This week has been awful. Absolutely awful.
My husband has a heart condition. His right ventricle doesn’t like to wait its turn. It wants to beat early. So sometimes he has double beats or triple beats. Sometimes his heart races and his heart rate will go from 79 to 150 in a few seconds. Sometimes he will be sitting still, doing absolutely nothing, and his heart will go into ventricular tachycardia (vtach). And if you know anything about hearts and medicine, you’ll know that’s not a good thing.
Because of this heart condition, last year he had a defibrillator implanted. It’s called an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator). It saves his life. If his heart starts into a run of vtach and it lasts for more than 4 seconds, his ICD will work to pace his heart out of vtach. If the pacing doesn’t work, then the ICD can shock him back to a normal rhythm.
The first line of defense, though, is medicine. And he was on a great medicine — the first choice for people with his condition. And for a year and 4 months, his heart responded well to the medication and he did not need the ICD to pace him out of vtach very often, and he never needed the ICD to actually shock him.
But something happened and his heart stopped responding well to the medicine. So he began having a boatload of crazy heart rhythms. And then last Saturday, he passed out and had sort of a seizure from a lack of oxygen to his brain because his heart wasn’t pumping blood out of his heart. So we went to the ER. They admitted him to the hospital & spent the next couple days letting all of the old medicine get out of his system. Then on Monday, they discharged him and started him on a new medicine. His heart had been pretty steady all day Sunday and all day Monday.
We’d been home from the hospital for like 5 minutes when he had a long run of vtach. The ICD tried to pace him out of it, but it couldn’t. So it shocked him. He screamed — a deep from the gut, howl-like, man-scream. The kids started crying. I ran to him and helped him sit down. That shock didn’t get his heart back into rhythm. So it shocked him again. It hurt and it scared the bejeebies out of him, out of all of us. He cried. The kids cried. I called 911.
Tuesday morning, it shocked him again. And again.
He was admitted back into the hospital. Tuesday afternoon, he was sitting in the bed, not moving, and his heart was just going berserk. He had runs of vtach. At times, his heart even started going into ventricular fibrillation. That’s when it’s just beating so erratically, it’s not effectively pumping blood anywhere. Each time, his ICD paced him out of it. But each time, he braced himself for another shock. He couldn’t seem to have 2 normal heartbeats in a row all day. It was horrible. One of the worst days of my life. We both thought he was going to die. But he didn’t. I’m thankful for that.
He is still in the hospital. His doctors want him to have 24 – 48 hours of normal, steady heart rhythms before they discharge him. In the meantime, they’re tweaking his medicine and we’re waiting on the new drug to build in his system and give him 100% efficacy.
I dont’ know exactly what a panic attack is, but I think I’ve been on the verge a few times this week. I’ve felt physically suffocated by fear. I’ve felt like something was choking me, gripping my chest, standing on my lungs. And when I’ve felt that kind of fear, when I’ve been tempted to just give in to despair and let my mind dwell on all the what-ifs, I have remembered Isaiah 26:3 —
You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you
And then I have gone over a mental list of what I know to be true of God.
- I know God is sovereign. Nothing is happening to me right now without His full knowledge and His full permission.
- I know God is good. He can’t be evil or mean-spirited. He is good. And if He is sovereignly allowing this to happen to us and He is good, then this will eventually be turned into good.
- He promises to work all things out for my good. I love Him. I’ve been called according to His purposes. He will work this out for my ultimate good. (Romans 8:28)
- I know God is compassionate. God came to the earth in the form of a human, Jesus. He experienced every emotion. He knows what it’s like to love someone and have that person be sick or die. He knows what it is like to be exhausted and emotionally and physically spent. He knows exactly what I’m experiencing and He is compassionate. He cares.
- I know God is working this out for His glory. (John 9) He will reveal His glory in this situation.
- I know God loves me. He loves me more than my own earthly parents love me. He loves me more than I love my children. He really, really loves me.
I know those things are true. I know those things about our Father. And when I fix my mind of those truths, I do receive peace. It’s not a peace like I’m sitting in a hammock on a beach in the Bahamas, but it’s a peace that really is perfect for me, for now.
When I feel overwhelmed and afraid and dog-tired, I can rehearse these truths in my mind, and I’m OK. I just have to go back to what I know.