Code STEMI Basement Apartment
(Code STEMI means that a patient is having a myocardial infarction or heart attack caused by a totally blocked artery. Usually, the announcement is made over a hospital PA system and includes the Room number or location where the event takes place.)
On Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 7:30 I was fully dressed for church an hour early but something began to go seriously wrong. I began to feel pressure in the center of my chest (this was significant as you will see later). I tried laying down but the pressure was quickly followed by pain. I walked across the room to my wife and told her, “I have something I don’t want to tell you—I am feeling pressure and pain in the center of my chest.” Livy asked me if I wanted her to get Bonnie, our landlady. I said yes.
What you should know is that Bonnie works full time as a nurse, a Cardiac nurse! When I left my last congregation to seek another call she offered us her basement apartment and said we would not need to pay rent. That was the first of many clear providential mercies in the coming months. Bonnie came down to see me at Livy’s request and she knew instantly that I was having a heart attack, but did not say so immediately. She took my pulse and it was bad. She told me later that she could see two things: 1st that I was diaphoretic, and 2nd my face was grey.
She told Olivia that I needed to go to the hospital. Livy responded, “Can’t he just lie down?”. Bonnie said, “No, he needs to go to the hospital, now!” Livy said, “ I guess I can take him but I am not sure how to get there from here.” Bonnie, “No, he needs an ambulance.” So she called one. They were there in about 10 minutes, bundled me onto a stretcher on wheels and placed me in the back of the ambulance.
As I lay there along while my wife was told she could ride with us in the ambulance and that Bonnie would follow, I prayed and asked God a simple question, “Am I going to meet you today, Lord?” As it turned out the answer was “No”:…and “Yes”!
No, I was not going to heaven to meet my God, not yet. There is a 90 minute bubble within which a heart attack victim must get treatment or they will die. As I rode in the ambulance to the hospital I asked the EMT how bad it was. He told me it was pretty bad, as he saw on his monitor that there was some real damage to the heart. He had already given me some nitroglycerine by way of a spray under my tongue (I had never heard of it before. I only knew of the pills). As we traveled, with an occasional blast of the siren, he gave me two more sprays, and I began to feel better for the pain had lessened. He told me that if I felt pain again he could give me morphine. I did not need it. By 8:30 I was in the Emergency Room of Harrisburg Hospital, having my clothing removed as someone said, “You are going to feel a pinch.” The next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery and my wife was telling me that I had three stents in my right coronary artery, place there by a cardiologist named Dr. Rice.
From the E.R. I was taken to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and placed in a bed. Nurses now controlled my life for the next 4 days, under the direction of wonderful doctors. That night around 6 PM I took our my tablet, logged onto the hospital Wifi and tapped in the following message on Facebook: “I suffered a heart attack this morning. Please pray.” I did not do that to be famous or get attention. No, I knew a number of my brothers and sisters in Christ were among my friends, and I wanted them to pray. Among those were ministers and elders that were attending the OPC General Assembly. Within a few hours a number of those replied and told me they were praying and that I was prayed for at the General Assembly evening service (remember, it was Sunday. I am not sure but I think that kind of message was sent every day from my these good brothers. Others also sent me words of encouragement over the next days, but God had another gift for me.
In the cardiac ICU there is always a nurse within steps of a patient. In his good providence, the Lord appointed Tasmine, a young and experienced Muslim nurse to care for me. What I noticed immediately was that she cared deeply about my comfort and my recovery. She wore an hijab and had the darkest and most compassionate eyes I have ever seen. The only person I had ever know before Tasmine, with that kind of compassion, was my wife. She was regularly giving me physical exams, offering water, administering new prescription drugs, checking the site where the catheter used for placing the stents had been inserted and calling another nurse because it seemed to her that the site looked infected. She was my nurse for 12 hours, and I gave thanks to God for her attention and skill. Those 12 hours were, I am sure, the time in which I would either get better or get worse. My Father in heaven sent his best nurse and I began to improve slowly.
But then again, the answer to my question about meeting the Lord was, Yes! This began my formal retraining in Christ’s school of discipleship in which both I was shown the wretched state of my heart (though I am a Christian, there will always be sin to deal with.). What you will read in this blog from now on will be a combination of reflections on God’s providence (his rule over all his creatures and all their actions) and what he has so graciously taught me as I have more fully reflected on his Word than ever before. He is a good and beautiful God! And his love cannot be questioned, for he sent his Son to die for my sins (and yours, if you will have him) and to conform my character and heart to that same Son, Jesus Christ. I am currently out of active pastoral ministry but hope to return. But in the meantime, I am enjoying sitting as Jesus feet in the Scriptures and in life as he patiently instructs me. My heart attack could have taken my life but instead he has given it back to me in better condition than ever. Oh may he be glorified!