For about three months, I had known that I was experiencing something new that I had never experienced before. On the job I have been working at in carpentry (working inside the shop and in outside construction), we handle a fairly hard workload most of the time. We do a lot of remodeling work, but often, before we are able to get to that point, we have to tear out old areas first. That can require a lot of heavy work when it comes to some of the older homes here that we work on from time to time, so this often involves tearing down sections of a house and then rebuilding them. We have also been involved in tearing off old siding and putting on new, as well as re-shingling (roofing) some buildings.
There is a lot of variety in other projects that we get involved in as well, such as cutting down some fairly good-sized trees and then taking them to a sawmill where we cut the logs into usable lumber. Much of that is with some higher quality wood such as black walnut, cherry, Kentucky coffee bean, and some others that are a little more common. Some of that work requires a lot more exertion.
Over the past few months, there have been times when I felt a kind of burning sensation in my upper chest when I’ve been working more strenuously, but I thought it may have something to do with allergies and that it may also be some kind of asthma type of condition. Since I really have never experienced asthma, I thought that possibly things from this area of the country could be affecting me differently from where we live. Whenever I felt this burning, I would simply tell the others what was happening and that I needed to rest a little bit until it would go away, which would generally last only a few minutes.
Since I did have a heart attack ten years ago, I also wanted to rule out the possibility of it having to do with my heart, so I stopped by the medical unit here at the prison to talk to them about it. It was my intent to go to them whenever this burning was occurring and have them check me out. We agreed that when this happened that this would be the best time to do so, as otherwise, nothing would probably show up. But we generally worked too far away from the medical unit and by the time I would get there, the burning would be over.
However, on the 28th of May, we were working on some things right here in the units where we live, which was only about 100 feet away from the medical offices. After exerting myself quite a bit physically by removing metal attachments to some walls with the use of crowbars, I began to have a burning sensation, but this time it got a lot worse and I knew what it was because it was the same as what I had experienced nearly ten years earlier with my first heart attack. This time, however, it was much worse and many times more painful. They took me into the medical office right away and began giving me some nitro tablets under my tongue. I think they gave me four tablets over the course of a half hour from the initial attack to when the ambulance finally came. Once I got to the hospital, the pain of the attack became far greater. They didn’t waste much time and gave me a couple of tests where they determined that I had some blocked arteries. They continued to give me some nitro when the pain became so intense and reoccurring so rapidly. It was the only thing that seemed to lessen the pain I was experiencing.
The last thing I remember was when they were getting ready to transfer me from the portable bed to the operating table. However, after I woke up in the intensive care unit of the hospital, several nurses and some doctors who came around began to fill me in on what had taken place. One of the first that I talked to was a cardiac nurse who asked me what I remembered and if I remembered what I had said when, at one point, I sat up and spoke to them. I explained that the last thing I remembered was when they were getting ready to transfer me from the portable bed to the operating table, but I did not actually remember them doing the actual transfer.
This nurse informed me that on the operating table (but at what specific point, I am not sure) I sat up and said that I was going to die. Then I laid down and immediately flatlined (my heart stopped). They told me that at that point they announced over the hospital system a “code blue,” which was to notify all those who had anything to do with giving me defibrillation (electric shock therapy to start the heart) to get to their station and do so. They gave me the jolt I needed to get my heart going again. I have no idea how much time passed, but I think I understood them to say it took a couple of times to do this to get my heart started again. I’m not sure I have explained all this in a correct manner medically, but in my understanding, this is the best that I can relay what I was told.
They inserted a stent in order to open up one of the main arteries which they told me is referred to as the “widow maker,” since there are not many who survive such an attack. That primary artery was 100 percent blocked. They also said I have two other arteries that need to be opened. One is 100 percent blocked and the other is 85 percent blocked. They did not try to open those two at that time because of the stress that my body and heart had just experienced. They want me to have a little more time in order for me to regain strength before opening those two arteries. Hopefully, it doesn’t take a long time to get this taken care of, but knowing what I do, it might be a long time, or not at all while I’m here.
Nevertheless, God gave me the strength and ability to do some pretty hard work for quite a while, even with three highly blocked arteries. It rather dumbfounds me that I was able to work to the degree that I was.
Yet in all this, as everyone should strongly know, my life is fully in God’s hands, just as with everyone who has been called, begotten, and is then yielding to God’s purpose in their life. This has happened to me as a part of God’s purpose in what He intends to accomplish and produce through it, as well as it occurring precisely in His timing of those things He is working out. There has already been some incredible good that has come out of this, which will be revealed more fully at a later time. Although it was a pretty rough and difficult thing to experience (as my pain tolerance is not high, and this was extremely painful), it is truly nothing compared to the good that it has already produced. We should all keep that in mind and realize that in those things we experience of hardships, trials, and pain, that often others can be helped and/or strengthened by our experience. Then of course, we too can learn personally and become more fully perfected through such things we may go through in life, and especially in how we go through them.
It is a very true and inspiring thing that Paul wrote when he basically stated in Romans that when our lives are in God’s hands, everything will work together for that which is good. That includes the trials, hardships and pain we experience in this human life. That “good” may be, and often is, to the benefit of others, and often it is to our benefit for what it can mold and fashion in our being – in our thinking and in our mind.
After the heart attack, on that following Monday, I was released to return to this prison camp. This Thursday, it will be two weeks since the heart attack and I am doing quite well at this point in my recovery. On occasion, I get a little light-headed and must rest when that occurs. I’ve had one occasion where I broke out in a sweat and felt that my heart was acting up somewhat, but by the time someone in the medical unit hooked me up for an EKG it had stopped and probably lasted only about twenty minutes total. I’m walking short distances each day and getting a lot of rest as I recover. There is a great work ahead and I know I will be fully ready when that time comes. Our lives are in God’s great care, and regardless of what might happen to any of us, even if it is death, the Church of God continues on and our future is still in God’s great care and timing.
For so many of you who have done so (those whom we know of and those whom we do not), thank you for your concern, love, and prayers that you have shown toward me and my family.