Tieing Up Loose Ends, My Dad

23 08 2009

Imported Photos 00031

I have developed quite a bad habit of starting series of posts about a certain subject and then never finishing the story.  Our trip to Italy was one such series.  You may have been left hanging about what happened to my dad.

If you have been reading here you know that the doctor did an angiogram on my dad and that it did not look good.  But the next thing you know is that Dad is flying across the country and driving with us to North Carolina, snapping photos along the way.  So what happened?  I will try to keep it short this time.

My dad went into the hospital and had six bypasses done on his heart.  It was pretty bad.  He came through the surgery well, but we did not know what the outcome would be.  Dad did not leave us in the dark for long.  The first day after surgery they had taken his ventilator tube out.  He was on morphine for pain the first day, but on the second day was taken off of that.  I was a little confused about his pain medicine at that point.  I knew they had taken him off of the morphine, but I did not know yet what they had replaced it with.  Sometime in the afternoon I was with my dad in the hospital.  He was sitting up and eating.  We were talking.  One of the nurses came in with his medicine, so I took the opportunity to ask about his various medications.  She told me all he was taking, but she did not tell me what he was taking for pain. 

“What about his pain medicine?  What is he taking for that?”

“He’s not taking any pain medicine.  We took him off of the morphine yesterday.”

“I know that, but what did you replace it with?”

“Nothing, he hasn’t complained about any pain, so we haven’t given him any.”

I looked at my dad.  He seemed a little lost during the conversation.  “Dad,” I asked, “are you not in pain?”

“Well I don’t know, Todd.  Should I be?”

[Thinking to myself: “Other than the fact that they took a power saw to your chest two days ago?  No I guess there’s no reason.]  Out loud I said, “No, Dad, that’s great.”  He went on eating his meal.

Dad ended up staying in the hospital for six days.  He had a lot of problems with hallucinations and panic, but we understand that is normal from that type of surgery.  Physically, however, he did great.

When he came home he seemed fine.  His chest healed up great.  He had a bigger problem, it seemed, with the incisions they made up and down his legs where they took the vein grafts for the bypasses.  One of those had some trouble healing, but eventually everything was fine.

He is doing cario rehab now three times a week.  They have him exercising more now than I ever remember him exercising.  And he seems sharper and more alert than he has been for some time.

He has done a great job through all of this.  God bless you, Dad.





And June Came and Went (part 2)

7 07 2009

So we wrapped things up in southern California and made our way home.  That was on a Sunday.  On Monday Dad had to go to the hospital for some tests before having the angiogram.  And then Tuesday came.  We went to the hospital bright and early.  One of the pastors from his former church was already there waiting for us.  It was 6:30 AM.  His new pastor came a little later.  My oldest brother, Richard, was in the waiting room with us.

We had been told that the doctor would use the angiogram to take a better picture of Dad’s heart.  If nothing was needed then Dad could be released that same day.  If they saw something that needed to be fixed, then they could do an angioplasty (less likely) or place a stent (more likely) using the same entryway as that for the angiogram.  If that was the case, then he would be released the following day.  The worst case scenario was that he would need surgery.

We met with the cardiologist after the angiogram and he explained that surgery was imperative and that it needed to be soon.  Dad had several blockages in the arteries of his heart.  The doctor showed us at least six places that the arteries were at least 90% blocked with several of them 100% blocked.

We spent the day with Dad waiting for a hospital room.  He was admitted that afternoon and we met Dr. Fung that evening.  Our cardiologist, Dr. Lai, was at times brutally honest about Dad’s condition.  He didn’t hold back any punches.  I think all in all my Dad appreciated that.  It was hard hearing the truth at times, but it was better to know where we stood.  But if meeting with Dr. Lai was like taking punches from a sparring partner, then meeting Dr. Fung was like getting in the round with Muhammad Ali.

We were all gathered in my Dad’s room.  It was my brother and his wife and I.  I think a nurse was there.  And another patient, of course.  Then Dr. Lai and Dr. Fung came in.  All of us standing around Dad’s bed.  Dr. Fung began.  “Mr. Borger your heart is in very bad shape.  It is very weak.  [Pause]  I can operate on you but there is a chance, maybe 10%, maybe more, that you will die on the operating table and there is nothing I can do.  [Pause]  Your heart is in bad shape.  If you survive the surgery, I cannot guarantee what will happen afterwards.  There is a good chance that you will have some kind of stroke that will kill you.  Or you might never walk again.  Or you might be a vegetable the rest of your life.  You might lose the use of your hands.  Perhaps you will go blind.  I don’t know.  [Pause]  Your heart is in bad shape.”  At every one of his pauses I could see my dad’s eyes getting wider and wider.  Finally, when he came to the end of his list of possible ways my Dad might die, I asked the doctor, “Excuse me, Dr. Fung, is there any possible good result from having the surgery?”  He seemed startled.  “Oh, yes, if I am successful (and I can’t guarantee that your father won’t die) then I think he has another 5-10 years with his heart.”  At the end my Dad had to decide if he was going to have surgery or not.  The doctor said that if he elected to have the surgery, they would start the next morning.  It was already about 8 PM.





…And June Came and Went… (Part 1)

2 07 2009

Wow, a lot can happen in a month.  I have much to tell, but some things are not quite ready to be told yet.

The biggest news is about my dad.  After my Mom’s death on May 2, I stayed with my dad in California.  We worked on getting things together at the house, getting his finances in order, finding out where Mom hid things in the kitchen, etc.  After about two weeks he began complaining about a problem sleeping.  He said that at night he would lie down and then begin having trouble breathing.  He would grow anxious thinking about his breathing and thinking about Mom and then he would not be able to sleep.  For several nights this continued.  I asked him at one point, “When did all this start?”  He answered, “About the time your mom died.”   Hmmm.  Might there be a connection?

I suggested we go to the doctor and have him checked and perhaps get some medicine to help with anxiety.  We got right in to see his regular doctor.  He agreed that this was probably related to stress fro his grieiving process and prescribed some medicine that would relieve his anxiety and help him sleep.  But he also wanted to run some heart tests “just in case.”

We had planned two trips at this time.  One was to fly out to Kentucky and see Samuel at his school award ceremony where he received his Winston Churchill Award.  The other was an American Airlines retiree convention taking place in Las Vegas.  We asked the doctor if it was all right to make these trips and he said it should be alright as long as Dad was able to sleep.  So we set off for Kentucky.

While we were in Kentucky my dad received an email saying that he had been scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist for July 6 (this was on May 22).  There was no explanation given, but we knew that it was as a result of his heart tests that had been done.  We started to try to contact his doctor’s office (no mean feat, let me tell you) and find out what was happening.  When we finally contacted a nurse in his doctor’s office my dad was told to be sure not to travel.  “Well,” my dad explained, “that will be difficult for me since I am in Kentucky now and I won’t be able to see the doctor in July unless I travel back to California.”  The nurse seemed a little put off that my dad had already traveled to Kentucky, but we were a little put off by the fact that we had great difficulty getting any information about what was wrong with my dad.

What really bothered us was that they had scheduled an appointment six weeks away for my dad.  But at the same time the office is telling him not to travel.  If it is serious enough to put this restriction on him, isn’t it serious enough to get him into the doctor sooner than that?  We were puzzled and frustrated.

When my father and I returned to California we met with my dad’s pastor for breakfast.  When he heard about my dad’s problem, he said, “We have one of the best cardiologists in the area right in our church.  Let’s ask Peter on Wednesday night what you should do.”  So on Wednesday night prayer meeting we met Dr. Lai (Peter) and went over my dad’s symptoms.  He promised to look into it and get back with us as soon as he could.  Thursday we received a phone call saying that he wanted my dad to come in right away and see him at the office.  We made an appointment for Friday morning.  On Friday we met the doctor and after looking at the initial heart scan said that this was very serious and that he wanted to do an angiogram next week.  We made an apppointment for Tuesday morning.

Since we had the weekend free we made a trip to Southern California to visit my Aunt Alice, my mom’s sister, who was in the hospital with several issues.  We had not seen her since my mom had passed away and we thought this would be a good time to see her.  We had a great visit with Aunt Alice and her children.  It was the first time I had seen some of them in close to 30 years.





Easter, Healing, Death, and the Resurrection

30 04 2009

I had an opportunity on Easter Sunday to speak briefly to the nursing staff on the floor of the hospital where my mom was being treated.  About seven or eight nurses and others gathered with me in a back room for a time of Scripture reading and prayer.  I am very glad for this opportunity, first of all because it gave me an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.  But I am also glad because it gave me a moment of reflection on the resurrection that helped me to better understand the place of healing and death in the life of the believer.

After the death of Anna I had a strong sense that Anna’s final state was a good thing.  Anna, being absent from the body, is present with the Lord.  Being present with the Lord is a good thing.  The question I had to ask myself at that time was, if it is true that to be present with the Lord is better than our state now, if as Paul says, to live is Christ and to die is gain, then why don’t we all kill ourselves in order to be with the Lord?  Or, put another way, why do we hold on to life so dearly?  Why do we fight death at the moment it appears?  I recall a passage from a book I read while in seminary that dealt with the issues of death and dying.  The author told a story, I believe it was supposed to be a true story, about an incident in the 19th century when an American Indian chief was being tried by the army and had been sentenced to die by execution.  At the hanging, a minister was present who gave a brief sermon about the afterlife and about the goodness of being with the Lord.  He contrasted the fallenness of this world with its sickness and problems with the blessedness of being with the Lord.  After he finished the Indian chief calmly said to him, “If that is true, then why don’t we switch places.  I like it here.”  The author concluded his story not with the simple distinction between the Native American and Christian view of death, but instead by noting that the minister in the story hurriedly refused the offer, saying that it was not possible to switch places.  The author of the book noted the paradox of the minister’s position.  If what he said about death and the blessedness of being with the Lord was true, then why did he so instinctively and tenaciously hang on to life?

I think I discovered my own answer to that question on Easter morning while I was talking to the nurses.  I told them that my mother was in the hospital because of her cancer.  She is very sick.  I hope and pray that she walks out of the hospital and lives to see another Easter next year.  But in the end, whether it is this year or next, my mother will die.  In fact, every patient that those nurses and doctors treat will die.  I explained to them that if they are in the business of fighting death, they will lose 100% of the time.  Every one of their patients, without exception, will die.

But if we can look forward to the resurrection as a time of restoration, as a time of ultimate healing from the sickness and corruption of this world, then we can begin to see that our little healings along the way are slight glimmers God gives us now so that we will understand the final healing to come.  In other words, each one of us will die.  Each one of us will be raised from the dead at the second coming of Christ.  Some will be raised to eternal life and some to eternal damnation, but all will be raised to live again.  In God’s coming kingdom there will be no sickness and death.  There will be no need for healing.  But healing in this life serves the same function in our physical bodies as our acts of righteousness do in terms of our sanctified soul.  We are not yet fully sanctified.  We are not without sin.  But we strive toward that knowing that at the resurrection all will be made right.  We don’t abandon our efforts at goodness simply because we know that we will not be perfect.  In the same way, we do not abandon our bodies to sickness and disease simply because we know that in the end we will die.  Instead, the healing that takes  place in our bodies is a foretaste of the disease-free life we will live when God’s Kingdom is finally established.

So I told the health care workers on Easter Sunday that if they are fighting against death, they are doomed to fail 100% of the time, because every one of their patients will be claimed by death eventually.  But if, instead, they see their work as a partnership with God to bring about small hints and foretastes of the resurrection and God’ eventual victory over death, then they will succeed 100% of the time.  Because whether their patient lives to see another day, or dies during treatment, they are working not as fight against death, but as a precursor to the resurrection.

Anna Resurget.  Anna will rise again.