Well, many of you have heard that my heart has been giving me trouble. I thought I would bring any readers of our church blog up to date.
A few weeks ago I had some general symptoms that were easily recognizable of heart issues. Not a heart attack, but warning signs to be sure. The first EKG was not done right and a week later when I did the remake, my regular doctor said it looked pretty troubling and he scheduled me to do a stress test with a cardiologist. This too produced results which seemed to indicate my heart wasn't doing well. So this Tuesday I went to Providence Hospital where a cardiogram was done. This is a procedure where a catheter is inserted into the heart to release a dye which shows up on a live action X-Ray machine to see what is going on. When I awoke I was told that all three of the major arteries which supply blood to the heart are blocked. Five to six blockages ranging from 70 to 100%. Not so good. The only real recourse is by pass surgery. Too much damage for angioplasty (a simpler procedure where a stint is inserted into the artery to expand the opening). By-pass surgery will mean splitting open my breastbone, rerouting my lung and heart functions to a waiting machine for a few hours, taking out the blocked artery pieces, and substituting vein tissue taken from one of my legs. After the heart is repaired with good "plumbing" they will restart my heart and lungs and sew me back up. The whole operation usually takes about 6 hours. Amazing isn't it!
I am so grateful for all the people who have been praying that we be guided to a good decision. The last two days Helen and I have been learning more about our options and what all is entailed. Eventually we settled on two good possible directions. In our former home of Berkeley, California, Alta Bates Hospital has one of the best cardio surgery departments and also has on staff several of the top 50 heart surgeons in America. I have family and friends there, so some of my recuperation could begin surrounded by people who care. They could schedule me for surgery next week. The second option is to do the operation up here. But this means waiting a few weeks till the one surgeon my insurance will accept returns from moose hunting (how Alaska is that!). While there is some small medical reason (by numbers and statistics) to go down to California, today I found real peace that I was supposed to stay here. Alaska is my home and we have good people here, both in hospital care and in prayer care. I have chosen to stay in Alaska.
What does this all mean? Well after recovery I should be feeling much better than I have in a few years. Some of the "slow down" in my physical life which I had thought was just old age was the decreased function of my heart. The new arteries should mean more energy and stamina. My surgery is scheduled for October 3. Until then I will reduce my work load at church, take my new medications, and keep myself as relaxed as possible. I will be in at Alaska Regional for maybe a week, then recuperate at home and eventually start rehabilitation. Sometime in November I hope to be fully engaged again in my work and ministry at First Covenant.
So many have already expressed prayers and well wishes and Helen and I are so thankful. It has also been a blessing to have my daughter Leana here with us during this unexpected crisis. If you have questions about anything regarding our church, please feel free to contact Associate Pastor Phil Cannon, or our Chair; Stan Summers. Any questions personal can be directed to me or if you want a quicker answer perhaps contact Helen. Between now and my surgery I plan on attending church services on Sunday mornings.
My faith in God is strong and secure. Although I expect a full recovery, I am mindful of death and have no fear. God is with me, with my family and with my church. To Him be all glory and honor now and forever.
This month -September - we are launching our Covenant Groups. Many people in our church have already experienced the privilege of sharing life together in these small groups, whether in each others' home or at the church building. This a really valuable opportunity to build relationships and get more connected with the Body of Christ. Whether you are new to First Covenant or whether you have been here for years, I'd like to invite you to contact me and I will try to help make the necessary connections.
As of right now, we will have at least 7 or 8 Covenant Groups meeting regularly with plenty of room to add more if that becomes a need. Some of these groups meet weekly; some meet every other week; some are full and others have room for more; some are for a specific type of people (e.g. couples) and others are for everyone. Our goal is to foster places of deep connection and community as we pursue God and his plans for us TOGETHER.
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.