eCare: The Octopus Trap

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eCare: The Octopus Trap

Dear Friends in Christ,

Some of you know that my mother, Jeanne Wolling, passed away into the presence of Jesus three weeks ago. Her death was not unexpected and, in truth, my brother, sister and I were relieved and grateful that her long period of suffering in ill health had come to an end and that her Savior is sufficient for her eternal rest.

On the afternoon following the call from my sister, totally at peace with Mom’s death and without warning my heart began to race though it calmed after about an hour’s rest and an aspirin. The following day, Sunday, as the second worship service began I noticed a return of the symptoms and I asked my colleague, Pastor Nate, to put our medical team on notice in case I was not able to complete my sermon, one that articulated our philosophy of missions which I wanted the congregation to hear.

By the time I reached my office following the service and was given a quick check by Dr. Lewis my heart rate was almost 170 bpm which eventually topped at 176 at the local emergency room. I was hospitalized overnight, given an echo stress test and a change of medication and was sent home the next day.

What I found most interesting about the entire experience was the discussion with the hospitalist who eventually signed my discharge papers. She suggested that, in her view, I had experienced a case of “broken heart syndrome.” This is also called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy because under conditions of extreme stress the left ventricle of the heart takes on the shape of a takotsubo pot, a trap used in Japan to catch octopuses. There is a narrowing of the neck of the left ventricle and then a swelling of the lower part, resembling the shape of a gourd.

I was under the mistaken notion that since I didn’t feel stress I wasn’t stressed but evidently I was under a great deal of stress, ticking off all of the boxes that are certain stressors. The body gives off stress hormones to help us cope with traumatic experiences and when there is a surge in the hormone the left ventricle is “stunned,” the heart is mis-shaped and it begins to beat our of sync.

As a pastor who makes his living doing the best biblical exegesis possible I attempt to avoid applying biblical passages inappropriately to life situations. I do confess, however, that while lying on my back in the ER, answering the rapid-fire questions of an obnoxious, 12 year old, newly minted physician, my mind was fixed on Psalm 147. 1-5:

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly. 2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. 4 He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names. 5 Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

I thought that I was in a bad news/good news situation. The bad news was that my heart was broken; the good news was that the Lord heals the brokenhearted. A bit out of context and proper interpretation I readily admit but it turned my gaze toward the Lord and anything that does that can’t be all bad!

Thanks to so many of you who have expressed concern and are praying for me. Medication regulation seems to be the order of the day and stress-relief, though what is obviously called stress I’ve always thought of as “life.” I’m wired up for the next 30 days with a monitor and hoping that I don’t hear “Houston, we have a problem!”

Sunday is Beverly Heights Together at 10 AM including the Lord’s Supper and followed by Linger Longer. ‘Hope to see you then.

Faithfully in Him,

Rick