still is even as I write this jlog.  I was on the precipice of having a massive heart attack.  I was facing potential death.  I didn’t realize the seriousness of what I was experiencing over the last month.  My life as I knew it was about to dramatically change, had I not sought out help.

For me, my physical life was threatened by a blocked artery.  There are other kinds of threats.  Marital threats.  Childhood threats.  Teenager threats.  Job threats.  Relational threats.  Spiritual threats.  There are warning signs for all of these threats, but we need to open our senses to hear the threats and seek the necessary help in order for the threats not to turn in to reality.

On this journey, we sometimes never know how close we come to having threats around us turn in to realities.  Being sensitized to the warning signs can cause us to take the necessary steps to avoid roads that lead to devastating consequences.

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PAIN Part III: Seeking Wise Counsel


Almost immediately, she (Nadine) got on the phone with a trusted friend and asked for a doctoral referral.  Within a matter of minutes she came back from her office and had a name and phone number of an internist.  I called the doctor’s office and got an appointment five days of making the call.  I didn’t know I could get in so quickly, but the Doctor had a cancellation and put me in the slot.

Over the next 5 days, my symptoms continued to become more frequent, so that when we (Nadine and I) went in for the visit, I could tell the doctor what I was experiencing, the frequency of the painful episodes, and the blood pressure at the time of the episodes.  The next two weeks seemed to be a blur.  The doctor became alarmed at what I was saying and immediately called his cardiologist friend about what he was seeing.  We have a house in Flagstaff to get some relief from the hot summers of Phoenix.  He was very stern when he said, “There will be no driving to Flagstaff.”  “There will be no exercise.”  He wanted me to rest and do nothing until I saw the cardiologist.  There just so happened to be a cancellation the next day so I showed up at his office the next morning.

Before I saw the cardiologist, my doctor wanted me to do an EKG test that day.  I was following the advice of the doctor and went right over for the EKG test which was normal.    It gave me some reassurance after the doctor expressed real concern over what was going on.  He also set up an Echo Cardiogram the next day which turned out to be normal.  I did get good news that I had a normal heart with no damage to the heart.  But my chest pain persisted and that was alarming to the cardiologist.

The next day the cardiologist came into the room and began asking a barrage of questions.  He concluded his time with me by wondering if he would just send me to the hospital right then and there to get an angiogram or wait for a few days to schedule a stress test.  After asking a few more questions, he decided on the latter and set up the stress test for three days from there.

Long story short, I had the Nuclear Stress test which I failed and was in the hospital the next day getting an angiogram.  All this to say that I needed to seek wise counsel for what I was experiencing.  I couldn’t diagnose this on my own.  I needed those in the field of medicine and in particular the heart doctors to ascertain what was going on and seek to fix the source of my pain.

What kind of symptoms are you having in your life?  Does it involve a challenging teenager that you can’t seem to fix?  Does it involve a spouse whom you are disconnected with and can’t seem to solve your relational problems?  Do you have some addictive behaviors and have minimized the intensity of your problems?  Are you finding yourself reaching out and experiencing a spiritual void that doesn’t seem to be resolving itself?

On this journey, there will be times when we need more than someone to come along and share our burdens with.  We need wise counsel from someone who specializes in the symptoms we are facing.  Seeking out, listening,  and acting on that wise counsel can be the start of a new life.

 

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PAIN Part II: Talking With Someone


Unfortunately, and I hate to admit this, I hadn’t gone to a doctor in 5+ years.  I had tried to get in with my Internist Doctor over the years, but he had moved and I couldn’t find him.  So rather than look for a new doctor, I let the yearly visits to the doctor for a physical slide from one year to the next.  I did remember the doctor’s name, but not the practice and he was no place to be found.  When these painful symptoms began to emerge, I knew I needed some help and decided to try to find my old doctor some way.

I was at Airpark Auto Service, Nadine’s shop, and was calling in the next room when Nadine heard me.  She came around the corner and asked what I was doing.  I spilled the beans of my pain and the symptoms of what I was experiencing.  There were two things that happened immediately.

The first was a tongue lashing by my wife.  “When were you going to tell me?”  How could you be experiencing these symptoms and not tell your own wife?”  She was mad and had legitimate reason for being mad.  She was more than mad.  She was angry and took out her verbal words on me as to why I would keep these things from her.  She was angry because she was hurt I hadn’t shared this with her as well as concerned about my future.  I sat there and took it because I knew that everything she was saying was right on.  I should have told her when I first experienced the pain, but I minimized it and didn’t want to burden her with my problems.  Big mistake.  BIG MISTAKE.  She wanted to know and frankly needed to know what was going on in my life and I had cut her off from my concerns.  I will say again, BIG MISTAKE.

The second thing that happened after the tongue lashing (that I deserved) was relief.  I had been carrying this burden by myself and she immediately came along and began to carry it with me.  Nadine did remind me that she withheld her feelings from me about the accident she had when she was hit by a car while running.  That didn’t feel good to me so I understood what she was feeling.  Carrying our burdens by ourselves and not talking with those we love (and who love us) prevent them from coming alongside and sharing our tribulations.

It’s the same in our relationship with the Lord.  In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus recognized that all of us at times are burdened by life’s challenges and He wanted us to “Come to Me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

On this journey, there will be times of pain that we experience where we need to talk with someone so that we can get a different perspective about what we’re dealing with.  Two minds are better than one.

 

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PAIN Part I: Listening To It


I am a male.  I am a wuss when it comes to pain.  You don’t have to ask my wife because I am a male and all (almost all) males become like babies when pain is involved in their bodies.  I have a theory about the way males deal with pain versus females.  Just think about it.  Females who carry children for nine months are faced with having that child with the head of a bowling size head come out of a few centimeter diameter hole.  That to me as a male is the definition of pain and women do it over and over.  Their tolerance for pain is so much greater than that of a male.  There’s my unscientific perspective of pain tolerances.

Back to my story.  About a month ago Nadine and I were in Flagstaff and we decided to go on our regular 4.6 mile hike going up and down canyons on this journey.  It is a strenuous trek, but one that is very enjoyable as we go through ponderosa pines and walk along a meandering creek.  This one particular morning as we were heading up one side of the first canyon, I noticed a dull pain in my chest with corresponding pain in my left arm.  I hadn’t felt it before and stopped half way to seek to relieve the pain.  It subsided in a matter of a couple of minutes and on we went.  I didn’t tell Nadine about it and truthfully didn’t think anything more about it until the next time this pain surfaced about 2 days later.

I began to become consciously aware of the times and frequency of these painful episodes.  The pain was becoming more frequent, and I needed to listen to the pain.  How many times in life do we get warning signs that we just blow off or minimize.  For me the warning sign was a dull pain in the chest and in my left arm.  I needed to listen to that pain.

What about other warning signs that come across on our journey?  It could be a spouse who says that they’re not being listened to.  They are crying out to get our attention, but we don’t heed the warning sign.  What about a teenager who is doing exactly the opposite of what we want them to do?  Could it be that they know what gets our attention and are trying desperately to get our attention but their warning signs are falling on deaf ears.  The warning sign could come in the form of an emotionally and physically spent body.  We are burned out by doing so many things that we don’t give our bodies time to rest and rejuvenate.  Are we listening to the body give warning signs that it’s time to slow down or gain balance?  A warning sign could come in the form of difficulty in our lives that all of us get.  Could it be that the Lord is trying to get our attention through those difficulties and have us turn our eyes toward Him?

On this journey there will be warning signs that come in various messages.  For me the warning sign was in the form of pain that I needed to heed.  Today we have the opportunity to turn on our senses to hear the warning signs before it is too late.

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