Graphic art design by TJ Coulter, copyright 2012
It's amazing how many new things one can learn as the result of a health crisis.
I recently spent several days as a paying guest at the local hospital and came away with a brand new appreciation for this fact. Some of the information I've learned:
- Heart attacks sometimes present themselves in very illogical ways. Mine included upper abdominal and back pain on the right side. No, my heart is not located inside my gall bladder!
- It is possible to have a heart attack and EKGs will not detect it. Evidently an EKG only "sees" the front of the heart. If the attack involves the small artery behind the heart, an EKG will not register it.
- Very healthy people can have heart attacks. Mine was caused by a SCAD, a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (tear in the artery), which defers to no race, religion, cholesterol level, or medical history. A SCAD will even target very young, extremely healthy triathlon athletes. It is somewhat partial to women, however.
- When one endures a medical crisis, one's acquaintances suddenly become health professionals. People who barely know me have attributed the cause of my heart attack to my nonstop diet of junk food (I wish I had known all those whole grains and vegetables I've been eating were junk food. I would have enjoyed them more!) and to my personality of being a "very uptight person." (If I'm uptight, I'd hate to see what some of my relatives are!)
- Something less appealing to the eye than institutional scrambled egg substitute actually exists. It's institutional congealed cream of wheat. Eww.
- Evidently, when one is unconscious, one is still ticklish. Well, actually I knew this fact already. Turns out it was news to the cardiologist. The cardiologist who was trying to give me a shot. Yeah. Oops. Sorry, sir.
But that's not all I've learned. Some of my recent lessons have actually been very heart warming.
- God obviously still has something He wants me to accomplish! The results of this heart attack could have been much worse, but He chose to spare me for a reason. I have a God-planned purpose in life. How cool is that?
- Death and life truly are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). My physical heart attack immediately followed a verbal one... a character assassination which actually did cut to my heart. "Words can be lethal" is a literally true statement. What an object lesson this experience has been! The up side is that life is also in the power of the tongue. I choose to give life with the words I speak, to bless people's hearts. (God, help me!)
- It is possible to develop a thick skin while keeping a tender heart. I can choose to move on in spite of hurt, choose to forgive, choose to still be cordial without hardening my heart against people who choose to cause harm. My personal strength and dignity are still mine. No matter how someone tries to hurt me, they can't touch the inner core of who I am. That will live forever.
- I have some very special friends who love me for who I am and choose to bless my heart instead of curse it. These friends will even drive for hours to sit with me while I sleep, wash my hair for me, take notes and ask the doctors questions for me when my mind is too groggy to think. That's incredibly touching, incredibly heart healing.
- According to what I can glean from internet sites, I can hope to fully regain my former physical heart strength within 18 months or so. During that time I have many choices to make to help heal both my physical and emotional heart -- choices to trust God and be happy, to eat right and exercise, to live and love and be productive. I plan to do all of those.
I had no idea my heart could teach me so many lessons.
Have you ever noticed in life how the most important lessons you learn often involve things you thought you already knew? Ideals you thought you lived by and proverbs you spouted to others, but didn't actually know on a heart level.
The lesson my heart is clutching right now is this:
There are no guarantees in life.
Say "I love you" while you can.
Give a hug before it's too late.
Bless someone else's heart.
It needs it.
And so does yours.
"All this is for your benefit,
so that the grace that is reaching more and more people
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
1 Corinthians 4:15-16