I have always struggled with my weight. There have been various times in my life when I have actually won the struggle and shed a bunch of weight…keeping it off for anywhere from a few months to a few years. I think it was about 6 years ago, I was at one of those points in life where I had decided it was, once again, time to get busy.
I had ponied up $350 and purchased a decent bicycle with the intentions of riding the new bike on the new walking/bike path at the lake…which is literally just around the corner from the house. I got the bike home…rode it around the block a couple of times to get the hang of it. The next day I did a few miles with elevation changes and found that I was working pretty hard. It was a big workout for someone who had been pretty sedentary over the last 10 years…and more sedentary recently due to a couple of hip replacements. I got back from that ride and thought that if the weather was right the next day…I would take on the trail by the lake. Trust me when I tell you that this trail was something a teenager would handle and not break a sweat…but for an overweight 53 year old…it was like the Olympics.
The following day dawned cool and sunny. I was working from home back then. I put my 8 hours in and got on the bike around 4pm..pedaled out of the driveway and up Rock Beach Rd to where the trail started. I took it slow…but even so, the elevation changes surprised me and I was shifting gears every hundred yards or so to keep from running out of steam. At the 3 mile point I decided to do a 180 and head home. It was a nice workout and I could envision getting all of the 12 miles in as I built up my endurance. I could see pounds coming off, blood pressure going down, stress relieving…all good stuff. That was today…
The next day was similar to the day before…got my work out of the way…strapped my helmet on, hopped on the bike and pedaled out of the driveway once more to see if I could add a couple more miles to the route. Rock Beach road has about a 20% uphill grade for the last few hundred yards before the start of the trail. I didn’t have any trouble with it the day before. Sure I was breathing hard but I was also working hard to…today…as I got about half way up the hill I was once again working hard but this time I felt like I was pulling a muscle in my left pec. It didn’t hurt really…but it was noticeable. When I got to the top of the hill I really expected the feeling to go away and pedaled on…but now the muscle pull was starting to feel like I had a charlie horse in my chest…and I knew something was not right. I found that I couldn’t pedal any more without intensifying the discomfort. I was starting to realize what was really happening. I reached for my cell phone…it wasn’t there! I was about a mile from home…but it might as well have been 100 miles cause I wasn’t pedaling anywhere.
As the reality of what was happening started to settle in, I realized that unless I wanted to die on the side of Lakeshore Blvd…I had to do something. Thankfully, Lakeshore Blvd gently slopes downhill for about a mile from where I was to St Paul Blvd…I thought maybe if I could coast, I could get a little closer to home. I got the bike turned around got a couple of good pedals and began to coast. Washington St crosses Lakeshore right before St Paul. I thought if I could keep my speed up I might be able to to make it part way down Washington St which would put me about a quarter mile from the house. I had to brake some to make the hard right onto Washington and my speed bled off to nothing. I stopped and got off the bike…thinking perhaps I could walk…I couldn’t.
It was a beautiful afternoon….there was no one around and I started preparing to die. I began to confess sin, pray for Lori who had already been diagnosed with cancer…prayed for the kids. By now the classic symptoms of a heart attack had started. I was beginning to sweat, my left arm had begun to ache some. There was nothing more I could do for myself but wait for heaven….until a UPS truck rolled up. As the UPS dude got out of the truck I yelled…”Do you have a cell phone?” He did, and I made a call. Lori pulled up with the van about 5 minutes later. She rode the bike home and I drove. Another 5 minutes and I’m sitting in the driver seat of the van in the driveway… not wanting to believe any of this to be true. I was chewing on a baby aspirin that Lori had found in the house…I decided I should call my dad who had experienced some heart challenges in the past. About 30 seconds into the call dad told me to hang up and call 911. From that point on things got really exciting.
When emergency rescue got there I was standing…well… leaning on the back of the van. I was VERY uncomfortable at this point and had a headache to go along with severe pain in my left arm and the feeling that someone was sitting on my chest. They had like a zillion questions for me…and then some blessed angel from the ambulance that had just shown up gave me a couple of nitro pills. In about 2 minutes it was as if I never had the issue. I felt silly being loaded into the ambulance with the kids watching. I waived and smiled to reassure them…I don’t think it worked. I kidded and joked with the guys in the ambulance on the way to the hospital…at that time we had health insurance so I didn’t have the additional panic of a looming five figure bill when this was all over. From there it was wires and cables and blood draws and nurses and labwork and a doctor I didn’t know telling me I had just had a very minor heart attack evidenced by a minuscule blip in one of the blood enzymes.
Lori and my brother had arrived at the hospital by then and got the news. The docs were gonna keep me overnight then do an angiogram, which they did. That revealed that some big artery was nearly 99% blocked. Fixing the blockage was kinda cool as I could see the whole thing on video and watched them put the stent in. The next few hours were a bit of a drag as they put a very heavy sandbag on my groin to make sure the hole they drilled into me stayed closed. Then very expensive medication was prescribed and my life changed forever.
That was all 6 years ago now. After the heart attack I put the bicycle away…or maybe let the kids abused it for a couple years….for a year or so it leaned up against a wall in the garage…brake cable sheared…shifter broken…tires flat. Two years ago I loaded it into the van and drove it over to the shop for an overhaul. Then I lost my job. So It sat in shop for about six months with the owner calling me every week wondering if I would please come and pick up the bike. After my sob story, he agreed to hang onto the bike but moved it to his off-site storage (aka… his garage.) A year after that…4 months ago now…I finally had them deliver the bike and I have been riding it of an on around our block which is very flat.
Last week I finally went back to my new/old cardiologist to have some tests done. Over the past year my ankles, feet and calves have blown up like balloons and gotten painful. At the same time I haven’t been able to keep my weight in check. Friends told me the extra fluid I was seeing was probably heart related. Last week the doc confirmed it. My heart is doing great on the pumping side…not so good on the resting part (diastolic). The good news was that I had lost 2 pounds since my last visit 4 months back…now he said if I could lose another 88lbs I’d be in better shape. And he said something about staying away from salt and sugar…I think eating hay was in there someplace too…I don’t remember…I think I blacked out. He prescribed a fluid pill (that will help get rid of the 15lbs of fluid I’m retaining), reiterated all the stuff about salt and sugar…and we scheduled another visit where I’ll probably do some kinda stress test. Then if I don’t die on the treadmill, they will extend my warranty or something…
That brings me back to the bike. This week, weather permitting I’m going to try three miles on the roads around the house. I’m getting serious about this for the first time in a very long time. Ok…so how is this devotional? Our lead pastor, David Whiting asked a question yesterday and had us text the answer back to see where we stood as a group. The question was this…”Did you read your Bible and have some quiet time with God yesterday?” The answers were not positive. Just so you know….I answered “no.” “Really?” I thought. Shouldn’t we want to spend time hearing from God and talking to God? I know the answer…”yes we should!” But we perceive that as “work”…something hard to get excited about…maybe even a little boring. But we want those blessings from God don’t we? We want God to hear our prayers and heal our friends and family members, save those whose names we bring before him, avenge those who are being persecuted, give us wisdom to speak boldly in his name, give us wisdom to reach our kids. But we don’t want that blessed life enough to spend time in the well of wisdom and spiritual knowledge…his Word. And we don’t want to know God badly enough to set aside time for conversation…to share our hearts and thoughts with him in prayer.
We are, for the most part, insolent, spoiled children. Let me personalize that a bit…I am often an insolent, spoiled child. What will it take to get us (me) serious about being followers of Christ? And if it comes to that…whatever “that” may be…will we recognize it as a call back to God and holiness or simply a circumstance that may be hard or painful or both.
Will we complain about that circumstance and accuse God of being harsh or will we rejoice that God has remembered us and continues to call us to closer fellowship where he can teach us, train us and show us how much we are loved and necessary to build the Kingdom until he calls us home.
There’s a line in an old song that goes like this “For whatever it takes for my will to break…that’s what I’ll be willing to do…” nice song…powerful lyric.
Easy to sing…hard to live.
Does God have your attention yet? He’s got mine.