I had a cold that would not go away and it turned into a really deep cough. I went to a doctor that had treated a previous lung infection in 2005. He had me get a lung X-ray, even though I had not been smoking for over two years, just to make sure I did not come down with pneumonia or something worse.
The X-ray came back and one lung looked shorter than the other, so the doctor ordered a CT scan to make sure there wasn’t a cancer mass scrunching up the lung. This is the start of God’s involvement, since most doctors would not have asked for this test. Before you say I had a great and detailed oriented doctor, read on. This was definitely God’s hand intervening!
The technician at the scan lab said it was a common occurrence to have lungs of different sizes and we came to agreement that the scan would show everything was ok. I did not hear back from the doctor for a month, so I believed everything was ok.
At my next appointment, I asked about the CT scan results and was told they did not get the results back, so I went down to the can place a got a CD and a copy of the report they had sent to the doctor. In the report, they showed they had talked directly to the doctor that day about a descending aorta that was over twice the size it should have been.
Only less than the first inch of the aorta was visible on the bottom of the scan and it could have been easily been missed. They recommended immediate attention.
I freaked out and went to my regular doctor, showed her the report and she recommended a doctor at Stanford. I then received a second recommendation from Joy of another doctor at Stanford. Both had thirty-plus years in dealing with what I had and I interviewed both.
In the course of the interviews, I found out that since my descending aorta immediately expanded after the renal (kidney) arteries, a normal stent would not work and I would probably be looking at some extensive invasive surgery.
God had his hands busy, as one of the surgeons happened to be the head of an experimental stent trial program that had been developed for my condition and I became Experimental Patient #128. There had been a couple of deaths during this study, but both had been caused by the advanced age (80+) and failure to attend the follow-up appointments and tests. Since God had chosen my doctor for me, I went along with His plan and scheduled a full set of CT scans.
The scans came back and they showed a very bad aneurism that extended the whole length of the descending aorta and into the artery split that fed the legs. The whole mess was on the verge of a rupture, and had probably been for many months. Only God had kept that from happening. Remember, I had been playing trumpet and there is tremendous internal pressure when you hit the high notes. God truly had kept the arteries in one piece!
The surgeon’s schedule had an opening and I had a week or so to get my things in order before I went under the knife. I spent two days writing the “If you are reading this letter, I am hopefully with Jesus and don’t worry, etc.” letters and thanking people, giving away my worldly possessions (guns included) along with whom to contact. I must have lost a gallon or so of tears. That letter writing was not easy, but God got me through it.
Previously, I had volunteered to help move NVC from our Indio location to the new Church-In-A-Box format, and I had to immediately resign from that task. I did not need to strain the ol’ tubes at this point in my life, plus the move would happen when I was in my first week of recovery.
I let a whole bunch of people know of my situation, both in and out of the church, and asked for their prayers. As I would find out later, this was a great turning point in my life and definitely accelerated God’s involvement. I had never felt so vulnerable in my life and prayed like there was no tomorrow, which is exactly what I felt.
Pastor Stan kept inviting me to the Uprising Celebration Dinner for the people who had volunteered to move the church. I did not feel right in attending and I turned it down until Stan insisted and also said he needed a photographer for the evening. I relented.
The dinner just happened to be on May 22nd, a day before my 57th birthday and the day of the operation. Happy birthday! Later, I would be very grateful for the exquisite Prime Rib dinner, as I would not eat for quite a long while. You know, the “don’t eat or drink anything after 10 PM the day before the surgery” routine.
I took some pictures and ate quite well. I believe it was after dinner, but I could have the order mixed up, and Pastor Stan called me up before everybody. Normally, I would have had fears of being held up as an example of “someone who ate a great feast, but was not going to be working” (you know, like the before picture in all those commercials), but my worries were elsewhere.
All the New Venture Church Elders surrounded me, laid hands on me and prayed with everyone in the room asking God to heal me. I nearly felt ashamed and really cried. Real men don’t eat quiche and don’t cry… you know that half myth.
Later on I would have given a lot for a bite of quiche, but I’ll save that for later.
The point is that prayers to God had been going on for over a week and God was starting to move on his plan for me. I am glad He was doing the planning, as there were a lot of unexpected (to me) things to plan for. Later, Michael, a Life Group leader for my Wednesday Life Group I attended wrote to Elder Craig:
“I found the scripture again that I was speaking to you about when the elders laid hands on and prayed over Fred.
14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
James 5:14-15 (NIV)”
I highly recommend that everyone heed this advice. I speak from direct experience. I also thank the Elders for this and many other prayers.
I woke up early because I couldn’t sleep to a birthday celebration feast of a few pills for blood pressure and cholesterol and a small sip of water. I was due at the hospital around 10 AM for an operation at noon.
After a shower with some reddish antiseptic sponges and having a slight light red tinge to me, I was ready. I knew a lot of people were praying for me, so I joined them.
After arrival at the hospital, I did the hurry-up-and-wait thing, so I used the time for prayer and wondering when I would be called. Only an hour to wait and I went in and was prepped. More prayer. I received word that the previous operation had some complications and my surgery would be delayed. More prayer and wondering.
At 5:30 PM, being real hungry, I was told “We’re going to give you something to……..”. Five minutes later, I awoke in excruciating pain with a bag of blood hanging from a pole!
The bad part of this was that over 5-1/2 hours had passed, not the 5-minute cat-nap it seemed like. The good part was that pain is God’s way of letting you know you are still alive. (I borrowed this from author Richard Marcinko.)
I praised God and Jesus for getting me through the operation alive. It would be over a week before I knew all of God’s power that was expended to keep me alive. I also let everyone in the immediate area know that I was in pain, quite vociferously I might add.
It did not take long for me to figure out that I could press the button next to me every 27 minutes and get a shot of joy-juice. Actually, I could press the button more often, but nothing would happen until the green light came on.
This is a quick re-cap of what happened during surgery.
The surgery was going as planned quite well. I was getting 5 implanted stents.
When all hooked together they look like a pair of long-johns with a really skinny and long stretched waist and legs.
In the middle of the operation, my blood pressure dropped to practically nothing.
There was no great amount of blood visible other than the small loss during the operation, so they used a camera to look inside and found an artery (nowhere near where they were performing the surgery) had burst and the operation came to a standstill. They clamped off and got rid of the offending artery and gave me 5 units of blood before they could continue the now-first operation. God had prepared the surgeons well, and was making sure I would not meet Him too soon.
This artery could have burst after they had released me from the hospital, and I would have been (hopefully) singing with the angles before I realized what had happened. God had other plans for me, like maybe some more practice singing!
Before continuing the operation, the surgeons had decided to poke around and flick the other arteries on both sides to make sure there would be no more interruptions. All passed the “flick test” and the operation continued.
The surgeons (there had been five on the team) did a great job with God’s help.
I might mention that family and a couple friends had spent that entire night and the next day praying for my recovery. In addition to my extended family and church praying, it showed that prayers work.
Sometime during the evening after the surgery, I awoke with a startled feeling and had a whole bunch of people surrounding me. I think I said “Hi!” and fell back to sleep totally unaware of what had happened.
The next evening, I was able to observe a re-run of what had happened. I was staring at the monitor that had the squiggly, blurry (to me), lines running across the screen like some inch-worms late for a party. A sound came from the monitor and the lines stopped wiggling.
I realized that my heart had actually stopped, because I could not move my arm to see if the leads to the machine had come off. It was very strange, but I had a calm attitude with no fear and I thanked God and looked forward to the trip to see Him and Jesus. A whole bunch of people decided to join my sendoff and rushed into the room, but God had other plans. I heard something about “…started by itself……very unusual…”.
I would have chuckled if I hadn’t fallen back to sleep. I knew God restarted my heart for the second time. He didn’t need the electrocution team to kick it.
I had expected to be out of the hospital in a couple of days and back to work in three weeks. God had other plans and He made sure my body told me so. The staff had a hard time stabilizing out my heart and the cardiologists were called in and spend a few days trying to figure out my body chemistry to see what could be done.
The chemicals were not in balance and I might have had some damage (entirely supposed and not yet supported by fact) when I bled out. They were trying these big pills which would have a great effect and then everything would go haywire again. Well a lot of prayer by a whole bunch of people and my chemistry returned to normal.
I had many visitors over the week I was in the hospital and I thank all of them for their prayers, as well as all the people who could not cram themselves into my now-crowded room! Due to the pain medication, I was not thinking clearly and do not remember everyone who visited clearly or what we talked about. I do know all of them prayed.
That is funny I remember the prayers but not much else during the first few days.
During the second day, the doctors decided that I was having too much fun sleeping while they worked 36-hour-plus days and turned loose the friendly, but firm, nurses who were working 40-hour-plus days to make sure I would obey. Ok, so for the rest of the week, I would wake up in pain, wait for the green light to come on, press it, wait for the joy-juice to hit my system and take off on my trip out the door, around the nurses station so they would see I was not slacking, and back to my bed.
I thanked God for the walk and went back to sleep. I might mention, I was dressed in a full regalia with a staff, tubes, machines and such dangling all over me in addition to the mandatory air-conditioned hospital gown.
During these excursions I realized something. I knew I was very fortunate to have such a great number of people praying for me and God Is Great and was keeping me alive then and Is Now, but I was being selfish.
As my left-turn-only oval (the Indy 500 pre-trials were going on) around the nurses station was expanding to a larger distance, I saw more and more people who were in a lot worse shape than I was in and most had absolutely no one in evidence. I started praying for all of these people each round I made.
I know some of them were comforted and might have never known why. I am sure this also contributed to my quick recovery. I felt a great need to help people.
All things are possible with God.
My Wednesday Life Group had plans to meet at my place when I was released from the hospital, but that was scrubbed due to my heart instability. I had several CT scans and tests by the cardiologists and my head surgeon looked over all the tests and reports.
Miraculously, things turned for the better. Michael wrote:
“Praise God! Fred is on his way home from the hospital and wants to hold LIFE group at his house after the prayer walk this evening since the new digs are just a couple of blocks from his house. His girlfriend is preparing dinner. Fred will respond to us with his address and special notes on parking. Welcome home Fred!”
Prayer and God’s bag of goodies made this possible. I was released from the hospital one week after I was admitted and had a great Life Group meeting as a welcome home party.
I was on some heavy-duty pain medication, so I hope I sounded at least half-aware at our meeting. At least, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves!
Near the end of the week in the hospital, my surgeon was amazed at my condition. (Remember that he has 30+ years experience at these types of operations.) I wrote the following to Gregory, a brother in Christ, describing God’s miracles and the surgeon’s reaction:
I REALLY appreciate your prayers!
I am living proof that the Lord works through prayer, and am grateful for you part in helping me gain a new life!………..
By the physical world, I should have died.
Several days later when I was able to talk to the surgeon (and remember part of what he said!) he said he knew I was a fighter when he saw my body respond to the conditions that night. Since I was totally unaware of all this, the Lord and everyone’s prayers are what really pulled me through. I thanked the surgeon and his team for their work and added that the Lords Will and guidance in directing their talents pulled me through. It was comforting to see an ear-to-ear smile break out on the surgeons face!”
I went back for a follow-up visit to the surgeon. All the CT scans looked great and the cardiologist could find no signs of damage to the heart. Another miracle, as the heart was not meant to run without blood! He did find a heart murmur caused by a valve that looks like a bishop’s miter, but I knew I had that when I was a kid.
I insisted in coming to church and I believe this helped me in my recovery. (I missed only six weeks of work, but had vacation to barely cover it.)
This should have been the end of the story about Prayer and God’s miracles, but remember that God’s timetables are different from what we expect. Did you expect all the prayers and God’s miracles heaped upon me would be the end? HA! He had more plans.
Michael, our Wednesday Life Group leader had been re-assigned work schedules (eventually he went to Montana to perform God’s work there) an asked me if I would take over leadership of the group. I would have never believed in a million years that I would be leading a Life Group. I had plans to be a worship leader. I prayed long and hard for God’s guidance and he let me know to go for it and accept the baton.
I told Pastor Stan that I accepted the Life Group Leader and he gave me great support:
This is wonderful news! Congratulations and God bless you for stepping up to this new area of leadership in such a vital role in the mission of our church “leading people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”………….
Thanks again for accepting the challenge and know that your elders and staff stand firmly behind you and celebrate this new beginning in your journey (or “venture”).
I also received great support from Pastor Lewis, Elder Craig and the Life Group itself.
God had desired a change in my walk and went to great lengths to make it happen. How could I possibly have turned Him down after all He gave me?
Later that week, I sang and played trumpet for the first time since I found out I had the medical problem. God was Good to me!
Always remember that prayers are powerful and God works his miracles. Never doubt it for a second!
Please share this with everyone who needs a testimony to the power of prayers and God’s miracles. On second thought, share it with people who don’t need it, as they probably do and more.
If you are reading this sentence, God bless you for you patience!