After my open heart surgery, I woke up in the recovery room. My mouth was painfully dry, and there was a big tube in it. When the orderly noticed that I was awake, he came over and removed the tube, which evidently went right down into my windpipe, forcing oxygen into my lungs.
When they had cut through my sternum and then pulled my rib cage open to access my heart for surgery, I was unable to breathe on my own, so a machine had taken over. Now with my sternum wired back together, I was able to breath again without assistance.
The orderly lifted me up a bit and said, “Cough!” I tried to but a searing pain shot through my chest.
“I need some water!” I said. He brought me a little cup which I drank very slowly, then another one, after which the orderly left the room. Suddenly I realized I was going to throw up all over my incision!
I looked to the side of the bed where there was a large trash can; there I saw what looked like an empty plastic ice cream container. I could just reach it, and got it up to my mouth in time for all the water I’d drunk to come back out!
That was just like the Lord to have that container right there so I wouldn’t throw up all over my new stitches! Another gracious God sighting.
The care in the hospital was excellent and after three days they sent me home. I assumed that among the medicines I was given to take home, they had included a painkiller. But I was wrong. My pain grew worse and worse and finally, Barbara called the surgeon.
“Oh, you’d like some painkiller?” She asked, “Well, just go down to the pharmacy and get some of this…”
That little conversation brought out two other things I like about the medical process in Turkey. You can just call up and talk directly with your doctor and you can buy whatever medicine they tell you to from the pharmacy without any prescription! Barbara went out and got me the pain medicine.
I had to sleep in the living room on the foldout couch because our bed was too low for me to get up from easily. With my chest still healing, I couldn’t raise myself to a normal sitting position, so Josh tied a rope around the arm of the couch by my feet; holding this rope in my hands, I could pull myself up without help. it was effective but a little strange looking; one of my friends chuckled as he asked if I were trying to use my couch as a horse wagon.
One night I was awakened by the couch shaking from side to side. It was actually my chest pain caused by this motion that woke me up. I was disoriented and looked around to see who was shaking me, but quickly realized that it was a mild earthquake. We have them from time to time in Ankara. After it subsided I was able to sleep again.
A few days later I was again jarred out of sleep, this time by my heart beating rapidly and erratically. I turned on the light and looked at my watch; it was 11 pm. And it was nine days after my open-heart surgery. I took some medicine to try to stop the pounding, but it had no effect.
I prayed for the Lord to do something, but my heart just kept thrashing around in my chest. The Lord gave me the determination to get myself to the hospital, so about 1:30 am I got up and went to the bedroom to tell Barbara that I was going. She helped me to get dressed, called a taxi and with her help I made my way up the two flights of stairs to street level.
Although it was only the end of October, we were surprised to find it snowing heavily. Barbara went out to the road to see if the taxi was coming. I took a few steps towards the road and suddenly inexplicably found myself sitting in several inches of wet snow. I’d blacked out and sat down without realizing it!
I praised God that I hadn’t fallen forward or to the side where I would have hit my head on railings or the wall. I was able to pull myself up by holding onto the “burglar bars” of the window next to the walkway, and staggered out to the road just as the taxi arrived.
This snowstorm was so early and unexpected that the taxis did not yet have snow tires on, so it was a slippery ride down the hill. To get to the hospital faster, I had the driver turn down a one way street the wrong way as a shortcut. We met a police car coming from the other direction, but since it was now 2 am, they didn’t bother to stop us.
Barbara called Josh, who lived near the hospital, and he met me there. The doctor on duty immediately got me into a bed and began administering medication to slow down and stabilize my heartbeat. As it began to take effect, I began to sob.
“I don’t know why I’m crying,” I gasped to the doctor, “Everything is going fine!”
“Don’t worry, your emotional state is just a side effect of your heart racing!” he assured me.
It took several hours to get my heart stabilized before they transferred me to a room in the post-op recovery area. When I woke up later I wondered why my bed was so damp, and then realized I was still wearing the clothes that were wet from my falling in the snow!
The doctors kept me in the hospital for three days to make sure my heart was fully stabilized. During this time I was able to talk and pray with a number of other patients, some of whom were about to have open-heart surgery; others were having complications in their recovery. The Lord often has multiple reasons for allowing unexpected things to happen in our lives, placing us into situations to serve Him.
The rest of my recovery went well and within a few weeks I was able to take an active role again in church planting and team leadership.