I set Gage on the bed next to his grandpa, and I listen while the two of them say hello. “Hey there, Big Guy!” Dave says, grinning. Gage grunts and grins back. He loves his grandpa. And he has no idea how close he came to losing him.
This last week, after months of asking politely and being politely rebuffed, I finally insisted that Dave go to the walk-in clinic. The chest pain he’d been told last year was “probably arthritis” had gotten so bad that he couldn’t do anything physical for more than a few minutes. He got winded loading garbage cans into the back of the truck, or throwing a football, or even walking. And so I stopped being polite. We had a little “discussion,” at the end of which we made the ten minute drive to the clinic.
The doctor did an EKG, saw a blip, and scheduled an appointment for a stress-test with a cardiologist for Monday afternoon. But when the cardiologist heard Dave’s symptoms, he skipped the stress-test and scheduled a 5 a.m. catheter test the following morning. When we drove to Providence Hospital early Tuesday morning, the biggest question on our minds was where we’d go for lunch after the test.
We never made it to Chang’s Mongolian. Instead, I was greeted by the doctor after the one-hour test and shown two pictures: one of Dave’s heart before, and one after. The before picture showed an unbelievable blockage — 99.9%, according to the doctor. If your finger was the size of an artery, imagine a break in the middle about the width of a piece of floss. That’s how severe the blockage was. All the branches below were nearly invisible; one smaller artery didn’t show up on this first picture at all. The second showed Dave’s heart after a stent was inserted (while I was blithely reading in the waiting room, unaware of the severity of things down the hall). The artery was fully opened in that second picture, and blood had flowed into all the branches downstream. It looked healthy and vibrant.
I’ve learned since Tuesday that men of my husband’s age don’t normally live through heart attacks like the one he’d been flirting with. “He was hanging on by a thread,” the doctor told me. And he informed us both that almost any activity at all could have triggered a heart attack. I thought about the hikes we’d planned to take this summer, just Dave and I, and what could have happened.
The Word tells us that, “He (Christ) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). I’ve never been so aware of our utter dependence on Him — for our next breath, and our next heartbeat. But it’s true. I am so grateful He kept Dave heart going on that thin thread until we could get the help he needed.
When Pastor Ron Mehl was first diagnosed with leukemia, he went through a time of great fear and despair, until his wife reminded him that, “The servant of the Lord is indestructible until God is finished with him.” I thought about that in the hospital, and I realized that because God had kept Dave and sustained him and brought him through, there was still work to be done. There were still tasks and opportunities with Dave’s name on them. And because I’m convinced that the most important calling in my life is that of helpmate — to serve Dave so that he can serve our people — this means there is still work for me too. I need to do whatever I can to restore his health.
Crisis is a pretty good motivator. We had a lot of time to talk during our 31 hour stay at the hospital. I had my laptop with me, so I did a fair bit of research too. And by the time Dave was released, I had a good idea of the changes we needed to make.
First, we’re changing our view of food. I will confess that my thoughts, while I’m cooking, are seldom on what that dish does to a body. I’m usually only concerned with what it does to the tongue. If I can add enough butter to make someone close their eyes in ecstasy, then I’ve accomplished my mission. And that works fine if you don’t care about health or longevity. But that was then and this is now. Health and longevity are suddenly uppermost in my mind. So the mission has to change.
I still want our food to taste wonderful, but my primary view of food now is that it is fuel. Is it going to keep my husband’s heart strong? Is it going to give him energy? Is it going to enhance his overall health? If I can say yes to those things and it’s still delicious, then … good.
The diet I’ve settled on for us isn’t actually a diet at all — it’s a lifestyle. And I know that lots of diet programs say that (“It’s not a diet, it’s a way of living!” ) but in this case, it’s actually true. We’re following the Mediterranean diet. What that means is that we’re adopting the habits of the people groups living around the Mediterranean Sea. They’ve been eating this way for thousands of years, and the results of this diet (with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts, avocados, fish, chicken, and only a little red meat) is that they have the lowest incidents of all the things you never want to get: heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
I’m not going to delete the other recipes I’ve collected here. I’m assuming that from time to time (on special occasions), I might even cook or bake some of them again. But for the most part, we’re going healthy, and I’ll be using Twig and Feather as a sort of “new life” journal.
Ready for the first two good-for-you recipes? They’re ridiculously easy.
- about a cup of frozen blueberries
- milk, just enough to almost cover the blueberries but not quite
Short list, huh? 🙂
All you do is pour your frozen blueberries in a pretty bowl, cover with milk (I used nonfat, but I assume you could use regular), and stir for a minute or two. The frozen berries turn the milk almost into ice cream. Delish.
This second one is something I’ve been eating since I was a little girl. I read about peaches-and-cream in a book and thought it sounded decadent and sophisticated, and told my mother my thoughts. She must have liked that, because she brought home two perfect peaches and a small pint of cream the following day. I still remember watching her peel the fuzz off those peaches and slice them in rosy-orange half-moons. The cream dripped in thick rivulets; the sugar she sprinkled on top sparkled in the light. It was as if she’d offered me a bowl of sunshine.
She would surprise me now and then with another bowl. To this day, when I’m cutting my own peaches I remember her hands doing it for me.
I don’t recommend cream unless you are still a six-year old girl. They can get away with it. Us? Not so much. But you won’t miss it. It’s still a treat with nonfat milk.
- one perfectly ripe peach per person
- nonfat milk to cover
- a few drops of Stevia for sweetening
Peel the peaches and slice into your bowl. Cover with milk and sprinkle with Stevia. Exhausted now? I thought you’d be. Sit. Eat. Close your eyes and smile.