Last week I was hospitalized and underwent two coronary angioplasties. On day one I received a balloon angioplasty and two stents in a coronary artery that had three blockages; one 99 percent, one 90 percent and one 75 percent. On day two the same procedure was applied to a second artery that had a 75 percent blockage. Lesser blockages remain, but these were not deemed bad enough to do anything about.
Modern medicine is indeed miraculous when wisely used… as a tool to address the physical representations of the greater unseen reality. Before the angioplasties I could feel myself headed inexorably toward a heart attack; now I am almost pain free and feeling stronger every day.
The truth is my heart was being slowly deprived of nourishment (blood and oxygen) for years. As I meditated on this fact after the procedures, it became clear that this condition was a physical manifestation of the fact that I had not been feeding my heart well enough in my daily life. I was too often unresponsive to its calls. My fears were obscuring its voice, so its voice became a scream, and this scream eventually forced me to act, possibly saving my physical life.
Two days after I got out of the hospital, an event occurred which illustrates the point I am trying to make. As I was sitting at a table in a coffee shop near my house, an African American man who appeared to be around 55 years old sat down a few tables away from me. Our eyes met and we nodded. He was carrying two styrofoam containers. Being too familiar with the type of food found in these containers, I assumed that it was fried or fatty.
Suddenly I got the impression to joke with this man I didn’t know about my recent cardiac “adventures”, and to mention the dangers of eating fatty foods. In response, my mind went into “protection” mode (“you’re crazy, you’re going to offend this man, you’ll make an ass of yourself, you don’t even know the guy”, etc, etc). Something inside me, however, pushed me to override my mind’s habitual “safeguards” and I blurted out, “Gotta watch those fatty foods…I just had three stents put in my arteries”.
The man turned his head and stared. For a second I thought the habitual “protector” was right. Then he began asking me a series of questions…about my age, my physical condition, the nature of the procedures I had done,” etc.
Suddenly he began to tell me his story. He was a truck driver and he had suffered a heart attack at age 48. His truck was parked at a stoplight and a nurse who pulled up next to him observed him going into cardiac arrest. He was rushed to a trauma center and fortunately his heart did not suffer any significant damage.
Then this man whom moments earlier I was hesitant to address looked at me and said, “I think you’re an angel”. I laughed out loud. He said “my father was a pastor and he taught me that everything happens for a reason. I think maybe God sent you to have this conversation with me”.
We laughed together about this theological possibility. I asked him how he was doing since his heart attack. He said that, with the pressures of work, his diet had deteriorated badly. (He gestured to two large slices of pizza in the styrofoam containers on the table in front of him). I asked him if still gets chest pains and, somewhat sheepishly, he replied, “occasionally”. When we parted he kept thanking me over and over and saying “God bless you”. I felt like I had just made a life long friend. Then I realized the residual soreness I had felt since the procedures had evaporated during our 20 minute conversation.
These days I take many more such “risks” and they have been working out just fine.
So I am going to take another one, and suggest that you take the time each day to listen to your heart… and to refrain from short circuiting it when it calls.
If you think this sounds like an advertising jingle I wont be offended. Something still beating inside me wants you to get this message.