December 3, 2020

I’m Still Here

Well my friends, it has been a week. Since so many of you have been kind enough to write to me asking how I am doing health-wise, I thought I would give you a bit of an update. If this is boring to you (and I don’t blame you if it is), I suggest you go back and re-read Chaplain Mike’s Gethsemani journals. (And yes, I am officially jealous of him for getting to spend a whole week there.)

I have still been struggling with extreme weakness, numbness in my face and left arm, blurred vision, etc. Last Thursday night I was feeling these same symptoms, but I also had a lot of chest pain. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Friday I struggled through eight hours of helping people find things at Target. When I got off work I drove myself to ER where the doctor on duty had just been in my electronics department a few days earlier. (I’m glad I took good care of him!) As soon as I said “It felt like an elephant sitting on my chest,” I had a room reserved for me at the Shady Rest.

For the next four days I underwent all kinds of tests. Blood work-up. Ultrasound of my heart. Ultrasound of my carotid. Chest x-ray. All normal. Then Monday morning I underwent a stress test. While my heart was jacked up, I had pain that was almost unbearable. Then they scanned my heart to see what was going on when the rate was elevated. I flunked that test. At least that’s what the cardiologist said to me. He scheduled me for an angiogram the next morning.

And the results of the angiogram were … negative. No blockage. Nothing wrong with my heart. The doc couldn’t explain why the stress test showed blockage, but once they got up into my heart with a tube, they couldn’t find anything wrong. To put it mildly, I was just a bit upset.

Ok, granted, heart disease is not at the top of my Christmas list. But I’ve had this going on for so long that I really wanted them to find something, anything, that they could fix so I wouldn’t feel so horrible all of the time. Just when I thought they had found something, they tell me to go home and stop annoying the nurses. (Ok, so maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to organize wheelchair races on the cardio wing…)

But then something came to mind about all of this I wanted to share with you. The Lord has been working in me the last two or more years to strip me of all of my reliance on myself. He has been calling me to follow him and trust him in radical ways. Whereas I used to rely on my own abilities while saying that I trust the Lord, he has now been taking me through fire to burn away all thoughts that I am able to handle things. To let me know I am not in control of anything. To get me to the place where I realize I am of no use to him whatsoever. All he wants from me is to trust him in all things, and to receive his vulgar grace.

So could it be that I am having very real symptoms that drag me down physically just so I can trust him in this part of my life? Could it be that, like the man born blind, this illness is not because of my sins or the sins of my parents, but so that God can be glorified? I know that I so often want to lean on my own understanding. The Holy Spirit brought Proverbs 3:5 to my mind yesterday as I was in the hospital.

Trust the LORD completely, and don’t depend on your own knowledge (ERV).

So, how do I release my need to know before I believe? Maybe you will say it’s not that hard. But for me, it is and has been for so long. I will admit, it’s getting a little easier, but I’m not there yet.

In other news, I want to thank all of those who have sent in contributions for a replacement computer for me. The one I have been using to keep this site going is on its way out. Last rites have been said. It is slower than slow, it freezes up constantly, and it won’t even let me use some programs I rely on. If you would like to contribute to the pot so I can get a computer that is not about to die, please use the PayPal button on the right hand side of this page. And thank you, each of you, once again.

Comments

  1. I was just reviewing last Saturday’s ramblings (I was in and out all weekend) and had totally missed you were in the hospital again. I was just about to drop you a note when this post popped up.

    Prayers to you and a speedy recovery – actually it would have been better if they found something, did you push them to check those arteries in your neck? I don’t believe you are out of the woods yet my friend.

    It may be time for you to go on a Chaplain Mike retreat….just make sure you appoint a backup to deal with your computer woes…

    Regards,

    Radagast

  2. Oh, Jeff, so sorry to hear that you’re still suffering, and continuing to offer prayers for you. And such a typical man – ‘I felt bad but I struggled through eight hours of work before heading to the hospital’.

    Don’t do that!

    On the one hand, it’s good that there aren’t any arterial blockages. On the other hand, mystery illnesses what no-one can pin down are not great.

    Stupid recommendation: make sure you’re getting enough magnesium and calcium in your diet, even if you have to take a supplement. I’m not saying you have an electrolyte imbalance, but if this is some kind of nerve impulse thingy, then making sure your vitamin and mineral levels are up is important. At least it can’t hurt, and even if you only get a placebo effect from taking them, it’ll help with anxiety.

    Ss. Cosmas and Damian, inspire Jeff’s doctors and medical caretakers with knowledge of what is happening!

  3. Jeff, the link from our bodies to our souls and brains is stronger than many people realize. I’m sure our own Denise could also share stories of those who live against all odss, or die from a “broken heart” in perfect phyisical health.

    See where the Lord is leading you on this, but keep in mind that just because the nice doctors couldn’t take a picture of what your prob

    • —grrrr! Cranky computer or sleepy typing?

      to continue…..

      ….just because the nice doctors couldn’t take a picture of what your problem is does NOT mean that it does not exist. Some things can hide, or are intermittent, so….don’t ignore the symptoms if they come back, ok??

      Good luck on finding a computer who doesn’t make you crazy [crazier??? 🙂 ]

    • Jeff, absolute ditto to what Pattie said. My wife and I are grieving the loss of a close friend last week, who died of a stroke. Because of her recent family situation, it is very likely that she died of a broken heart. The mind/bod/soul are indeed connected, and I think the Hebrew concept of body/soul (nephesh) getting resurrected together bears that out. Take extra care of yourself. We’re praying for you.

  4. Jeff-

    I want you to recover and getl well. But please don’t pull a John Piper on us, where there is a spiritual explanation for everything. Even pain and suffering. Life is just hard at times.

    • Jeff ~ I agree with Eagle. Sometimes we suffer just because we are human in a fallen world. Please advocate for yourself with your physicians and insist on more testing.

    • Jeff-

      Life is hard and difficult. Take care of yourself. Step back from things if need be, and enjoy the company of family and friends. If what floats your boat is watching football…then watch more. If what brings you comfort is watching planes land and take off; then find out a way to enjoy your love. The small things can bring so much pleasure and joy in life.

      But please don’t pull a John Piper on us here where you suddenly have an instant answer for every ailment, and “oh by the way I Monastery…this is why God is doing this…) Go to Desiring God and look up John Piper’s testimony and his reflection on his battle with prostate cancer. But only do this if you want to lose your appetite or if you want to lose weight. Because it is sick and twisted.

      There are some things you, I, and others will NEVER know why they happen. The old adage..”stuff happens” holds a lot of theological truth.

      • +1

        Is that what happened to Piper? Trials can break us in more ways than one. Once we are convinced that God is the cause, Satan wins. We are then effectively cut off from hope. Life becomes dark and cynical. Empathy is blocked, because our pain becomes replayed in everyone else’s. Piper blames the Japan earthquake on them, because he feels at blame for his own trial (i.e. if I was only better, God wouldn’t be doing this). Brennan Manning talks about this, how our harshness is the result of seeing God as harsh to us. Grace starts at home.

  5. Jeff, I can appreciate what you are saying, but it seems to be that if you flunked the stress test, SOMETHING physical is going on. If that doctor can’t figure it out, I hope he is referring you to someone who is even more of a specialist in heart matters. Don’t give up trying to resolve this medically and please don’t let the doctors give up.

    I am SO GLAD you are still here!

  6. Jeff, prayers for your health and well being …

    Mark 6:8 relates to your post today and may offer you a clue or two!

  7. “Take heart”, Jeff. Yes, you are onto something, spiritually speaking. And yes, in your brokenness, keep pursuing things medically until there is resolution or until you have peace in your body and soul.

  8. Jeff: Being a staff chaplain in the Heart Hospital in our health care system and having a personal history of heart surgery and problems, I could certainly picture the tests and all you were desribing. You certainly have a wierd sense of humor that will serve you well as things go on! I always, almost always agree with Eagle’s comments here, but I gotta say, keep seeing this in the spiritual perspective you are. You can see God drawing you into His grace without getting all Piperesque about everything.

  9. Stuck in moderation again…

  10. I was just reviewing last Saturday’s ramblings (I was in and out all weekend) and had totally missed you were in the hospital again. I was just about to drop you a note when this post popped up.

    Prayers to you and a speedy recovery – actually it would have been better if they found something, did you push them to check those arteries in your neck? I don’t believe you are out of the woods yet my friend.

    It may be time for you to go on a Chaplain Mike retreat….just make sure you appoint a backup to deal with your computer woes…

  11. I am posting part of my last comments in hopes it makes it past moderation…. If that doesn’t work I’ll change my name and see if that helps…

    … Prayers to you and a speedy recovery – actually it would have been better if they found something, did you push them to check those arteries in your neck? I don’t believe you are out of the woods yet my friend…

  12. Okay, something to cheer you up (I hope). Seeing as how in the other comment thread we’ve settled it that Prohibition was the fault of the Irish for coming over and turning America drunk, here’s more about the Irish and drink.

    From the court reports in the “Evening Echo”:

    A man told a judge he loved him after being fined and not imprisoned for being intoxicated at Midleton District Court. Michael Austin, 29, of 41 St. Joseph’s Terrace, Rockingham, Passage West, pleaded guilty to being intoxicated at Casement Square, Cobh on August 15th 2009 and at East Beach, Cobh on August 18th 2009. The defendant addressed Judge Olann Kelleher personally, saying he “didn’t want to hit rock bottom. My brother is in Cork Prison. Maybe you could send me there and I could go and look after him. He’s younger than me,” he added. Judge Kelleher told him he would not send him to prison but that he needed to address his addiction problems. He fined him €50 on each charge. Austin replied: “I need a good kick up the backside. I love you, judge. Is that all? Thanks, man. I’d like to come back and see you some time. I applaud you.”

  13. I don’t mean to play arm-chair physician, but did they bother checking for arhythmia?

  14. My husband had the opposite experience. Felt pretty good, played soccer with the kids, in good physical shape, just 40.. Due to a series of events (in retrospect deemed divine!), he ended up getting a heart cath to ‘just make sure and appease the insurance co’.

    The next day he had quentuple bypass surgery.

    He had been completely blocked on one side and 80% on the other. After looking at his resutls the surgeon acted surprised he walked in on his own, and shocked to learn he played soccer a couple of nights before with our teenager.

    Sorry you don’t know what is causing your problems – I know that has to weigh on you. My nephew has had a thrid diagnosis of Leukemia and we are all asking the same question ‘God, I trust you and am trying, really I am, but could you show me exactly HOW to do that, please, cause I’m clueless’

  15. So could it be that I am having very real symptoms that drag me down physically just so I can trust him in this part of my life? Could it be that, like the man born blind, this illness is not because of my sins or the sins of my parents, but so that God can be glorified? I know that I so often want to lean on my own understanding…

    Well then, that includes all of us, doesn’t it???

    We all ‘lean’ on our own understanding as we stumble thru the oft times imponderable challenges we face. In each instance we will respond with our ability to adjust, or compensate, or simply switch to X-treme self-preservation mode…

    Our physical component of our earthly existence subject to decay. Period. Neither God nor the devil has to do anything more to ‘add’ to that reality. The process of aging, along with the incredible stress of any kind caused by severe trauma, will effectively expose our frail mortality. Would be nice if God let us in on the ‘why-and-the-wherefore’ of life’s negative ‘lessons’ as we try to come to grips with their very real unpleasantness. But we are left with that part of the equation unaddressed…

    In moments of health, joy, contentment, supply, goodness, etc., we do trust God. We love Him. We know it is temporal & fleeting. And yes, when we experience the threat to any one of these niceties, we really, really ‘trust’ God. Or at least that is when the emotional intensity of that awareness is heightened…

    The craziness of life happens to all of us in different proportion within the specific circumstances we face. Is there going to be wisdom/insight derived from each of these events? Absolutely. Is God the cause? As if He were the One bringing about the event because we just don’t get it? I don’t believe so. Heck, Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And nowhere did He mention asking for wisdom or being thankful when the Father smites us with debilitating illness/events in the Lord’s Prayer (or the Our Father). In that prayer the last petition really seals the theological issue for me: “Deliver me from all manner of evil. The evil one without, and the evil within (sin, sickness, selfishness)…

    Doing the theological gymnastics trying to sort out the, “Thy will be done on earth as it is
    heaven” portion only leads to a John Piper contortion of the nature & motivation of God. It results in painting a grotesque caricature of the God we do love & want to trust with our very existence…

    “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~Jesus

    I don’t know what that means ‘fully’ since I must wrestle with my own issues of post-divorce whiplash & continuing unemployment. It sure doesn’t feel like I am experiencing the abundant quality of life Jesus alludes to in that verse. But I am sure He is not adding to the pile as if the current state of our human brokenness insufficient to get our attention…

    • ***additonal thoughts***

      Jeff: in essence, we have all been born blind…

      and this theological consideration can foster many rabbit trails with its deeper implications…

      especially that of it not being because of the sins of the parents or even our own…

      okay, off to do grocery shopping…

      blessings…

  16. This is a little bit of a long shot, but have the doctors checked you thyroid levels?

    What you are describing certainly sounds like heart problems. However, if you had Grave’s Disease or another form of hyper-thyroidism, and if your thyroid levels were very high, your whole metabolism would be off. That has all kinds of weird effects on your body and mood. It might be something to check and rule out.

    Just before I discovered I had Grave’s, I tried to find my resting pulse for a physical education course, and discovered to by puzzlement that my resting heart rate was 120 beats per minute. Needless to say, when you’re constantly “revved up” like that bizarre things can happen.

    (BTW, it’s not scary to check for this problem because it is VERY treatable. You just have to know what the problem is!)

  17. Please continue seeking help if you have pain. What you are experiencing is not normal and the fact that it is repetitive and consistent is shouting out for diagnosis.

    Have you had your back/spine/neck checked. Sometimes pain in those areas can be referred to other more general areas, making it hard to trace where exactly the pain is originating.

    My mother-in-law suffered with weakness and extreme pain in her right arm for months and months. Everything came back “normal” initially. EVentually they diagnosed her with a pinched nerve near her neck/shoulder area.

    I repeat, this is not normal. Keep pestering doctors and the ER until you get a diagnosis.

  18. Praying for you. A bit of rest( ala CM) is not a solution but it sure could help. If that required some extra finances, perhaps we could all chip in to get you a little retreat of your own. It’s not my place to say but I thought I would throw out the idea.

  19. Prayers, Jeff. As one who also suffers heart problems: keep pestering the doctors until they figure it out or send you to someone who can. Your body is trying to tell you something.

  20. My prayers are with you, Jeff. I’ve had cardiac issues almost my whole life. Had open heart surger at age 30, plus a lot more. Keep bugging the docs until they figure out what it is, because it is something, and most likely something treatable. Modern medicine is almost always incredibly good once they have an accurate diagnosis to work with. Go to a major medical center if you have to. Not all docs are equally skilled.

    As for the spiritual meaning, I’ve become very skeptical of the idea that God sends suffering our way intentionally as some kind of character/spiritual building exercise, even though that’s a common teaching. But I believe strongly that God is with each of us as we face the suffering the effects of living in a fallen, broken, rotten, diseased world, and whenever God is with us we are the better for it in some way. And we are certainly strengthened when our brothers and sisters in Christ are praying us, as yours are now. Be of good cheer, anddon’t delay in pursuing an accurate diagnosis!