A Nightmare of a Blessing (Old Post from 2009)

The day started out normally, posting on others’ Facebook pages, going to church, stopping by Piggly Wiggly after church for groceries, blah, blah, blah.
And then we arrived home to hear the chirp of my cell phone on the ottoman in the family room. It was my sister. When I answered she was crying hysterically, “Something’s wrong with Dad! The ambulance is here! They’re doing CPR!”
Even though my dad is 72 years old now and I knew a day would possibly come when I would receive such a phone call, I wasn’t ready to receive one today.  As I listened to her sobbing into the phone, instantly I fell apart. I wasn’t ready to let go of my dad. Not now. Not yet.
I heard the ambulance blaring in the background, and suddenly I didn’t even remember how to use my own phone. “We’ll be right there, okay? Okay? We’re coming! Chantel? Okay?”
I hit what must have been the speaker phone because things got louder before suddenly she was gone.
Chuck was saying, “What? What’s wrong? WHAT??!!”I could barely talk but finally got out the words, “My DAD!!!!!! Something’s wrong with my dad!!! We gotta go. We have to go NOW!!!”
We pulled out of the driveway while I was frantically trying to dial our pastor’s number for prayer. Then Chuck did almost a U-turn and said, “We have to put away the groceries!!!” So we put everything in the fridge that needed to be kept cold and left everything else in bags on the table.

Chelsea and Cameron were eating lunch at McDonald’s, so Chuck called to tell them we were leaving and that something was wrong with Grandpa. Chelsea and Cameron immediately wanted to come up, too, but Chuck told them to stay put for now. The kids were upset and knew even less than we did. Finally as other people started showing up at the hospital, Chelsea called again and asked if they could come up. After I gave them brief directions on how to get to the hospital and after Cameron cancelled his basketball plans for later, they were on their way.

The hospital staff decided to airlift Dad to Centerpoint where his cardiologist was so I called Chelsea back and told her to have Cameron turn around and go back home. The helicopter was supposed to be there in seventeen minutes and then we would pick them up on our way to Independence. It took longer than we thought it would, though, and it was probably closer to half an hour or forty-five minutes by the time we were able to leave.

As we were walking down the halls of Ray County Memorial, out to the parking lot, Pastor Jeremy called and said he was already at Centerpoint. He was there to meet us when we arrived and already knew where Dad’s room was so he walked us up.

Dad looked awful, but slightly better than he had at Ray County where he had vomited a few times. They had him hooked up to a heart monitor and he was having severe chest pains still. He said he was very hot, and the nurse said he would try to get Dad a fan. We didn’t have a power of attorney paper with us (actually we had none at all–even though it was stated in Dad’s will). The nurse tried to get Dad to sign consent forms, but my brother had put Dad’s glasses in one of Dad’s shoes and Geoff hadn’t even made it to the hospital, yet. The nurse took off his reading glasses and put them on Dad, but Dad was having more and more trouble and, by this time, couldn’t even hold a pen in his hand. The doctor told us Dad appeared to be having another heart attack and they were going to have to wheel him out so they could correct the problem.

All the way to the hospital and then in the hall as I watched the erratic lines of the heart monitor I didn’t know how to pray. I just kept pleading over and over, “Please, God. Please, God. Please, God, take care of my dad. Please, God, I’m not ready to let him go. Please, God.”

I know my dad is a believer. I know my dad will be in heaven when he dies. But I guess I’m selfish. I would miss all my heart-to-heart talks with my dad, and I’m not ready to see them end. If something happens to my dad, what would I do? What? And then I started thinking of all the people he prays for, and I started wondering who would stand in the gap for all those family members. Could I pray as faithfully as my Dad does everyday? Would I get all his prayer list covered? In addition to my own? He couldn’t die, yet. Lots of people still need his prayers.

Today was a nightmare, really and truly, but, in hind sight, I can see God’s hand all the way through it. Today was, in fact, a blessing:

#1 If Chantel and Danny’s bathroom hadn’t been under renovation, they would not have been staying with my dad, and he would have been alone when this happened. There had been no warning. No words were even spoken. He started breathing heavily, his lips turned blue, his bottom teeth fell out, and his eyes got red. When she saw that Dad was unresponsive, Chantel yelled at Danny, “Something’s wrong with Dad!” Danny called 911 and began CPR. Chantel took her two little boys outside to flag down the ambulance and to call the rest of us. (The ambulance was there in under five minutes.)

#2 Danny has had, I think, nine CPR classes because of his position with the last company for which he worked. Had anyone else BUT Danny been there, Dad probably would not have survived. In fact, one of the paramedics said Danny’s actions may have saved his life.

#3 The heart attack happened at exactly the right moment. Chantel and Danny had been talking about heading home to work on the bathroom for fifteen minutes or so when Dad’s breathing became labored. In fact, Chantel was looking at her shoes and thinking of putting them on so they could leave. If Dad had had his heart attack ten minutes later, Chantel and Danny may have already been on their way home.

#4 I called our church before we even pulled out of the driveway, and not everyone was gone,yet. The ones who were still there began praying immediately.

#5 One of the paramedics on the ambulance with Dad (who said he also served as a chaplain for the firefighters) came by to pray with us shortly after we arrived at Ray County. He had a T-shirt on that said “Evangelists for Sports” or something like that. He recognized Chuck and Chuck recognized him, but neither knew from where.

One of the paramedics was actually one of my brother’s best friends in high school, and he didn’t even realize it was Dad until he saw our senior pictures all lined up on Dad’s living room wall. Dad went into full cardiac arrest. They had to use the defibrillators. Karl said it was the only case he had ever been on when they had to use the paddles that they were able to bring the person back.

We were shaken for quite a while today. When we arrived at Ray County, Chantel and I held each other for a long time and just sobbed together. A little later she told us that she had dreamed last night that Dad had a heart attack.

As I had sobbed and prayed in the car on the way to Ray County Memorial, Chuck had turned to me and said, “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.” And it was. I was sure my dad would be gone by the time we got there, but God preserved him. Even now, I almost can’t believe he’s still alive.

And as much as I have prayed that my sister and brother-in-law would start taking their little boys to church, today I am truly thankful that they were not in church, but instead they were at Dad’s. I will always be grateful to God for all Danny did for Dad today. I’m thankful for his skill and for his cool head. When my sister (and my dad!!) needed him, he was there, and he did what none of the rest of us would have been able to do.

Dad had two stents put in today (did I already say that?), and he may have to have more surgery. But I’m even thankful for this heart attack–because if it hadn’t happened, and if the disease in his heart had gone unchecked for longer, his first heart attack may have killed him. There may have been no coming back.

Thank You, God, for my dad. Thank You for preserving him, for guiding the doctors, for the chaplain who came in to pray for my dad and to check on his status, for Pastor Jeremy coming to the hospital to pray with us, for all our church family who prayed, for Aunt Belle’s prayers and Uncle Bob and Aunt Wanda’s prayers, for the rest of our family who prayed, for Danny and all he did. Thank you for keeping us all safe on the highway today as we drove to the hospital in our emotional state. Thank You for loving us and for hearing us when we pray. Even when we don’t know how. Thank you, God, for letting me keep my dad for a little while longer.