I am glad to be alive.
When I got up Sunday morning, the valley still lay in shadow, but the rising sun lit the hills across the lake with soft rose. Three small cottonballs of cloud drifted below a vast blue dome of sky.
But there were times, a week ago, when I wondered if I would see such things again.
My favoured circuit at the Sovereign Lake cross-country ski area runs about 20 km. The first five km are a steep climb. I take some pride in ascending without stopping.
Last Tuesday, about halfway up, I realized my shortness of breath was not normal. I had a pain deep in my chest. But I told myself I’d be fine once I reached the top.
I wasn’t. I knew I had to go down again. A passing stranger, who turned out to be a surgeon at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, offered to accompany me.
When I was short of breath, even going downhill, he decided I needed to go to the emergency department. Now, not later. He drove me to the hospital himself.
At that point, the system took over. Medical personnel took blood samples, checked blood pressure, gave me oxygen, pills, injections…. I felt like a pin cushion. But the tests confirmed that I had indeed had a heart attack.
The next morning, I was transferred from Vernon to Kelowna for an angiogram, to see if, and where, my heart had suffered from restricted blood flow.
Two arteries were almost closed off.
Six months ago, I would have had to be sent to Vancouver or Victoria for treatment. But Kelowna recently expanded its cardiac services. So the surgeon slid a catheter into my wrist and up to my heart. He installed three stents – tiny cylindrical wire cages – to keep the narrowed arteries open.
I was discharged the next morning.
As I said, I am glad to be alive.
I experienced no miracles, no great white lights, no “everlasting arms.” Just the arms of some very caring and competent humans.
I’m enormously grateful to the Canadian medicare system. It may have faults, with long wait times for non-life-threatening treatments. But in less than 48 hours, I received rescue, diagnosis, and recovery. Without it costing me one cent out of pocket. No negotiations with tight-fisted insurance companies. No piles of paperwork. No receipts to reclaim…
Several people have suggested that Someone was watching over me. I’m tempted to make that claim myself. Perhaps everyone yearns for that mother/father figure who makes sure no harm befalls us.
But then I start wondering. Why wasn’t Someone watching over Tiffany and Josie, over Lorraine and Carolynn? Or over John and Richard, Peter and Jack? Why weren’t they saved from that car crash, that aneurysm, that illness? Why did they die in agony, and I get favoured?
I’m not sure I want to worship a capricious Someone who watches over one person, but turns a blind eye to others.
Perhaps the real test of faith is to continue believing that there’s Someone to watch over me, even when things don’t turn out the way I might want.
Jim Taylor welcomes comments. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org