My Father's Journey...So Far.
Many of you have requested that I compile all of my Facebook posts regarding my Dad's situation. These are updates that I try to post daily for those who are praying for him and our family during this time. As I have read them tonight, through tears, I have relived the moments of the past 2.5 weeks. Oddly enough, even though the days and dates are cloudy in my mind, the moments stand out with great clarity. God has been so good.
Below are those posts, along with some of the links to songs that I posted as well. It is the beginning of my Dad's journey through a health problem that should have ended his life on October 14, 2016. It's now October 31st, and, by the grace of an awesome God, I can still write about a father who is alive and recovering.
The story will continue, and I, in turn, will continue to compile posts and share them here as time goes on. Please continue to keep my father, mother, and me in your prayers, and it is my personal prayer that you find God in the words and circumstances that you are about to read. God has been so conspicuous throughout this whole situation, and I stand in awe of His perfect love and provision.
October 14, 2016:
My dad on life support in the Cardiac Care Unit of Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta, GA.
October 14th, 6:51 PM
(Posted by Jeremy Taylor on my behalf)
From Keith Beatty: They are taking his dad to Piedmont Hospital now for open heart surgery to be performed tonight. He has an 80% blockage and they determined that he needs immediate surgery. Keith passes along his appreciation for your prayers and a request for those to continue.
October 14th, 8:30 PM
An update on my dad…
For those of you who don't know, my dad went to sleep last night not feeling well, and to spare you the whole story, we're now at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta waiting for them to arrive with him for open heart surgery later tonight. He underwent the beginnings of a heart catheterization procedure a few hours ago at Spaulding Regional, and it was immediately determined that he needed to be transferred to Piedmont for emergency open heart surgery to remove an 80% blockage.
He has yet to arrive at Piedmont, but the surgery is scheduled for tonight. Please keep my dad in your prayers this evening, as well as my mom and myself. I appreciate the many calls and texts of concern, and your continued prayers are appreciated.
October 15th, 2:48 AM
Update on Dad…
Dad remains in critical but stable condition in the CCU at Piedmont. The emergency surgery they sent him here for has been postponed due to his current condition. There will possibly be about 3 days of evaluation while his body tries to recover a little. He has severe cardiac damage, and his heart is certainly not functioning well without assistance. There's good news, though...due to the condition, he had a lot of CO2 build up in his system which is being cleared out now, and he is requiring less help from the ventilator. Please continue to pray for him. He is far from recovering, and the road ahead will be long.
The doctors and staff are wonderful, compassionate people, and it's comforting to know that my dad is in the very capable hands of such caring medical professionals.
But now, let me get to the best news…
This is my father, and he and my mother are my entire world...I love them far beyond the ability of words to express, but as much as I love them, God loves them so much more. Rest assured that whatever the outcome may be, he is in the very palm of the hand of a Sovereign, eternally loving God who is working His will through this situation. My heart is comforted to know that nothing can separate my earthly father from the love of his Heavenly Father.
Again, please continue to keep us all in your prayers, and know that, although I may not respond quickly, every text, every voicemail, and every email is read and appreciated. Thank you for the outpouring of love and concern for my precious father. I love you all.
October 16th, 3:56 AM
Update on dad…
Trust is a peculiar thing, because it is often so dependent on the fragility of our mood involving the second by second status of our current circumstance. But we need to realize that our current circumstance has already been visited by our incredible God. His sovereignty has already absorbed the moment of our need long before that moment ever arrived. God's already been there. He has an intimate knowledge of even the smallest details, details that we will never even recognize exist, and He's working in them and through them to knit together the perfection of His will. I chose to trust in God...not just when things are good, but specifically when things are lacking the shiny luster of certainty that I desire...because it is in those moments that the character of my trust is defined, and the real worth of my faith is up for evaluation before the eyes of an infinitely knowledgeable God who knows the true condition of my heart.
This morning at 3:56 AM, the top and bottom sections of my dads heart finally began to talk to each other. Currently, they are arguing a little, but they're speaking. He is still on the pacemaker, but his heart is driving the rhythm.
After 36 hours of sleepless concern, God performed a miracle...literally right before my eyes, and not a small miracle, because miracles don't come prepackaged in the size of "small." It's a small step in the right direction for his health, but a monumental miracle performed by the hand of an awesome God who definitively knows what He's doing.
Come what may, whether my perception of the situation is good or bad, I choose to trust in God.
October 16th, 11:30 AM
Little update on dad…
I've just had my first conversation with my father in 3 days....he's off the ventilator and responding like a champ!
October 17th, 2:52 PM
Let me stop for a moment today and give everyone my dad's current situation. Before I do that, I want you to know how grateful I am for the literally hundreds of texts and phone calls, and I'm sorry that I don't answer most of them. I read every text and listen to every voicemail...and they make tough days much easier. So, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Hopefully Facebook updates will catch a large number of you up on the current situation....which right now is very encouraging.
First, dad was on a ventilator until yesterday. He was on a vent because the incredible cardiac doctors at Piedmont hospital thought that would be the best solution to allow his heart and body to rest. His heart is damaged, and the damage is pretty severe in places, and he has some bad blockages as well. So, he was allowed to rest and recover on the ventilator.
Early Sunday morning, at 3:56 AM to be exact, his heart began to drive the rhythm again and take over for the pacemaker. I personally witnessed God perform this miracle in real time, right before my eyes, and I am in awe of what I observed. Around five hours later, they brought him out of sedation and performed a breathing test (shutting the vent off and observing his unassisted breathing for 30 mins), which he passed with flying colors, and they took him off of the vent. I cannot express to you the size of the miracle that I feel took place here, nor can I relay in words the great relief to me personally to finally be able to hear my father speak again.
As he recovered from the effects of the sedation, my same wonderful father emerged out of the haze with a heart that is severely damaged, but a heart that is beating on its own. Later that day, we started rehydrating his mouth and throat with glycerin swabs, then ice chips, then small drinks of water...and all of that ended with him eating almost half of a grilled chicken breast and mashed potatoes (lol) when he said he wasn't hungry. So, yesterday was a day of miracles and victories. Yesterday, God gave me my dad back. He's not whole, but he's here!
So where are we today? As wonderful as yesterday was, the challenges ahead are much more extreme. Again, he still has a very unhealthy heart that is not getting adequate blood flow. Although his heart is beating on its own, it still requires a pacemaker, and the rhythm on the EKG reflects the hidden damage within. He's a very sick man...but he's a very sick man with a flawlessly capable God who loves him very much and who has surrounded him with the wonderful doctors and staff of Piedmont Hospital.
Ahead is open heart surgery...probably tomorrow or Wednesday. They will concentrate on one area specifically with arterial grafts that they believe will repair a lot of the damage and vascularize the heart again. And, for those of you who know the immensity of my next statement, this should give you a clue as to how God is working...they think they can do the surgery OFF bypass! They are not sure, but they think they can.
Today he's being visited and evaluated by every department head who will participate in the surgery. The thoroughness and depth of care and compassion at Piedmont is unbelievable.
I wish that I had time to relay every nuance of the incredible things that God has done over the past two days, but I just can't do that here. There's plenty more to speak about, but this post is already long enough. If you've made it this far...congratulations, I'm impressed. But if you've made it this far, then please read just a little more…
God places us in bad situations, and He does so on purpose. It's not done to punish or hurt...it's done to refocus, refine and prove. These situations, specifically situations that are completely beyond our control, refocus us on the One who is definitively in control. These situations refine our faith, and they prove His ability. But know this, they don't prove His ability to give us our way...they prove His ability to carry out His perfect will in our life and in the life of those we love.
I know how I personally want this to work out. Trust me, I've had plenty of sleepless hours over the last few days to formulate my own ending to this story. I also hope that God answers all of my prayers in accordance with my own desires...BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT...GOD IS STILL GOOD!
The life of my precious earthly father was created, sustained, and is still in the hands of my Heavenly Father. It is His will that I desire, even above my own, because it is in the perfection of His will where real peace is found.
Speaking to a friend today, I relayed my belief that God allows everything to happen for a purpose, and one of those purposes is to make Jesus known. We must find Him in the middle of every situation, because He is there. So often, we are only looking for God to deliver or heal from a certain situation instead of looking for what He's doing right in the middle of the current set of circumstances. We must find the power of God where He's placed us, and develop a faith that finds Him worthy to be praised even when things are bad.
So, if you're following this situation in my father's life, know that God is working and doing great things. But, most importantly...KNOW GOD!
Regardless of the outcome of this, or any other thing, God loves you, and the situations that you're dealing with are not out of His control. He is a God of love of and compassion, even when He places us in circumstances that rip at the very fabric of our faith. He has never failed...not even once, and the depth of His will can only begin to be understood when we surrender our will to His. That starts by finding Him in the storm. He's not on the horizon...He's in the storm with you. Find Him there.
October 17th, 10:33 PM
As I sit here in CCU watching my dad continue his battle, the fact that I'm helpless to intervene is screaming through my consciousness. There's nothing that I can do to rectify this horrible medical situation. I can bring him no relief; I can do nothing but simply watch.
Let's cling diligently to this fact: In this life, we are not in control. We wrestle God everyday in the losing battle for His sovereignty. When problems arise that are bigger than the scope of our finite abilities, we often run to God, but we may do so with a prearranged list of demands. We often view God as a larger than life granter of wishes, as if He needs to spill His power over into our requests to prove His worth. Or possibly, we bring Him this list because we think He may need us to offer suggestions as to what would be in our best interest...as if He was confused, out of ideas, or didn't know?
I keep thinking about our need to find God in the middle of the storm, and let that be enough. Instead of praying for deliverance, maybe we should just be thankful for the provision of His presence...and that alone. In that, we come to a point of dependence on God within the storm, instead of only seeking Him as a means of escape from the storm. He's not on the perifory of our perceived need looking in....instead, He is in the storm with us, and He's trying desperately to get us to understand that escape or deliverance is not our need...He is our need. Instead of praying for escape, we should just pray for presence...His presence...His embrace.
Child of God, when the storm begins to rage, lift your eyes to Him. Stop trying to chart a course out of the storm using God...instead, chart a course to God in the storm, and be content with His embrace while the storm rages all around you. God's worth does not depend on His ability to bring us safely to dry land, but, instead, to prove that He is our safety even in the very eye of the storm.
There's no refuge like the embrace of God. Quit fighting for control, and just be held.
October 18th, 7:21 PM
Update on dad…
Good evening, everyone. Let me give you guys some information on dad, as well as some things to pray about.
First, God has been good to us today, because my father has had a wonderful day, both personally and medically. His unassisted heart rate is maintaining a rate between 73-83 with almost no artificial pacing...indicating his heart is getting stronger, and the upper and lower sections of the heart are communicating more clearly.
Although he still isn't talking very well due to the effects of being intubated for a few days, he is certainly upbeat and joking with the medical staff. His breathing is great, his kidney function is within tolerable levels, and he even has a small appetite.
They transferred him to the another unit this afternoon in preparation for heart surgery tomorrow. Unfortunately, they will be unable to stint the blockages due to their location, and they are really only going to concentrate on the main blockage which lies at the top of the heart. They will be performing an arterial bypass on this blockage, and it is their hope that this will rectify much of the blood flow problems to his heart. This is certainly not a cure, as his heart still remains damaged and sick, but it is a huge step in providing his heart with an adequate supply of oxygen rich blood...something which it has been denied for a long time. Possibly, at a later date, they may address the other blockages with stints, but that bridge will be crossed later. Tomorrow they will focus all of their energy on the most pressing need.
This will not be a robotic surgery. They will enter through his chest wall. It will be very invasive and prove for a longer recovery time, but his surgeon, which I understand is one of the finest cardiac surgeons in the nation, has chosen this method so he can adequately see the entire procedure, as well as identify any other issues which might be repairable.
We still do not know a time for the surgery, but the general consensus is around 5:00 AM in the morning. The surgery should take about 2.5 hours, pending there are no complications.
Please know that I continue to receive a constant stream of phone calls/voicemails and texts messages from those who are concerned. And, please know that, although I am responding to very few of them, I read and listen to each one...and they certainly help! Please feel free to text and call, but know that you may only hear from me via a Facebook update.
As you pray for my dad, please keep my mother and I in your prayers as well. We have had a very limited amount of sleep since Thursday morning. Honestly, it's just hard to sleep; it's not that we haven't tried. The real work for my father begins in the morning, and the long nights will just get even longer for mom and me. We appreciate your prayers.
I will try to post another update when I have something of relevance to share. Until then, please keep praying for my precious father. This battle is only beginning, but God is forever in control! I love you all!
October 18th, 9:07 PM
He'll probably be very unhappy with this, but I don't care. I haven't slept in over 28 hours, so I have a valid excuse to do anything, and he can't get out of bed....so here it is...my wonderful father...pre-surgery! He's happy, confident, and well aware of who's in control of this situation! Pray for this awesome guy!
October 19th, 1:07 PM
Dad has just returned from surgery, so let me give you a little information that is proof of God's impeccable timing, perfect will, and sovereign authority!…ready?
First, let me tell you that I am still in shock as to what God has just done. My father was taken to surgery this morning with a damaged and blocked heart. Not only did he have over 80% blockage in the main artery that fed his heart, but his ejection fraction (EF), or the "squeeze" of the heart, was around 20%...normal it's 50%... So, his heart was operating on 20% of the blood it needed, and it was pumping at a painfully low EF percentage (less than half of a healthy heart capacity). Either of these two circumstances alone would make for a very difficult life. Combined, they spell catastrophe.
During the surgery, the dissection of the left mammary artery from the chest wall went perfectly, and the connection of that arterial bypass to the heart was flawless...effectively bypassing the 80% blockage and providing his heart with a new and completely unimpeded flow of oxygen rich blood.
When that fresh O2 rich blood began to flow, his heart responded! His EF (squeeze of the heart), which was 20% before the operation, jumped....TO NORMAL! It went all the way up to 50% and it has maintained an EF of 50% ever since. His heart is responding as if there is NO damage...(read that again slowly for some clarity.)
Not only that, his heart rate has increased and strengthened to an unassisted rate in the mid 70's...causing the doctor to envision a scenario where dad may not even have to have a pacemaker.
They are planning to take him off the ventilator around 4:00 PM today, and he may be home by Sunday or Monday.
Listen...dad has had some incredible care since Thursday, and his heart surgeon is one of the best in the country...but these are things that ONLY God can do! With that being said, what more does God have to do to acquire my/our trust? I typed in a recent post that all things, even the bad things, are opportunities to make Jesus known.
So, let me take this opportunity to do just that…
Today, Jesus was the Great Physician, the Healer, the Protector and Provider for one of his children in grave medical distress. Today, Jesus took the broken, traumatized, and damaged heart of an 81 year old man, and through the storm of adversity, that same Jesus handed this man back to his family in BETTER SHAPE than he was BEFORE the storm. Think on that for moment, and see the goodness of God.
Today, God restored my father. Today, as always, God was good. Had God Almighty chosen a different direction for the course of His will in my father's life, then He would still be good!
God is flawlessly forever faithful, and I am awed by His provision of grace and mercy. He has not surrendered His sovereignty, and He is still on the throne!
Thank you all for your prayers, calls, etc... Words don't adequately describe the outpouring of love that has been show to my family.
We are blessed by you! I will continue to update you over the next few days...hopefully between long naps. Please keep us in your prayers!
October 20th, 1:33 PM
Update on Dad…
Today, my Dad is doing great! Last Thursday, his life was was kept in force by mechanical means. Today he is pretty much doing it all (and doing it all really well) on his own, following a very tedious heart surgery. All the while, regardless of his diagnosis, he was in the hands of an awesome God, where he remains to this very day.
He has had, without a doubt, the most incredible care that I have ever seen within the walls of a hospital. The staff of Piedmont Hospitals CCU, ICU, and Cardiac Surgery Department have gone so far above the call that I can never adequately thank them. Dr. David Dean is an angel in scrubs, our PA's, Jason, the "two Jeffs," and Wes are just incredible. Two CCRN nurses, Kara and Joelle...they cared for my father like he was their own dad. I'm simply just without words to describe them or thank them...
And to my Heavenly Father, God...I am certainly without words to describe such and awesome miracle that you have chosen to perform. I'm not talking about the heart surgery; I'm talking about allowing my father to be in my life in the first place. Both of my parents are such a blessing to me, and my inclusion into their world over the past four decades is proof enough that God loves me. Let's just add what God continues to do through this health crisis as a manifestation of God's relentless love and care for me and my family.
God worth, His greatness, His power and ability, and His love are without equal, and to Him and Him alone belongs the praise for what has transpired since last Thursday. I'm awed and humbled by God...today in ways that I've never personally experienced before. He's in the business of restoring lives and sick hearts from the wreckage of sin's affects, and I would just have to say again that God is flawlessly forever faithful.
Dad is still in ICU, but they are planning on moving him soon. They cranked down his sedation and removed the ventilator last night around 10 PM. He's talking, drinking water, and has even had a visit from Craig White today! By the way, in the middle of everything else, let me express my thanks to David Cofield for showing up at Piedmont Hospital on Thursday night of last week, staying overnight in Atlanta, and spending some time with us on Friday as well...and then coming back to sit with us through the surgery yesterday morning. Thank you both for your concern for my family.
The plan going forward is to get him walking, probably later this evening. He's in a lot of pain from the incision in his chest. If you're familiar with open heart surgery at all, then you understand that they must cut ribs, etc... The process of even getting to the heart is complex and incredibly traumatic for the body, and it requires a lot of recovery. It's much harder to overcome than the procedures on the heart will ever be. So, he's in that stage now. He's taking pain medications, but I'm thankful to have a father alive and well enough to feel that pain, because it will pass.
Right now, that's about all I have to share. For those of you who always ask...Mom and I did manage to get some decent sleep last night, for the first time in a couple of days. All three of us thank you so much for your prayers and concern.
God did a miracle in my father's heart yesterday...the second one in his lifetime. He first restored it from sin and made it new, and it now appears that God has restored it from the damage that 81 years of life can deliver, and He's made it new again. His Ejection Fraction (EF) remains high, mimicking the action of a heart without damage...a great miracle indeed when you factor in the information that is was damaged. God is still working in the lives and hearts of the weak and needy...and, for that, and my dad's life, I am forever thankful.
October 22nd, 9:12 PM
Update on Dad….
Hey guys, I'm sorry that I have not posted anything for the last couple of days. The schedule has gotten the best of me, I guess...lol. We have just returned home from another day at the hospital, but the news is still very good.
Dad is off of all means of mechanical and drug related life support. His heart is beating completely on its own, and it's beating like the heart of a much younger man. God has been, and He continues to be, incredible.
Dad was removed from ICU today, and he's in his own private room, and will hopefully be able to rest better over the coming days.
Here's some things to pray for….
1. Dad is extremely congested due to his time on the ventilator. He has to endure a lot of pain to expel that congestion from his system. Coughing is a horrible feeling when you have a chest full of broken ribs and bruising from the incision. We have concern that he gets rid of this congestion soon, or there's an elevated risk of pneumonia.
2. Pray for him to develop an appetite again. His eating has improved, but it is still minimal.
3. Pray for his strength. He laid on his back for 8 solid days, and he's weak. He has stood up and sat in a chair twice over the past two days, and he's even walked 6 steps, but it's hard on him to do either. Pray this improves in the coming days.
4. Please continue to pray for my mom and myself. We're getting more sleep now, but the days are still long. Even with better rest, the last week is catching up with us both.
God has done great things, and He continues to be faithful. We have turned the corner from "acute and critical" to "extended and painful recovery." The hardest parts physically are ahead, and I would be grateful for your continued prayers.
I will try to update a little daily if possible. Thank you all again for the tremendous show of love and compassion to my family. I am so blessed to have friends who care, and a God who is forever in control.
October 23rd, 3:54 PM
Update on dad…
Dad continues to improve everyday. We are all a little more comfortable in a private room on the third floor, with better chairs and a beautiful view of the air conditioners on the roof of the buildings below. Again, he is off of all machines and meds that were critical for life support. He remains on a blood thinner, but that's about it. He had three JP drains, and they removed one today. The others will hopefully be removed over the next few days.
Physical Therapy should begin assessing him tomorrow for either release to a rehab facility or straight home. We're certainly praying that he will be released home, but we also want him to be strong enough to be home...so we're good with whatever. He's walked a little more today; he's a little stronger, and I'm seeing signs that he is a little more stable each time he gets up.
Basically, he's doing really great!
God continues this amazing series of miracles in the restored life of my father.
October 23rd, 7:46 PM
I posted on my blog on this day, and you can read that following the link below...
Blog Post: At the Speed of Life
October 25th, 3:26 PM
Update on my Dad…
Dad has had a pretty good day today. He's almost free of everything, with the exception of one JP drain. Hopefully, that will be removed soon.
Here's something to pray about...his swallowing. Dad has been intubated on two occasions in the past 12 days, once when he was admitted, and a second time for the heart surgery itself. That's an awful lot of trauma to the throat and vocal chords. He has some swelling in his throat, in addition to the typical trauma associated with the procedure. Because of this, his swallowing is very poor. Unfortunately, they found out today that he has been aspirating a lot of fluids, and even some of the food, directly into his lungs. Because of this, they have inserted an NG tube (feeding tube) through his nose to give him the nutrients that he needs to get stronger. This is a minor set back, and it may delay his release, but the larger issues involving his heart are taken care of. Frankly, he has the heart of a much younger man, and that heart, along with his blood pressure, is a reflection of heart restored by an awesome God! He remains very congested, but he's still able to expel some of that congestion periodically. So, we feel good about that.
So many of you have asked about my mom and me. We're doing fine. We are now returning home most nights to try and catch up on a little sleep...although I'm fairly certainly that you never "catch up" with lost sleep. When it's lost...it's just gone…lol.
Mom has held up so well during all of this. She is such a strong lady with incredible faith in God's power. She even functions pretty well without sleep. She's been right by Dad's side the entire time, her warmth, deep love, and endless compassion on full display. What an incredible lady that God has blessed my father and I with.
I'm also doing well and getting a little more sleep. I've even started doing some work that I can accomplish from the hospital, and that's good for my mind.
A decision will be made soon, hopefully today or tomorrow, whether to release dad straight home or to a rehab facility for a few days so he's strong enough to return home. I'm fine with either...I just want him well.
Again, thank you for your payers and concern. Everyday, it seems there is an outpouring of love through visits, phone calls, and text messages. For those, we are thankful beyond words. We're all looking forward to some normality of life sooner than later!
October 26th, 1:45 PM
Update on Dad…
This is day 13. It's hard to believe it's been that long, but it also seems much longer. The one feeling the weight of the days is my father. He's still doing well, but he is simply exhausted. The physical therapist and I just walked him down the hallway, and he did pretty well. A few days ago, he was having trouble with balance, and that seems to be getting better...but any type of activity just wears him out. So, our walk was short, but enjoyable. It's good to see him moving around a little.
The speech therapist will begin working with him soon to help him regain his ability to swallow. Until that improves, he can't eat, nor can he drink anything. He takes going without food really well, but he's suffering a lot where his desire to drink is concerned. He can't leave the hospital until the swallowing problem is resolved, so we're praying for that situation to improve quickly. He also remains on a feeding tube, simply because of the swallowing issue. The good news there is that he is getting great nutrition, and will hopefully become stronger as a result.
The congestion in his lungs also remains an issue, but he's breathing well, and we're praying that he can continue to expel this congestion.
I'm fairly certain that he will be headed to a rehab facility before going home. I would love to see him come straight home, but he needs to be strong enough to be at home, for his sake, and for the sake of my mother who will be his primary caregiver during this recovery.
At this very moment, they are removing the very last JP drain, and that's a wonderful thing.
His heart remains strong and he's not having too much pain from the incision or his healing ribs.
Please continue to keep him in your prayers. This will be a long road to recovery, but he will recover. Pray that the days go by quickly for him. For anyone who has been through an event like this, you know how slowly time goes by in a hospital trying to recuperate. He wants to go home so badly, but he's just not ready yet...although he's headed in the right direction.
Thank you so much for your prayers!
October 27th, 2:47 PM
This is not an update on my dad, but it’s relevant to the situation. This post is referring to a video posted on Facebook by a friend of mine...
A friend of mine posted this yesterday...thank you, Jamie Robinson! This video is far more than beautiful vocals...it's much, much more. The message is profound; don't miss it.
This song is taken from Psalm 84:10, and that passage says:
"Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." – Psalm 84:10 (NIV)
In this life, struggle will come. My family has been through a lot of struggle over the past 14 days. Jamie Robinson has been through more struggle than most of us could even image, yet her faith remains. Through my fathers medical struggles of late, my faith still remains. God is good, regardless of what circumstances He may choose to allow into our life.
When it all seems to be falling apart, it would be far easier to rest our hopes in the ability of great doctors or advanced medicine to heal. God certainly uses doctors and medicine as conduits that carry His supernatural ability to transcend health concerns, but let's be sure to understand that God is our Healer and mighty Physician. Possibly, it would be easier to stop faithful optimism altogether and just let the strength of our faith dissolve into the depths of great despair and depression, and just give up. That would be the path of least resistance. It would be easier, but it would certainly not be better. Through adversity, God has a plan. Seeing that plan clearly requires faith.
Faith can be hard. Know this, child of God, the things of challenge that God brings into our life are not designed to be easy. In fact, I believe that God purposely sends circumstances that are far beyond our control, things that we cannot manipulate, to push us way beyond the reach of the fragile strongholds of strength that we, ourselves, build to fortify our security. It is only then that God can begin to prove His love, His worth, and His ability to provide. The fact is, for many of us, God has to convince us that His plan is worthy of our unwavering faith, regardless of the means that He may choose to use in order to enact that plan in our life. It's not always an easy road, but God knows what is required to make us reevaluate our own perspective of strength and become a little more dependent on Him.
I'm surrounded by so many examples of God's faithfulness. Jamie Robinson and Andrea Rains are two profound examples; they are walking miracles. There are many more, and now my father is among the people that I would classify as walking miracles, proof of the perfection and grand design of a flawlessly faithful God who so often uses tragedy to prove His triumph.
One day surrounded by the presence of Almighty God is better than a thousand elsewhere. When times become tough, it is important to find the presence of Almighty God right where we are. His presence is all around us; it's often the ignorance of our perspective of the circumstance that divides us from the peace and comfort only found from a God who is already holding us in His loving embrace. He never leaves our side, but our recognition of His presence can often become jaded by the very situations that He has allowed to build up and test our developing faith His sovereignty.
Lord, never allow me to be comfortable in the tent of untested faith. Even in sickness, let me constantly abide in Your courts...even if my restless faith only allows me to be the doorkeeper.
October 27th, 9:24 PM
Update on Dad...Day 14
We just got home from the hospital in Atlanta, and I thought I would give you all a little report on my father. Today was a really good day! God continues to be so conspicuous in every circumstance.
First...a few days ago they ran a doppler test on dad's carotid arteries. Test results revealed that his right carotid artery was over 80% blocked. This would mean another surgery soon after his recovery to stint that artery. Yesterday, they took him out of the room for a while to conduct a much more extensive test on his carotid arteries. Today, a very confused vascular surgeon informed us that his arteries are fine...both flowing freely with less than 20% obstruction. He just couldn't understand what was wrong with the first test? One word: God.
Second...two days ago, they placed an NG tube through dad's nose to feed him, because his swallowing was so poor that he was aspirating fluids and food. Today, they took him for a swallow test, and he passed. He is still having a little difficulty with thin liquids, so he is on a thickening diet, but he can eat and drink. Today, they removed the NG tube. One word: God.
Third...yesterday Dad didn't have such a great day. He walked a little, was removed from his room for some testing, etc...and he was just tired. Today, Dad was much more energetic. His color is great, he was joking a little, and his voice is much stronger. One word: God.
Fourth...we have a confirmation from a rehab facility very close to my parents home. Upon his release from the hospital, he will be heading there to get stronger for his eventual return home.
His doctors are simply amazed with his recovery and the strength of his heart. I'm amazed at the wondrous grace and mercy of an awesome God! Again, keep him in your prayers, there's a long road ahead...but he's healing!
October 28th, 4:00 PM
Here's some more good news...dad will be discharged from the hospital today around 6:00 PM, and he will be transported by ambulance to the rehab facility in Forsyth, GA. God continues to be much more than good!
We've been so blessed by the awesome physicians, PA's, nurses, RT's and other staff of Piedmont Hospital. What an incredible place of healing filled with very gifted and compassionate people. God used them greatly over the past 15 days to help heal my father and to comfort us. There are just no words to thank them enough.
October 29th, 7:10 PM
Update on Dad…
Dad is almost through his first full day at the rehab facility. He is doing well, but remains weak. He also started his first day of physical therapy today. He will be given P.T. for his walking and mobility, as well some speech therapy to strengthen his swallowing and help to repair the damage to his vocal chords from the intubation tube.
The rehab facility is about 30 miles south of my parents house...so we should be out of Atlanta for the time being. For that, I am thankful. This will make it much easier to see him.
So, he's out of the hospital, and he's started rehab. Next step...home! We're praying that this will be a short stay in rehab, but I believe it will still be a couple of weeks.
Please keep my family in your prayers. This has been a hard two weeks emotionally and physically, and I'm quite sure it will all catch up with mom and me soon, but we're so pleased and thankful to God for the distance my Dad has traveled thus far. And, I'm so thankful to each of you who pray, call, text, email, and visit. You all are the best, and I love and appreciate each of you.
October 31st, 2:51 PM
Update on Dad…
Today has not been a great day, so far. I'm currently in AL, so I'm not with my Dad today, but my Mom has informed me that he's just not doing well from a standpoint of energy. They took him to do some therapy earlier, and his blood pressure dropped a little. That's probably just a positional BP from learning to roll from side to side on the bed to help himself up. I'm currently waiting to find out some additional information on that situation. He did sit up in a chair for a while before his therapy, and I'm sure that didn't do his energy level any favors.
Just continue to keep him and my mother in your prayers. I came back to AL on Saturday night, and it's my plan to return to Georgia on Thursday, so Mom is doing this alone for the moment. There's not a lot to do except be with Dad, but she's still doing it alone. Today, she sounded tired.
There's nothing about this that could be classified as easy. Life in general is hard, but when you factor in the poor health of a loved one, life takes on a new level of complexity. This rehabilitation period is going to be hard, and I believe it is going to be longer than previously expected. But, my hope is not in his rehabilitation; my hope is in the LORD. He is the Creator of all things, and He owns the rights to life and recovery. He also own the rights to death.
Job said it best…
"...Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 ESV)
We entered this world with nothing...nothing, that is, except the beauty of created life that God has granted. It is through this process of life that God, at His discretion, gives and takes away. God's infallible Word never promises to us comfort and ease, but it does promise us that God will never leave us nor will He forsake us. He's there through every trial, every surgery, every birth, and every death. He's there when we're weak, and He's there when we're strong. And, in every circumstance, He's guarding our heart and life through the process of giving and taking away. And through it all, let the name of the Lord be praised above all other names, for it is by Him and through Him that our very life is authored, and He holds the authority, even to death itself.
A God so sovereign also holds the keys to recovery...His time, His way. Today hasn't been a great day for my father, and more bad days will surely come for him and for us all. But it should be our privilege to understand that, good day or bad, we live and breathe in the shadow of the grace and mercy of an awesome God. Those who trust in the Lord will even die in the shadow of the grace and mercy of God.
For those who are suffering today, know that you are not alone, and you are suffering in the shadow of that same grace and mercy. God has a plan. You are not forgotten, and you are not abandoned. Put your distress behind you and cry out as Job did: "The Lord gives and He takes away...and through it all, blessed be the name of the Lord." It is only in the heartfelt belief of that statement above where the peace of God can begin its work in your situation.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Grace...at the Speed of Life
It’s 5:00 PM on Sunday, October 26, 2016. Last Friday afternoon, severe circumstances redirected the course of my life in a way that I have never experienced before. Everything stopped, and, as minutes turned to hours, and hours into sleepless days and nights, my faith was pushed precariously close to the edge of my reasoning…and then beyond that into something altogether new.
Last Friday, my father experienced a complete heart failure. For a man who has always been impeccably healthy, and, having never been diagnosed with any type of heart issues at all, this was a new and very unexpected development into the life of my family. Friday, around 1:00 PM, it became very clear to us just how unhealthy dad actually was. 911 was called, and he was loaded into the back of an ambulance, only to be defibrillated before even leaving his driveway. He had a rough trip to Spaulding Regional Hospital. The doctors performed a heart catheterization, and it was immediately determined that he needed emergency open heart surgery to open up an 80 percent blockage in the main artery leading into his heart. The initial assessment was that this surgery would have to be performed within hours to save his life. By the grace of God, he was transported directly to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, GA.
Upon his admission to Piedmont Hospital, one of the finest cardiac surgeons in the nation just “happened” to be present to assess my father’s situation. He determined that dad would not make it through an immediate heart surgery, and he opted, instead, to place him on a ventilator, under deep sedation, to allow his body a chance to reset from the cardiac shock it had just experienced. This was accomplished, and he was admitted to the CCU unit. The next two days would hold information that was far less than great.
His heart had experienced some extreme cardiac damage. His Ejection Fraction (the squeeze of the heart muscle) was down to around 18 percent. 50 percent is considered healthy and wonderful; 18 percent isn’t. So, his EF was 18 percent, and it was coupled with the disaster of an unassisted heart rate of around 30 beats per minute. (When he was admitted into Spaulding Regional, his heart rate was around 21 beats per minute.) Medical reports of that severity typically don’t result in happy endings. As I said before, he was also diagnosed with an 80 percent blockage. Further tests at Piedmont revealed that he not only had one 80 percent block, in fact, he had four different 80 percent blockages. All of this information made for some long and sleepless days on the third floor, room 15, of the CCU at Piedmont Hospital.
Above: My father on life support following complete heart failure.
His condition during that two day period did show some slight improvements. Small signs of hope liken themselves to major victories when you experience a loved one in medical distress. You cling to them fiercely, hoping for them to lead to greater and greater improvements. Sometimes they do, and other times they don’t. The fear they won’t hangs over you like a cloud, and those fears inundate your mind in ways few other concerns can touch. They sap your optimism, and they drain the energy from your very soul.
I’m going to skip a tremendous amount of good details and bring you up to 3:56 AM on Sunday morning. I want to share every detail with you, but they are tedious; however, those good tedious details end with his heart beginning to drive the pacemaker early Sunday morning. The miracle here is that it began to drive the pacemaker at a beat of around 60, instead of the lazy and life threatening 30 beats per minute of the previous days. God was working…
On Monday, he had improved enough for the doctors to dial back the sedation that had kept him unconscious, and the ventilator was removed. Finally, after three days, I could communicate with my father again. His vocal chords were damaged, his speech was weak, and at times unintelligible, but he was responding, breathing on his own, talking, and not confused! God continued to work…
Now, let me skip to his surgery. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not even sure what day it was performed, but I believe that it was Wednesday. Frankly, from a standpoint of time and sleep, I’m a little confused about a lot of things at the moment. This week has moved so slowly, but yet, it’s also moved so quickly… I’m not quite sure where the time has gone? Right now, I don't think I even care.
Above: Dad off the ventilator prior to his heart surgery.
His surgery consisted of a single arterial bypass to address the primary blockage directly into the heart. For those of you who are medical junkies, they dissected the left mammary artery from the chest wall and redirected it to bypass the blockage. A successful surgery, in my mind, would have included the completion of this procedure, delivering unobstructed and oxygen rich blood to a severely damaged heart that was pumping at less than half of its capacity. To be clear, this surgery, if successful, would bring about great improvement to dad's current situation, but it was, by no means, a resolution to the critical situation of the damaged heart output in the long run.
Upon the completion of the surgery, we were informed that everything had gone well. The arterial bypass was a success, and dad did great during the surgery. This was awesome news, but, ultimately, God had more in store; He was still working...
During the surgery, when they released the arterial clamp that sent the oxygen rich blood into his damaged heart, a heart which previously had an 18 percent Ejection Fraction (EF) percentage, God did something new! His heart’s EF percentage made a superhuman jump from 18 percent to an astounding 50 percent…and it began beating as if there was no damage! This is definitively something that only God can do!
Dad’s recovery continues to make strides that could only be attributed to the hand of a loving God. Today is Sunday, and my father is free from any mechanical or medicinal life support. Almost all of the drains have been removed from his chest. He’s eating on his own, and he's even walking a little. His heart and blood pressure are almost perfect, and we’re hoping to bring my dad back home soon…possibly on Tuesday. He will either go directly home, or he will go to a temporary rehabilitation facility to help improve his strength and stability. Either way, his journey, up to this point, has been accompanied by miracles from every direction. A few of those miracles have been epic in proportion, leaving his doctors a bit confused. I love to see God defy medical science. God is not bound to a diagnosis, and I find that humorous.
Above: Dad the day following his open heart surgery...and a miracle.
Let me end this post with this thought…
We experience struggles of all kinds in our life. Some struggles are bigger than others, but not one of them is too big or too small for God to personally address. On Thursday of last week, my father, for all practical purposes, should have died. He should have departed this life in a fashion that would have crushed my mother and me. I was almost positive that my long drive to Atlanta would end in a tragedy, and that my last words to my father had already been spoken the night before. Even through my prayers, the situation was daunting. Over a week later, a different assessment can be made of the whole situation, and it’s much different than the horror of my initially low expectations.
It is only God Almighty who can take, into His mighty hand, the weak, sick, and failing heart of an 81 year old man, put it through the stress of cardiac failure, and one week later hand that man’s life back to his family with a heart showing no damage and a heart performing on a level that it hasn’t seen in 20 years. God has restored my father, and He’s performed His second miracle on my dad’s heart in his eighty one years of life. The first miracle occurred when my father surrendered his life to the Lord. At that point, God redeemed and restored his heart of sin. And now this miracle…his heart restored from a cardiac episode that should have taken his life in only a moment.
Let me assure you that God is good. He is faithful. He is attentive to our every need, and He understands the pain we endure through the tragedy of emotions that often accompany severe circumstances.
I would like to write more about this, and I’m sure that I will soon, but for now, I am tired. I can’t even describe to you how tired I am. My precious mother and I have both lost a little sleep over the course of the last week, but dad is coming home soon, and that makes it all worth the sleepless emotions of the recent past.
I am thankful to our friends and family who have extended such an incredible amount of love and support to my mother and me. Thank you for your prayers, and please keep them coming! And, to my loving God, thank you for the incredible works that you continue to perform. Thank you for giving me my family, and for placing me in a position of need beyond my own abilities. Thank you for showing love, mercy, and grace to my very feeble soul…a soul who needs to trust You more.
A Brush with Grace
I don’t have any children, but I do watch as parents frantically rush their children from one activity to the next. Their calendar is way beyond full, their schedule can be hectic, the expenses can be great, and this is possibly why I don’t have kids. Regardless, I enjoy seeing parents involve their children in activities that enrich their life.
My church is heavily involved in Upward Sports, and we’ve just finished the 2016 football and cheerleading season. Last night, we held the awards ceremony.
Honestly, I’m not sure that the expectation of evangelism through football and cheerleading is held in a high enough regard? It’s a busy season, it takes up a lot of Saturday mornings, and, let’s be honest, Saturday is college football day…right? This is flag football for kids. How important could it be?
Sure, there’s a devotion given, the kids are prayed with, etc…but isn’t it really just about another activity…an opportunity to play a game…or, is it more than that? Well, frankly, it’s much more than that. It was definitively proven last night.
I’ll make this quick. During our awards ceremony last night, we had a pastor speak and minister through the use of chalk art. He has an incredible testimony. Frankly, it’s only by the grace of God that he’s even alive. I won’t go into his personal testimony, but his ability to speak and relay the Gospel is something extraordinary in itself, and, as he said many times last night, “God had a plan.”
We gave an invitation last night. We don’t always do that at our Upward Awards Celebration, but we should. The response was incredible. God took the words of our guest speaker, his talent, and his testimony, and the Holy Spirit did the rest. The altar of our church filled up, as many responded to the content of the message. Children met Jesus last night. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that some adults met Him as well. We experienced a brush with the wonderful grace of God last night.
Most of the people in the room attended this event with the sole expectation of their children receiving a football and being recognized for their participation in the season. The kids did receive a football, but last night, there was more recognition than simply that of a public display of their participation in the football and cheerleading season. Last night, some of those kids were recognized in Heaven. I’m quite sure the angels’ rejoicing was loud and rowdy as young children focused, not on athletics, but on the life transforming power God. All of Heaven shook as they followed their convictions and sought to explore the knowledge of the individual love that Christ has for them. It was a display of an unexpected brush with grace. It shouldn’t have been unexpected, but I think, to many, it was. We should never dismiss the power of God working through children, and we should pay attention to the fact that this was all facilitated by a little organized athletics with the sole purpose of evangelism. Never underestimate Gods ability to use anything, anywhere, and anytime for His purposes.
Last night, a wonderful friend of mine watched as her child solidified his walk with Jesus. She posted a message on Facebook that I’ve probably reread ten times…because it makes me smile. Because it’s often much easier to ask forgiveness than permission, I’ve posted her wonderful message below without her permission, although I have redacted names for the sake of a little grace that will hopefully be extended from her to me…
The message is below…
“Two years ago, [my children] began asking questions about heaven. After some progressive conversations, I prayed the sinners prayer with them--wondering how much they could know at such young ages. I've let them lead since then, trusting that in time they would desire to take the next step. I've seen evidence of fruit and small changes in both of them over time, but have been cautious in not spoon feeding them well intentioned yet false salvation. Tonight at upward awards, they responded to the invitation. I hesitated, concerned that repeating a prayer wouldn't authenticate this next step. We prayed at the alter together, but for [one of my children] that wasn't enough. So I let him take the next step. He made it public tonight before several witnesses what I'm certain he decided was so two years ago. I'm humbled to see God work in & through Him. Despite all I do wrong, grace wins!!”
Remember…when we’re focused on Christ, grace always wins! Christ absorbed the cross to make this a marvelous fact! That crucifixion was followed by a promised resurrection. The tomb of Christ is still empty, and He is still transforming lives. This fact is evidenced by the children that met Him last night. What a great evening spent in the presence of God! If you missed it...you missed a lot!
I want to thank Drew Hogsed, our Upward Commissioner, for doing such an incredible job organizing this season. It is no small amount of work and responsibility. To every coach, scorekeeper, referee, concession stand worker, cook, parent, etc…thank you for being actively involved in ministering to kids. And, thank you to the Holy Spirit of God who showed up last night to remind us that this is about much more than football or cheerleading.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!