Although I’m in good health and active with physical and mental exercise, the past year has brought me a new awareness of slowing. For the past year, I, with my doctors, have struggled to understand certain “spells” I experienced. Standing in front of my Sunday school class in July 2016, ready to begin teaching, I felt like passing out. The sensation lasted only a few seconds. Then, in November, I sat at my computer, switching from email to Facebook and back, to wish Friends a Happy Birthday. Three times in a row, however, I blacked out, unable to remember where I was in the process. My wife drove me to the ER where the staff checked me out for signs of big problems: heart attack, brain, lungs, etc. Nothing, so they kept me overnight for observation. Again, nothing showed up, so they discharged me. But for the next month I wore a heart monitor.
It showed nothing, either. So my primary care physician referred me for a series of medical tests: echocardiogram, MRI, MRA (arteries), sonogram of my carotid arteries, and an EEG with a neurologist to rule out a seizure disorder. I had a new overnight sleep study, which indicated I needed a new, stronger C-Pap machine. Although any one of those tests could have shown an abnormality, to account for my spells, except for the sleep test, all results showed normal. Yet, because of these continuing spells (one morning I had 11, including one in my doctor’s office!), I couldn’t drive. My wife willingly drove me to my responsibilities, especially weekly counseling others at Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton, OR, along with keeping up her duties. She needed to keep me (and others) safe.
On June 1, 2017, I met with a cardiologist. The cardiologist diagnosed my spells as “pre-syncope.” Because of the danger of driving with my condition, I resigned myself to never driving again. The doctor had other patients who had to give up driving. He asked if I would wear a heart monitor again. Although a minor inconvenience, I agreed. Finally, to my relief, I had some of my “spells,” feeling I would faint, pass out. A few days later, he called. “Your heart is stopping up to five seconds,” he said. “I’m scheduling you for a pacemaker next week.” So, finally, after multiple medical tests, we found the answer.
On June 28, I had an amazing device installed under the skin of the front of my left shoulder. Two separate leads go from there into the right atrium and the right ventricle. The system is monitored by “Merlin” which sits by my bedside, enabling my cardiologist to download data on my heart function at any time, so I need see him only once a year for a check-up.
“How Do You Feel?”
“How do you feel?” people ask me. “No different,” I say. The pacemaker, as you may know, functions only when the heart stops, then, when the heart is going smoothly, it stops. That saves battery life. An average battery lasts 5-6 years, although the St. Jude Medical technician (maker of the device) told me the next morning after my post-op overnight hospital stay that, with my heart function that night, the battery could last 12 years. The cardiologist has also diagnosed me with atrial fibirullation (a-fib), where the heart chamber flutters rather than pumps. That means danger of a clot, which can lead to stroke.
I’m driving again, writing, speaking, and preaching. A happy ending?
The Opening Shot
“In your 70’s,” my 80+ year-old cousin wisely told me, “little things go wrong. In your 80’s, big things do.” He knew. A lot of “little things” were ruled out, yet what I call ‘the opening shot of old age’ just fired across my bow. I’m back to functioning normally, teaching, preaching, and giving workshops on recovery from tragedy, sharing my book Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours. I hope to continue at least several more years sharing what God has given me. But I’m wiser to the ways of nature now, having just received a shot across my bow.
What stage of the life-cycle are you in? How have you experienced signs of old age? What will you do with the knowledge that your life is declining?
[Source: Picture: SpiritualCleansing.org]