Many of my friends have been praying for me over the last since a I had a significant health scare. Earlier this week, I went for my one-year check-up and thought I would share the results here. So, here’s the recap:
One year ago, my family and I were leaving worship services when I had a medical emergency. As Angie and I walked across the parking lot, I lost the ability to speak. I knew what I wanted to say but my mouth would simply not cooperate. The paramedics were called and we feared I had suffered a stroke. Slowly my speech returned but I had another incident in the ambulance as we pulled up to the hospital. The medical personnel immediately had a CT scan performed to discover if it was a stroke. The good news is that there was no hemorrhaging in my brain.
But they did not know what was occurring. After several more tests, it was discovered that I had a dissected carotid artery. Essentially, my left carotid artery spontaneous collapsed which cut off blood supply to my brain temporarily and caused a blood clot to form. Good times! The attending physician in the hospital told me, and I quote: “You really dodged a bullet.” The incident very well should have caused a great deal more trauma to my brain or ended my life.
I came under the care of a vascular neurologist — not the type of doctor you ever want to have regular meetings with if you can help it. He decided that the best course of treatment was a regimen of blood thinner medicine, which most of us know as Coumadin. Though receiving a stint in my artery was a possibility, the doctor wanted to wait for a significant amount of time before doing any surgical intervention. So, I was ordered to go home, take at least three weeks off from work, and recover.
At the six month mark, I went back for a follow-up CT scan with the doctor believing it would show my carotid artery back to normal, I would stop taking the blood thinner medicine, and we would say good-bye. It did not happen. Instead, we discovered that my carotid was healing but not completely back to normal. Additionally, the test revealed that my vertebral artery had also dissected in the intervening months. Had I not been on the blood thinner meds, it would have caused a stroke. Wow.
So, here we are at the one-year mark since the initial incident. This week, I went for what I hoped to be my last CT scan on my neck and brain. The good news: the left carotid artery is completely back to normal. The not-as-good news: the vertebral artery is showing signs of improvement but is not back to normal. Because the vertebral artery is a significantly smaller vessel than the carotid, surgeons do not want to attempt inserting a stint. Instead, I will continue the regimen of blood thinner medication for another six months and we’ll do another CT scan. The doctor thinks that my arteries are simply healing slower than would be normal and anticipates the vertebral will be back to normal at that point.
So… what have I learned?
- Be nice to people on blood thinner medication. It is a necessary but awful drug. I’m glad that it has kept me going but hate how lethargic it can make me feel.
- Facing physical weakness is a reminder of our spiritual condition. I’ve always enjoyed my prayer life. The last year has given me an increased appreciation for my need of Christ and His work in my life.
- A man could not ask for a better wife than I have in Angie. She is an amazing person. It may be cliche’-ish but I do love her more now than ever.
- God protects our children in a myriad of ways. In all of this, Andrew and Chris have never wavered in their faith. I am grateful that the presence of the Spirit in their lives have protected them from any bitterness about dad being sick, the “why did this happen to you?” statements, or frustrations in their lives. Great boys!
- The people at LifeWay are incredibly gracious. During all of this, I finished my doctoral degree, coauthored a book, finished editing the essays for a study Bible, and changed jobs in the company. All along the way, my coworkers have stepped in to help however it has been necessary. I am thankful to work with such good-hearted friends.
- Friends. What do you say? It is amazing to have people present in your life when uncertainty arises. Ed Stetzer was flying into town that day and came straight to the hospital rather than going home first. I’ve received emails, phone calls, Facebook posts, and Twitter messages from all around the world. A multitude of people have rallied around Angie, the boys, and me throughout this crazy year. Be grateful for your friends.
- The church is a beautiful body of people. It was my friend and pastor Matt Surber who called 911 for us. He stayed with my family while I was undergoing tests. Our friends the Lewis family took care of our boys that afternoon while we waited for family to arrive from out of town to stay with them. Our church family prayed diligently for us then and continues to do so today. Not a Sunday goes by that someone does not stop me to ask how I’m doing. The church truly is a wonderful community of grace.
Let there be no confusion… if I could change the past and this could not have happened, it would be my preference. However, it did happen. Sickness arrived at my door and God has made my life better because of it. So, I choose to learn from it, celebrate those who have ministered to me in it, and show gratitude to my God who preserves my body and redeems my soul.