I think I've mentioned that my next big event was to be a part of a relay team for the Half Ironman here in town. A friend of ours is an avid biker and approached me at a Christmas party about being on a team together. He assured me he didn't care about time and so I happily agreed. All we needed was a swimmer.
A few months ago I got a call from my dad. "I have this wild hair," said the man who has jumped out of airplanes in recent days, "that I might do the swimming leg for your half team." I have to admit I was a bit stunned. I wasn't sure it was the greatest idea. It doesn't sound like much but 1.2 miles is a long swim.
Once my teammate agreed and I wrapped my mind around the idea, I got really excited about not only participating in the world's largest Half Ironman, but doing it on a team with my dad. How cool is that?
As training ensued, I had lots of chats with him about his swimming. He was having some trouble. I told him to give it some time. After all, even though my dad is in great shape, it has been a long time since he swam. He continued but it was hard. About two weeks ago he told me I may need to find a new teammate. "You'll be fine," I assured him.
That same week he stopped by and mentioned in passing that he got out of the pool shaking and went to see his doctor, who detected some extra beats of his heart and hurried him off to the cardiologist for some tests. Still, I told him he'd be alright. He's never been really sick; surely his heart would be fine because of his exercise and diet.
Those tests led to a stress test which led to a heart cath. As the snowball got rolling I found myself wondering what if something was really wrong. What would my life be like without my dad? Funny, I don't remember ever having that thought. My dad lives less than a mile from me, jumps out of airplanes, works out almost daily and is still the one I call when Nelson is not around. It didn't take me long to realize that I did not like that picture...not at all. I decided right then and there not to entertain that thought again. The sadness was overwhelming.
My brother called to tell me the news. The cath showed that dad had two coronary arteries with 100% blockage. There was also partial blockage in three other places. The doctor said it was a miracle he was still alive. It's people like him who are fine and then they drop dead doing something like mowing the lawn. The blockages have been in his heart for a very long time, maybe twenty years or so. The bigger miracle was that because of his health and exercise choices over the last few years, there has been no permanent damage to the heart itself. His heart developed extra veins to feed itself. His exercise, in the words of the cardiologist, has saved his life. Furthermore, if he hadn't pushed himself through this swim training, which stressed the heart more than usual, we would have never known anything was wrong.
Bypass surgery was scheduled for this Wednesday and then they sent him home from the hospital because the recommended surgeon was unavailable. They didn't see him as an immediate risk since he had lived with his heart like this for so long. The plan is to do five grafts.
My poor mother, as you can imagine, is a nervous wreck. Being a nurse, she knows full well all that can go wrong and has let us know in no uncertain terms that anything to do with the heart is a very big deal. She's been sent home with a time bomb and has been given the task of making my dad take it easy...which, believe me, is no small task. I don't envy her job and if I were her, I'm pretty sure I would react in the same manner.
My brother from Kansas City is on his way here as I type. We're hosting a cookout tomorrow to spend some family time together before the big surgery and hospitalization that will follow. Then we'll all be at the hospital Wednesday to be there for our parents the way they have been there for us all of our lives.
I find myself unusually unworried about all of this. I understand fully (at least as fully as a nonmedical mind is capable of) what's going on but I'm not worked up about it. Funny how faith can do that for you.
Instead of worry, I am amazed at how God has kept my dad safe all of these years. I marvel at His plan sending the Holy Spirit to nudge my dad into the whole swimming thing. I am grateful for his family doctor who listened carefully enough to catch the irregularity, the cardiologist who did the same as well as the doctor who did the heart cath. I am confident in the surgeon because all of the doctors dealing with my dad have used this same surgeon on their family members. I am also clinging to the his promise that he was adding time on to dad’s life...not a few years, but ten to twenty years.
Now don't get me wrong, if God has something other than my dad's quick recovery and perfect health in mind, I may not be singing this same song. I will be mad (no offense God, I'm just sayin'). But, even if that happens, I still have faith enough to know that God's plan is better than mine, not that I always agree with it. I know that God loves my dad even more than I do and that He can take much better care of him than I can.
Open heart surgery was not what any of us had hoped for, but it is what it is. Truth be told, I think that once my dad recovers, he is going to be unstoppable. If he could do all that he did with a heart as weak as his, imagine what he'll be able to do with one that's working at full capacity. My dad, after all, is the real Superman.
So the Half Ironman may not be in the cards this year but next year - next year, we are going to have one heck of a race. I'm going to be able to say that I was on a team with a man who is a walking (or rather swimming) miracle and it's going to be glorious!