It was Sunday morning about 7:30AM. We were dressed for church and packed for a trip to Germany. We were scheduled to leave on the 5:15PM Lufthansa flight from Denver to Frankfurt.
I’d taken the exact flight a few weeks ago on my way to Bangkok. Good flight and we were looking forward to some ministry time with an outstanding European mission organization and then 9 days of northern Germany plus a highly anticipated Netherlands experience. We are both Dutch, you know.
Judy had everything organized, the lodging reservations made, and the key restaurants picked out. I was already drooling over a couple of restaurants in Amsterdam. Well, I digress from the story.
I went into the master bath, blood all over the place, and Judy was hanging onto her counter and sink. When she first fainted her head hit a sharp edge on one of the boxes she has on the counter. Major gash right between the eyes. She started to faint again, and I laid her gently, well not so gently, on the floor leading to our bedroom.
What to do?
So, stop the bleeding and figure out what happened and what to do next.
Judy revived quickly, I wiped away the blood to take a look at the cut. Pretty deep and but I thought it might heal better with something to hold it together rather than stitches. Judy had none of it for she was concerned about scaring. Off we went to the emergency room of St. Francis hospital.
We stopped at an emergency clinic on the way, they took one look and shooed us out the door to the hospital. Too old, and too badly cut.
Understand the context: We were concerned about the cut. The fainting issue was not on the radar of concern. Let me explain. Judy is my age, well maybe a year older, and in great shape both mentally and physicallly. She works out at the physical exercise club we belong to 3 times a week. The workouts are for an hour each and are strenuous. I went with her once and thought I would die.
By now we were 90 minutes into the episode and in the wonderful emergency room, if an emergency room can be wonderful, at St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs. Fortunately we came between two emergency rush hours on Sunday morning, one early and one later.
Got right in and the staff went to work.
The cut was obvious and they addressed it first, then the ER doctor asked, "So why did you faint?”
Judy answered, “I don’t know and I’m leaving for Germany this afternoon.”
I'm was on the phone connecting with the two caring groups at our church asking them for prayer support.
You know what it looks like in the various TV series when someone is in the hospital- tubes, stands to hold stuff that drips, and connections to various parts of your body? That was Judy, very quickly.
The next major discovery as a result of the “hook-ups” and information showing on a couple of monitors, Judy's heart was in AFIB. Yea, I’d heard of it, but had no idea what it really meant. Short version, my apologizes to anyone in the medical profession, is that the top part of the heart that controls the electrical stimulation and regulates the heart beat was going “bonkers". It was beating fast and it looked like fluttering on the monitor.
About that time, the ER Doctor returned and said he’d left a message for the Cardiac specialist on call to confirm next steps. The consensus, and sure made sense to me, was to stop the AFIB and get the heart back to normal.
Need to interject a key occurrence Judy’s good friend Sherrie shows up. I’d called her husband to ask him to make sure someone covered the preparation of Life Group coffee that Judy usually handles. Sherrie is Brian’s wife. What a blessing she is. Now the story continues.
They started dripping some medicine dripping into Judy to control the AFIB. ER Doctor suggested we stitch up the wound while we are waiting. He did a great job and explained that he used “stitches that are absorbed” so that we would not have to be concerned about removing stitches during our time in Germany.
By now it is clear we are not going to Germany on Sunday for sure. So, I advise all the appropriate people via email and text from my iPhone, that we won’t be there on Monday, and that it looked to me like we would be flying out on Tuesday and arriving in Germany on Wednesday. And yes, Judy was concerned about the car reservations, etc. all while vociferously sharing her determination that “we’re going”.
The ER staff was now in regular contact with the Cardiac specialist and they all concurred that it was best to admit her to the hospital as they determined what is going on with the fainting issues.
By early afternoon the wound congealed and not a concern any longer. Oh, I forgot to mention that the first medicine to control the AFIB did nothing, the second one did. Judy’s heart was finally back to beating at a rate less than 100. That was good.
After the trauma of checking “into the hospital”, hooking Judy up to a number of additional “connections”, they wheeled in an echo cardiogram testing machine. Test given. Oops, the Aortic Valve to the heart appears clogged, that means calcified, and the Mitral one too. Just so you know, which I did not, the mitral controls the flow of blood into the heart, and the aortic valve control the flow out to the rest of the body. At least that is how I understand it.
Late afternoon the Cardiac doctor showed up having reviewed that test plus a previous one Judy had been given almost a year before and sat down on the chair by her bed. The doctor looked at us and said, “Well folks...”
You know when you are on an airplane and the captain comes on the communication system and starts with the words, “Well folks” you know it is not good news……ever!. Unless you consider it good news that the plane has a problem and needs to be fixed.
The doctor continued, “Based on what I’m seeing and contrasting with the prior test, you are defiantly not going to Germany any time soon. It looks like both valves are significantly calcified and will both have to be replaced. I won’t know the full extent of them issues until we do another test tomorrow ( heart catheterization) to determine what if any other damage has occurred to the rest of your heart. I’m sorry to tell you this, but Germany is out, and it looks like heart surgery is in.”
It took more than a few minutes for Judy and me to assimilate both the news about the heart and the significant impact on our lives for the next period of time. You know, I don’t know how people who have no or little spiritual faith make it though moments like that. I know how hard it was for us, I can’t image how others make it.
I finally left the hospital about 7:30PM and headed home to deal with the reservations issues and get some sleep for the next day.
Monday was consumed by waiting, learning how to order food from the hospital kitchen, me discovering the cafeteria, reading a lot, and helping to make sure Judy was not tangled up in all the cords and tubes when she moved around. The staff was wonderful. I’ll write another time about the relational experiences with those at the hospital, those who visited the hospital, and the extended family of concern over Facebook, Linkedn, and the Church Community Builder software we use at our church.
Late Monday, the Cardiac specialist Judy had seen the year prior arrived with the results of the morning testing and the final diagnoses: Your heart is fine, and the two valves need replacing. “I have already called the surgeon and his office will be in touch shortly. Think you need to stay through Tuesday afternoon, then you can go home." We did!
Wednesday Judy and I walked to the mailbox a quarter of a mile from our home. Amazing.
Bottom line: Judy will have open heart surgery on September 1, 2015, about 2 weeks from now.
The 48 hours that changed our lives.
From a highly anticipated trip to Europe, to a 5 stitch cut on Judy’s head, to open heart surgery all in 48 hours. The story has gone on long enough, I’ll talk about lessons learned and perspectives gained in my next blog.
Interestingly enough, on that Sunday morning I was going to be teaching on the first chapter of the Bible book of Philippians. The question I had planned to ask the group was this: How does the way we understand death impact the way we live? I leave that question with you too, for now.
Stay tuned as we share Trusted Advice along The Way.