I’ve been blessed with good health, through nature and nurture, but I recently experienced a medical emergency that I could never have imagined.
While driving to Adoration recently, my vision blurred. I was able to turn my car around and safely drive home and my husband Al drove me to Riverside Hospital emergency room.
I felt pretty good, siting up talking normally, but my heart rate kept falling dangerously low. After five hours of testing in the ER, my body proved to be healthy, but they found what appeared to be a failure in the electrical system of my heart.
That was quite a surprise to someone who was not ill, exercises daily and teaches others to exercise as well. I’m considered relatively young to be a cardiac patient (in my 50s), I didn’t have much medical history to speak of, and this was my first time in the ER, so this was truly a humbling experience!
There I was with concerned nurses, doctors and family members hovering all around me. When they attached the paddle pads as a precaution, I knew I had to take this seriously.
So I prayed. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life, I prayed as Jesus calls us to pray … without ceasing. I prayed to the Holy Trinity, my guardian angel and asked for the intercession of Our Lady and the saints, especially two of my favorites, St. Padre Pio and St. Therese of Lisieux. I also felt an urgent need to pray for my family and friends, every hospital worker and patient, and the Holy Souls in Purgatory … who are closer to heaven than we are.
Much like an athlete who trains for a physical event, I felt this was it — time to run the race, to lean on God, my faith, and my loving family and friends for strength and to give every ounce of my will to prayer. Years of receiving the Sacraments, praying and serving — all the things we do as active Catholics — must mean something in the drama of our daily lives …. and for me, this was it.
So the first night in the hospital, I had a long conversation with God. I told him that if this is my time, I’ll go, but I didn’t feel ready. I still need to grow in holiness (as he knows) and there are some milestones I’d like to be here for to share with my husband, children, extended family and friends. But your will be done Lord!. Give me courage. Give my family strength. I received the Anointing of the Sick; it was time to, “Put on the Armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:11)
It’s always about both prayer and action. The doctors educated me about putting in a pacemaker to regulate my heart rate. It seemed like a reasonable solution. I had to be obedient and prayerful and let the doctors and nurses do what they are trained to do. Praise God for the gifts he bestows on us so we can serve others! I was keenly aware of my great need for others and I continued to pray for them.
The day after I returned home from the hospital, I read this beautiful reflection from Pope Benedict XVI that sums up our need for others in illness.
“It is nonetheless true that illness is typically a human condition in which we feel strongly that we are not self-sufficient, but need others. In this regard we might say paradoxically, that illness can be a salutary moment in which to experience the attention of others and to pay attention to others!”
My condition of dependence led to a beautiful crack in my faulty heart to feel a new and urgent need for God and for others. I tried to stay in the present moment—I believe this helped me stay upbeat and hopeful and freed me from the evil ones’ snares of worry, fear and ‘what ifs.’
I received a pacemaker and my heart is now operating at full speed. I feel amazing and I’m amazingly grateful for my faith and family and basically everything in this life. No exercise for a while, but I’ll return to it slowly, honoring my body and continuing to be grateful to God and to the people he has placed in my life.
God is teaching me through this experience. He is the great physician, and his ways are not our ways. I remain in awe of his glorious love for us and I pray that my heart remains open to whatever He has in store for me next.