Two years after Barbara’s fall down the stairs, we went on vacation in late September. Barbara first went to a women’s conference while I took a business trip to a city on the coast.
After my business was completed, I drove to the conference site and picked up Barbara before heading down to the Mediterranean Sea. This was our favorite time to be at the beach; it was not too hot, the beaches were empty and the water was warm.
We were both pretty tired and looked forward to a quiet time at the beach: reading, swimming, walking and resting. And we did have a very relaxing, refreshing time.
However, when we arrived back home, I was just as tired as before I went, and I was having those chest pains again. As the days passed, the pains got worse.
A friend’s father had just had two stents put into his heart so he recommended his cardiologist to me. I got an appointment for the next evening. By that time my chest pain was strong enough so that I was constantly bending over, pressing my left arm against my chest. The doctor, however, didn’t seem too concerned about my pain. He just looked over the test results I’d brought him, and said he wanted to repeat the tests in a lab in his building.
His lack of concern for the pain I was experiencing and his merely ordering more of the same tests to be done by his neighbor’s lab didn’t sound too professional to me. I took the prescription for the tests and left.
When I got home, I gave my test reports back to Barbara to file away, but before doing so she glanced through them.
“Did you realize that in the report from the cardiologist in the US that he listed your occupation as ‘gospel worker?’” she asked.
“No!” I said. Hmmm, that was not good. Gospel workers are viewed as enemies here. I didn’t know this doctor’s religious views, but it would be easy for him to let me die under the knife if he were conservative in beliefs.
This was not an unfounded thought. We’d had a friend who was left to die by a doctor, but because she was a nurse, she knew what was happening and got help. So it was not all that far-fetched to consider the idea of being “done in” by a doctor.
The next day I went to the little hospital in our neighborhood where Barbara had received such good care after her fall, and had the tests done there. I’d also once before visited the cardiologist there and had really liked him.
While I was waiting to have my blood drawn, the cardiologist’s nurse saw me and asked what was up. I told her about my pain. She patted me on the arm and said in her motherly way, “When you pick up the results to these tests, you bring them right over to Dr. Real and let him look at them.”
So that afternoon after picking up the results, I went to see Dr. Real. I just knocked on his door and he took me in. He read the test results and immediately sent me with his nurse to do a stress test.
He looked carefully at the printout from that test, then called me over. “Look here,” he pointed to the EKG results, “see how this dips below the line? That can indicate a blockage. And your irregular pulse also points to that. There’s only one way to find out for sure what’s happening in your heart and that’s by doing an angiogram, taking a direct look inside. I can do one later this afternoon if you’d like.”
That’s one thing I really like about the medical system in in this counry. If you are a private patient, you can get things done right away rather waiting weeks for an appointment.
“Well, my son is getting engaged tonight, and I don’t want to miss that. How about if we do it tomorrow?”
“Ok, here’s the address of the hospital. Be there at 2 pm tomorrow.”
Barbara and I walked to “Hope Hospital,” a privately run institution and arrived at the appointed time. The admitting doctor was aghast that we’d walked there in my condition, since it was a steep uphill walk all the way.
I was taken to a room for “prep”, which included shaving my leg where they would make incision in an artery before inserting a wire to run up into my heart. There would be dye released directly into the heart, which would be watched on a continual x-ray to see if it indicated any blockage.
I was a bit apprehensive because when my father had had one of his angiograms, his heart had stopped and it took a number of tries before the doctor could restart it. However, my confidence was in the Lord here, and I could lay aside my doubts. I also knew that Dr. Real was very competent and not very religious.
When I was wheeled into the operating room, Dr. Real greeted me warmly. He worked swiftly, finishing the procedure in a few minutes and I didn’t feel a thing.
When it was over he said, “Well, Mr. Stephen, I have bad news. The most important artery in your heart is clogged 95%. You could have a heart attack at any time, and it would be fatal.
“In addition, the blockage is right at a fork to another important artery. We can’t put in a stent because it might block the flow of blood to the secondary artery and that, too, could cause a heart attack.”
“So, what does that mean?” I asked.
“It means that you need open heart surgery for a double bypass. And you need it soon.”
“So when can you do it?”
“I don’t do open heart surgery, but it is done here in this hospital and they can do it tomorrow, if you are willing.”
That certainly put the pressure on for a decision. “OK, let me talk to my wife and we’ll make a decision,” I said.
The orderly wheeled me back to my room where Barbara was waiting and I gave her the news. While we were discussing options, two surgeons came in to talk with us about the possible operation. They were reassuring and answered all our questions, including, “How much will it cost?”
“What do you think it will cost?” asked one doctor.
“I would guess about 20,000 Turkish lira,” I said.
“That’s close. It will be about 25,000,” he said. “That is about $17,000.”
Well, I certainly was in no position to bargain about cost, lying there with my leg bandaged up and a big sandbag putting pressure on the incision.
Besides, I knew that this was a great price. In America such an operation would cost much more than that. A friend had recently had two stents put in spending only one night in the hospital and it had cost $45,000!
The next morning I was prepped further, including shaving off my beard so the oxygen mask would fit firmly around my mouth during the operation.
A group of friends came to “see me off,” and I gave them the victory sign as I was wheeled into the operating room.
I thought, “This is really a great win/win situation. If I die, I go to be with the Lord; if I live, I get to stay with my wife!” I felt perfectly at peace, not a trace of fear, and was thankful that the Lord had strengthened my faith to the point that I could face possible death without a twinge.
Picture: resting with a bad heart and friendly cat