Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thoughts as they play in your heart

It is a crazy thing to have doctors play around inside your heart. It is even crazier when they use a laser in your heart or at least around your heart. For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, let me explain.

I have had continued chest pain for the last couple of years. Yes, I have been going to a cardiologist for this problem. It started 6 years ago. Since that time I have had my gall bladder removed (which was needed), changed my diet to lower my cholesterol, visited the ER a couple of times, had 2 stents placed, and over that length of time had 6 heart caths, along with countless stress tests, nuclear stress test and a host of other things. All of which have shown that while I had some blockage in the heart, there was no major problem that should be causing said chest pain.  after about 4 years, I changed from a cardiologist at Anderson Hospital (which gave me good care but no answer) to a one at Barnes Jewish. He changed my medication around and I had about 6 months free from pain. Then it started again. More tests, the 5th of 6 caths, and still no answers. I continued to have the pains - at times when I was active, other times when I was sitting calmly doing nothing. Most people did not know what was going on. No need to cause concern among the family or congregation. So I carried nitro with me. For a while, I might use 1 pill a week. Then it became more common to use it daily and finally at least twice a day. If I could make 24 hours with using the nitro, we felt pretty blessed. My cardiologist was beside himself trying to figure out the problem. I was frustrated. Penny was frustrated. My cardiologist was frustrated.

So off to the chest pain clinic I went. It is relatively new but has had much success working with weird patients like me, that don't respond to medication. The cardiologist there explained that it could be cardiac artery spasms (which are hard to see unless it happens right when you are doing a cath) or maybe small vessel blockage (which can't be seen on regular scans). He recommended another heart cath, but this time using a certain medication that, if you have the problem, will cause the arteries to spasm. Then having a pet scan which looks at the small vessels of the heart to see if they are blocked. I agreed and so it was set.

Little did I know when I agreed that I would have a detour of a hernia that needed repaired, so at the end of January I had that fixed. It was painful for the first couple days but then got better. It is no fun getting older and I am still young by some people's recollection (only 55) and old by others who are in their 20's and 30's. I continued to have the support of the family and members. Lots of prayers, which lifted me up and strengthened me in ways you can't imagine.

Finally had the cath scheduled for March 7 (my brother's birthday). It was at Barnes. They were going to see if my arteries spasm. If so, there is medication for that. I wasn't sure who was going to do the procedure but I really didn't care as long as it gave answers, and possibly relief. How I long for relief from this stuff. Unless you have had chest pain, you don't know what it is like. I was good at hiding it from folks. Most people didn't know what was going on. Penny did. My family did, mostly. I didn't tell them all the pain that I had in order to keep them from being worried. Yes, I said worried. I know one in particular who would worry herself sick if she knew what was really going on. She prays for me and loves me and I was shielding her from more worry. I was shielding the congregation from worry too. Who wants their shepherd to be having chest pain while doing service. The focus would not be upon our Savior but upon the under shepherd and I refuse to stand in the way of the Gospel. The focus is on Christ not some pastor who has problems. I know I was prayed for by many, and it gave me strength. The Spirit guided me, and continues to guide me, through the worship services. All praise be to God.

So the morning of the cath dawned early. At Barnes at 6:30. Called to register and we doubted that I would make the 8:00 procedure time. Called back. Prepped. IV, questions asked. Nerves going. But still, resting in the arms of the Lord. Penny brought back. We sat there talking. Nervous energy but love flowing through it all. After the Lord, she is my rock. The 'fellow' came in (I guess that is what they call the people who are working with Dr. Singh) and explained what they are going to do. Good deal. Then Kevin comes in and starts getting things ready. "Are we going?" is asked. Yep. A kiss, an I love you, Penny leaves and they roll me away.

Into operating room 1 I go. 8:03 I enter. Wow, I think. Right on time. 1 1/2 hour procedure. Out by 9:30, 3-4 hours in recovery, home by 3:00. Going to be a good day I tell myself. Then onto the table. Getting put in position Vegal nerve problems for me (not sure how to spell that), I tell them Oxygen and medicine brought in just in case Problems getting the computer and the new monitor to link up. Reboot. Waiting. Drape is put on me. Sterile. Ready to go. 8:30, no computer. 8:40 Dr. Singh comes in and talks with me. It will be soon. (Dr. Singh is head of cardiology, by the way.) He asks if I need something to relax me and I respond affirmatively. I may be in the arms of the Savior but I still need the relaxation given by medication. He orders it. I receive it. I relax as I lay there. Still the compute and monitor don't synch up. 9:00 comes and still no procedure. "Soon" I am told. What can I do. I lay waiting. Still covered, ready for it to start. at 9:20, they decide it isn't going to work, even after the tech people work on it. So off come all the sterile things, moving from #1 to #6 (yes, I was able to know what was going on even with the relaxation medication.)

At 9:30 I roll into room #6. The procedure should be done by now. I ask them to make sure that Penny knows what is going on. They do. Finally they start at almost 10. Guess what! I vegal down on them (that is what they call it). Medication to help. Boy is that hard on a person. I hate the feeling. BP drops, heart rate drops, you feel sick, you feel like you can pass out, you feel...hard to explain but it is difficult on me when it happens. Dr. Singh does a great job going into the artery, into my heart, getting things ready, and then, "There is stent here." He asks me about it. I tell him that I received those at Anderson. He tell someone, get the records from Anderson now. They jump. They get them. He tells me that the stent is filling in. He will clean it out. OK. Sounds good to me, as I am in lala land (not the movie). Sometime in here I vegal down again. Twice during the procedure. Ugh. I feel really bad. I mean, REALLY bad. He lasers the blockage in the stent, then has to reinflate it because it wasn't fully extended. He balloons the stent. All this taking me to noon.

Finally it is done. You know what? They didn't do the test. Seriously. No test on the artery spasms. Dr. Singh says maybe this will help the problem. Who knows? The Lord knows. I realize that. I hope he does too. All the while, through this, prayers are said. By me. By Penny. By my family. By the church people. Yes, I was in good hands.

Off to recovery. Lay still. Don't move. Told that I have a silicone plug in the artery so that sheath is gone. Still have a sheath in the vein. Never had two before. But I wait. Around 3:00 they say they can start to remove the sheath.. BP still low but ok. The remove it. Can you guess what happened? I vegalled down again. Another 'fellow' is there to help out. More medication. Head lower than feet. Feeling terrible. Praying. praying, praying.

And you know what, it makes me cry to think of it even now, As I begged God for help, I had this come to me - the Ancient of Days. Yes, I believe that I saw the face of God. Seriously, as He wanted me to see Him. At that moment, peace came upon me. No longer was I afraid. Did I still feel terrible? Yes. But it was different. I was given the peace that passes all understanding. It was an amazing thing. He didn't say anything to me. He just looked at me. Those eyes, such peace and comfort. So overwhelming in all that is good, positive, comforting, and loving. My dear Father, giving me what I needed. No longer shaking. No longer afraid. Just resting in my Father's arms. Nothing could be better. Only a moment, but it could have been an eternity. I didn't care.

Then is was over. Body going back to normal. Worn out. Sleeping, Penny back in the room. Resting. Finally able to drink some water. A turkey sandwich never tasted so good. Grapes, chips and a sugar cookie. Hot tea (careful if you drink hot tea through a straw). Able to sit up in bed after an hour or so. Final labs to be run at 6:00 and then if all is well, heading home. A lot different form 3:00. But that is all right.

Finally, labs drawn. Getting up. Shaky on the feet. Light headed. Walk down the hall. How about a chair before I fall to the floor. Then back to my feet. Moving down the hall, turn around, back to the room. Sitting in chair. Penny helps me change. She is my angel here on earth. Dressed. Waiting for the labs. Brittney from Carlyle is my nurse. Good gal. Takes good care of me. Finally labs are back. IV is out. Rolled out to the curb. Dumped at the side of the road, left alone. Not really, just seeing if you were still paying attention. Penny pulls up, I get in and 12 1./2 hours later we are heading home

The outcome? At 36 hours I have had no chest pain. Seriously, none at all. The leg is sore and stiff but no chest pain. I wait, I wait to see if it starts again. I pray it doesn't. I wonder if I still will have to have the other test. But that is out of my hands. I pray I don't. Time will tell.

And that, my friends, is a long story of my day in which I had a heart cath, 3 vegal downs, a vision of the Father and the love of my wife, not to mention the prays of countless people. Yes, prayer is powerful. It surrounded me with peace even when all was falling apart inside of me. Thank you for your prayers. Thank You, Lord, for your presence.

Now we wait. Time will tell. I preached Wednesday night. How could I not? The love of God pulled me through a tough time. All I can do is tell you how much He loves and cares for you. And I will keep doing it until He calls me home, which I pray is not for another 30 years.


  1. Pastor, thanks so much for sharing your story and feelings about all of this. Throughout my nursing career, patients have told stories of what is called a "near death" experience. Not to say you had one, but these stories always intrigue me. I couldn't help but think of my dear nephew and started wondering if he ever saw Jesus or the light that patients often describe. Of course we know he is with Jesus now. I pray the procedure helps you. I'm so sorry you have suffered with the pain for 6 years....and still manage to do all that you do. I often think you work too hard! Take care of yourself and anytime you have stories...keep writing and someone will keep reading!

  2. I can relate to your story....other than I had no vegal experience My monitor in the operating room shut down too and family waiting in waiting room and asking them to tell family nothing was started as yet. Moving me to another my case they put in 3 stents....I had an over night stay. Am hoping this blockage of a stent that they cleared again makes a difference. Always you and Penny in my prayers. God be with you always!