On August 29, my father was admitted to Kaiser Permanente hospital in LA after doctors found irregularities in his heart beat. Turns out he had had a minor heart attack sometime in the last month or so. These forms of minor heart attacks are ones you don’t think is a heart attack; it could feel like heartburn or acid reflux. It could feel like the onset of a minor heatstroke. It passes and you think nothing of it. But as they say, blood doesn’t lie. There are blood markers that tell you what is going on in your body. There are bumps in an ECG reading that speak the truth. It’s up to the doctors to interpret those markers correctly.
Two days later, on a Saturday morning, the surgeons operated on my dad’s heart. It was a triple bypass. Because the heart is not a stand alone organ, it also affected his lungs. That’s why it’s the Cardio-Pulminary-Respiratory system. When we saw him right after the surgery, he was breathing from an oxygen tube. About four hours after the surgery, the nurses removed the tube and attached an oxygen mustache breather. For a day or so, he stayed in the Intensive Care Unit. Afterwards, they moved him to an Intermediate Care unit where the nurses do not sit with him 24hr/7 but come regularly. During this phase, they began taking him on a walk around the ward to regain his strength, balance, and start stressing the heart and lungs again.
On Wednesday afternoon, nearly a full week later, he was released from the hospital and is now home. He is still on medication but the dosages for the critical ones are decreasing. He stopped taking some of the painkillers several weeks later since he said they caused him to be constipated. It’s been nearly four weeks now and he walks several laps around the block once or twice a day.
As a Christian, I have to praise God for everything. When I say everything, I mean everything, especially for the outpouring of love from friends to this day.
1. The night before the surgery, three pastors from two different churches came up to pray. Several other friends came as well. The lesson: prayer works. Prayer is a commandment. Prayer is also comfort.
2. On the day of the surgery, if it weren’t for it, my dad was supposed to be officiating a wedding. That day before, the couple came to the ward and had a short ceremony there. It was a joyous occasion. The Bible says: “Rejoice in the Lord.” In the midst of this crisis, people still found joy.
3. The surgery was quick and he was in very good hands. This hospital is known for its heart surgery success rates and competence. God placed good doctors here.
4. Throughout the recovery days, my family spent a lot of time in the room with my dad. Most of the time, it was to take care of his needs. He can’t lift anything more than five pounds. He needed help going to the bathroom. He can’t arrange his food or feed himself since moving hurts. You learn to take care of people and have patience. You learn to put your needs last and others first. During that time, I must have driven 400 miles in my car in a span of five days since the hospital was about 40mi from my house. But that doesn’t matter even though the price of gas fluctuates (usually rising). Money is irrelevant.
5. It was fortunate that this happened during the US Labor Day weekend. Nevertheless, we drove up to the hospital to see him every day from the day he was admitted to the day he was released. That covered 3 work days. So after working a full 8 hour day plus commute, it was another hour up and hour down. Again, when it comes to family, time is irrelevant.
6. During that time, there was a steady stream of visitors. Many of them from the church where my dad used to pastor. Others were doctors from our old church. Strangely enough, except for two, every other doctor who attend our old church are Kaiser doctors. Hmmm…. All of them prayed for him whenever they visited. There were some who wanted to visit but they were not free until almost the day before he was released. Almost everyone called my mom first, wondering what was a good time to visit. Those on the second to last day, my mom had to tell them not to bother since he was leaving very soon. Others she had to tell it’s okay not to come because they lived or work so far away that it was extremely inconvenient even if they were able to stay several hours. My mom made a guest log.
I have to laugh at some of these visitors because many of them are Hong Kong Chinese who now live here. None of them have the “indoor” voice. I don’t mind boisterous people, and it’s acceptable to be loud in Asia where it’s hard to hear at times because of all the noise pollution. But in an American hospital where people want quiet and loud noises can be startling, speaking loudly and boisterously is not really acceptable. But then, these people, sometimes they don’t know otherwise. Also, if you can’t laugh at your own culture (since every now and then I am around Chinese people who are not acclimatized or assimilated into mainstream American culture), you’ve got a problem.
Someone once said: “Having class means being able to laugh at yourself.” Very true.
This is not my first time where I went to a hospital nearly every day or during every free time. When my grandmother was sick and dying of an inoperable tumor, the family visited at every opportunity. Watching a person in extreme pain where the only way to relieve that pain was morphine, it makes you realize just how precious life is. It also makes you think about death. For those who have no hope, then death is something to be feared. There is no consolation. But as the Bible teaches, death is the last enemy to be conquered. And when Jesus Christ died, death was conquered once and for all. The Apostle Paul wrote – O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (I. Cor 15:55). When my grandmother finally passed away, she passed away in her sleep in peace. She’s now with Jesus where tumors are irrelevant.
As I went through this experience, the one lesson God taught me… again… was to pray and keep praying even when you’ve exhausted all your words.