Pacemaker Surgery Update: Pain in My Flesh and Joy in the Lord

Though it's an icky thought to have an electronic device (pacemaker) in my chest and two electrical wires (leads) in two chambers of my heart (right atrium and ventricle), I'm grateful to the LORD for providing this medical intervention that's making my heart beat as often as it should and gradually elevate as necessary, with activity.

I have a six week recovery that includes not being able to raise my left arm above my head, bear down on it, extend it back, etc. so as not to pull the leads out of my heart, which would require another surgery to put them back in. And for the first two weeks, I can't drive or do much of anything but rest, and possibly, some very light activity. Six weeks gives the tissue in my heart enough time to surround the leads and hold them in place. I never realized how many things I have to do that causes me to have to put my arms above my head (wash and brush my hair, getting dressed, reaching for a drinking glass, etc.), bear down on it (opening prescription meds, closing food lids) and extending it backward (to scratch an itch, to wash, get dressed, etc). This has caused severe pain in my right shoulder and arm due to overuse. So, I'll have to get this figured out too...perhaps...I just need to rest more.

Pain in the Flesh

I misread my care instructions and began some "normal" daily activity the day I got home from the hospital (e.g., unload the dishwasher, try to write this update). It turns out, I was supposed to pretty much do nothing but rest the first three days, and possibly have some very light activity for the next two weeks. Due to being overly zealous after my surgery, the past few days have been rough. I've had severe heaviness in my chest (where my sternum and heart are) so that it's difficult and very painful to catch a full breath. I've also had extreme pain in my shoulders, neck and upper back; so much so, I needed to take a pain med (Tramadol). I don't like pain meds due to the constipation and other side effects it causes. But thankfully, my Father God has brought me through many excruciating trials throughout my life that though my body has a low pain tolerance, I have a high pain threshold. This gift from the Lord made it possible for me to only have to take one pain med the first day home and I've been able to manage these other days with Tylenol here and there. God always knows what's ahead and provides us with what we need...when we need it.

In a couple of weeks I'll have my first post-op visit with my Cardiac Electrophysiologist (CE) and the rep from St. Jude's Medical (where my pacemaker is from) to make sure the personal settings they made for my pacemaker are working well for me, and to review the readings from my pacemaker to decide if, in conjunction with my pacemaker, I'll need heart meds to control my episodes of SVTs (supraventricular tachycardia), PACs (premature atrial contractions) and PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) caused by my heart arrhythmia: sick sinus syndrome. Both my Cardiologist and CE diagnosed me with sick sinus syndrome from the readings of my 14-day heart monitor. From this report, they discovered that I was having more bouts of bradycardia than the other arrhythmias (which was causing my lightheadedness, dizziness and near fainting spells). The pacemaker only controls my bradycardia, so my prayer is that the LORD isn't allowing enough of those other arrhythmias to occur so that medication is not needed to control them. But again, I am the Lord's handmaiden, let all things be done to me as He pleases. I know that whatever God wills is better than whatever I will.

Joy in the Lord

In the hopes that I might daily use and not waste the spiritual gifts God has given me, one of my constant prayers is Romans 1:11-12, "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." because I never know when I'll be with a fellow believer. One of the unique joys of being a child of the Most High God is the blessing of unpretentious, altruistic and beautiful fellowship with other saints in Christ Jesus, everywhere I go (1 Pet 1:22).

I had my hospital tract bag filled with books, DVDs, CDs and tracts so that I would be ready to exhort saints to press on and share the Gospel with the lost.

Right from the beginning, I was able to encourage and be encouraged by the faith of my phlebotomist and nurse who did the pre-surgery prep work for me. They shared personal details and concerns about their lives and the Lord allowed me to share His Word with them as only He knew they needed at that moment (Eph 4:29, another one of my constant prayers). My precious nurse had been a missionary in Tanzania for six years and has only been back in the U.S. for the past year. We discussed much about how every Christian is called to be a missionary—to share the Gospel, no matter where God puts us, in Tanzania, here in our country, as a nurse or as a patient. I gave her "God Has a Wonderful Plan For Your Life" (by Ray Comfort) to encourage her. We exchanged contact info and we're already planning on our next fellowship together! She told me she's enjoying the book and Ray's message regarding evangelism. It's such an incredible blessing to know that in Christ, I have the riches of His kingdom that I may freely and generously share with others.

Neither where we live for a time nor what position God grants us for a time, should be wasted. All that we are, wherever we are and whatever we do, we ought to do for God's pleasure and glory alone; for this is our strength and joy—our joy in the Lord (1 Jn 5:3)!

My Father God also blessed me with the joy of meeting a brother in Christ, my anesthesiologist. We shared how we're mutually inspired to share the the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and how we both love and appreciate all the witnessing tools and resources Ray makes available through his ministry, Living Waters Publications. He told me how encouraged he's been by our brother Ray's ministry and asked me to relay a message of great thanks to Ray for his faithfulness and love for Christ and all those He came to save. So my Romans 1:11-12 prayer extended all the way to California and I was glad for it!

My anesthesiologist and I chatted about our mutual love and faith in Christ all the way up to the point of him putting me to sleep. As I began to fall asleep, I prayed that the Lord would help me (as He's done before) to share the Gospel, whether or not I'm fully conscience. Because I'm never completely lucid while in the recovery room, I can't recall all that I said and did, but I do recall asking those around me (I don't know how many were there because my eyes were still closed, but I heard multiple voices), "Do you know Jesus Christ?" There were varied responses and I don't remember if I got to share the entire Gospel, but I do recall saying, "You must repent and believe...there's nothing more important than your eternal salvation." I also remember repeating that multiple times and I'm not sure if I was talking to the same person/people. But I was grateful that the LORD granted me my request and I pray that the seed He gave me to sow was on the soft and tendered hearts that He's prepared to receive and believe the Gospel.

"This message [the Gospel] is not supposed to make us tame and comfortable. Christ crucified and raised for our justification is intended to unleash us, embolden us, and put us to work. Christianity is much more about serious adventure than sentimentalized safety. It is much more about faith in suffering than ease in prosperity. It is much more about death—death to sin and self—than it is about personal affirmation and precious moments."
-Dr. Owen Strachan, Tabletalk Magazine, August 2015 issue

Sadly today, we have too many "Christian Picnickers" and too few "Christian Runners". Our lives are but a mist and none of us are guaranteed our next breath. Just because I'm so obviously ill doesn't mean I will die before you will. No one takes one breath more or one breath less than God has ordained before the foundation of the world (Ps 139:16). And we ought not take that truth lightly or forget it altogether. Rather, we ought to embrace all that God has spoken to us through His Word and make the most of every moment we have for the glory and pleasure of our Savior, instead of indulging ourselves with personal affirmations and self-centered desires and fears.

My prayer is that God uses everything...everything that He's given me: my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, my time, my money, my talents, my spiritual gifts, my social media platforms, my writings, my errands, my broken body, and every conversation, to be something that's beautiful in His sight (Mk 14:6). And I pray this for everyone who claims Christ as their Savior; that we would all hunger and thirst for righteousness, and like our Father God, that our hearts would be filled with compassion for the lost. Don't waste another breath. Don't waste another vacation, errand, telemarketing call, etc. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and generously give others what you profess you're grateful for—Christ, given to you by God, as a propitiation for your sins, so that you may have eternal life in His Son.