Facing Death at Forty

She is in her early forties. She is thin and appears fit and healthy. She isn’t. She can’t walk much more than 100 feet before crippling chest pain sets in. She can’t work and she can't exercise. She recently tried to walk to the corner store on her own but passed out on the way. Her cardiologist has told her she is never to walk alone again. It is too dangerous.

She has lived this way for a few years now, cursed with coronary arteries that spasm for no reason, constricting so severely that she has the crushing pain of angina, the sensation that she is having a heart attack. She lives in constant fear that her heart might stop at any time, that one day a heart attack will actually happen.

There are many medications for coronary spasm but she has not been able to tolerate any of them. They all work by dilating blood vessels which means they lower blood pressure. Her blood pressure is low without medications and even the lowest dose of the standard medications results in dangerously low blood pressure. She has seen multiple cardiologists who have discussed her case with multiple other cardiologists but no solution has been found. She continues to suffer. 

I did some online research on coronary spasm and came across an article on the subject written by a cardiologist an hour north of us. I reached out via email and asked the doctor if she would be willing to see my patient in consultation. My patient scheduled a visit as soon as she could. She came to see me a few days before the consult to go over her records. As I reviewed her history I was once again moved by the challenges she faces.

We talked about how hard it was and she shared with me how important her faith is in helping her get through each day, that she reminds herself continually to trust in God. We talked about the reality that God does not heal everyone and that we may not find an answer or a cure. He does not always grant our requests.

With this in mind I reminded her of one of the central truths of our faith- this life is not all there is. Eternity awaits. We tend to focus on our present circumstances but it is our eternal destiny that matters and how our eternity is not dependent on our current condition. We talked about how God’s eternal plan for her has not been altered by any of her current sufferings. His promises are based on His goodness, not our condition. She told me that she clings to this truth everyday.

We closed the visit with a prayer and she went on her way. As she left I reflected on her faith and example. I was reminded of one of the purposes of Christian suffering as described in 1 Peter 1- “These trials will show that your faith is genuine.” Her steadfastness through tough times has shown her faith to be real. I pray that when illness and suffering come to my life I will be equally strong.

- Bart

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