Surviving 3 life threatening illnesses in less than 2 weeks changed my life!
I had originally gone to North Dakota to get caught up on business bills and get ahead financially- a seemingly good decision given the limited prospects in North Idaho- and I did quite well financially while there, making at least 2 -3 times more than I would have had I stayed home, yet less than 2 years later I was looking at life far differently- my whole world had been rocked!
I began reevaluating everything- my marriage, my fatherhood, my spirituality. As you might imagine, I had a lot of time to think as I began the journey back to health. Initially, i was so depleted that I slept 12 or more hours a day, and was so weak I needed help navigating the stairs in my house and deck. I think my family and friends were more traumatized by my near death experiences as I lay unaware in a coma or foggy from all the medications I was suddenly taking, but it was strange to consider that my heart had stopped twice and I had been brought back to life! The EKG report supports the fact that the left ventricle of my heart was unable to maintain a normal rhythm and was causing blood supply to be caught off to my body and brain during 2 episodes lasting 2 and a half minutes. Had I experienced this at home or at the remote work location in North Dakota, I clearly would have died or been badly damaged. As it was, it appeared minimal permanent damage had been sustained, although the extent of damage and it’s permanency remained to be seen.
So why was I literally given a second chance? Within a 12 day window, three different illnesses threatened to claim my life, yet ultimately they all receded into the background as my body came back from the dead and began the road to recovery. And with this second chance, a tremendous challenge arose- what do I do with this new lease on life? To me, at the time, I wondered whether my heart would recover to the point of ‘normal’ or if I would be in a weakened state for the rest of my life, managing my condition, taking multiple medications so my heart would not be overworked and so on.
Why was I allowed to have the heart attacks at the ER, already hooked up to the EKG, showing for posterity, proof that my heart stopped functioning, with the top line, showing the heartbeat, flatlined?!
While in my induced coma, a dear mentor in my life had stood over me with his wife by his side as I lay in intensive care, not knowing if I would recover- and if I did, wondering what condition my mind and body would be in after all the trauma. They prayed that my mind would be spared as he felt it was my strongest gift, as I am not gifted in such things as mechanical ability or the so called traditional male dominated fields. Early on, while still in the ICU, although mentally foggy at times, my mind seemed surprisingly strong, as I maintained my sense of humor with the nursing and support staff and enjoyed my many visitors.
Returning home in my weakened condition was a new experience. Although I was periodically able to visit for a few days every few months, I had not been home on an extended basis for nearly 2 years! After being gone from home for so long, it was like getting to know my wife and daughters again- they had grown and changed so much- and my wife had been by my side through the worst of my heart attack and stay in ICU, being a true helpmate while I was very nearly an invalid. She was perhaps the one most affected by all this, wondering how we were going to continue to pay on our business debt while new medical debt was accruing and no income was forthcoming. As the one who diligently paid the bills and planned how the money was to be applied- whether in our transportation service or in prioritizing business debts to be repaid while I labored in North Dakota, she came to realize that in comparison to death of a spouse, a good credit rating means relatively very little!
I absolutely loved the time I got to spend with my two incredible daughters, now older and maturing into wonderful young ladies! Being able to be a part of their lives in a richer and more meaningful way than even before I left for North Dakota, each of us profoundly aware of just how close it had been to my family becoming a widow with two daughters without a father. It was awesome to be present in their lives, much more aware of my influence in the development of their thinking and choices, desiring to speak in a deeper way of truth and love into their hearts. My wife and I had been growing distant during the business failure and my subsequent North Dakota stay, so there was much to work on and repair- my health issues created an unmistakeable opportunity for us to focus on the relationship once more, rather than on the chaff of life that seems so often to crowd out the truly meaningful and powerful things- relationships, living for something greater than yourself, and serving others.
Our amazing church- a real ‘hands and feet of God’ church stepped up and helped us in so many tangible and spiritual ways. Family, friends and the body of Christ came beside us and provided wonderful home cooked dinners and home canned goods, and showed us God’s love in action. Where for many years with the transportation service, I was the one giving help, now it was time to receive help and what an incredible blessing it has been for my entire family. God has been beside me all along and had to get my attention in a serious way to get me to see that he has a different path than the one I was on. Not that I was on a ‘bad’ path, but it was time for the close of one chapter and the beginning of a new one- whether I was ready for it or not!
Next: How to make the most of my ‘new’ life-