How else to explain the miracles that saved Dad's life?
|Someone Watching Over Us
“My eyes are really burning from the chlorine in the pool. I should have been more careful, now my eyes will be stinging for days.” What started out as a minor eye irritation would become a major factor in the course all of our lives would take in just a few short hours.
It was Saturday and the last day of our family vacation together. We had spent the week at the beach near Atlantic City. It had been a great time for all of us. Somehow, we had managed to get everyone’s schedule so that we could be together. My family unit included my parents, my husband, Walter, my almost-two-year-old son, Jeffrey, my sister and brother-in-law Mary Lou and Ken and my nephew, six-month-old Kenny.
Our entire vacation had been wonderful; the weather was perfect all week. This Saturday in July was no exception. Our last day of vacation provided yet another opportunity for all of us to enjoy each other’s company and we spent the day outside in or near the pool, going inside only briefly to have lunch.
We swam and talked and laughed all day in the bright sunshine. But as we packed up our belongings from our place by the pool, I blinked and squinted. “ Chlorine! I guess I should have paid more attention to how much time I spent in the pool today,” I confided to Walter. Past experience has taught me that for the next few days my eyes will sting and feel very irritated; my vision will be blurry.
We showered and dressed for dinner. At dinner, Dad, always one to speak about his feelings openly, thanked us for the wonderful time: “I am so proud to be your Dad, and I’m very grateful that we spent this week together and I know I had such a great time.” Everyone agreed that we had been given a special time to spend together.
After dinner, we stopped at the city’s convention center, where bands were playing and people were singing and dancing. Dad picked Jeffrey up from his stroller and danced a couple of steps with him, one of his favorite things to do. He didn’t finish the dance, but instead, he quietly put Jeffrey back in the stroller and sat on the bench right next to him.
“Dad, are you OK?”
“Oh, yeah, I’m OK. I guess I’m just a little tired. It’s been a busy day, a busy week.” He winked at me and smiled. “Don’t look so worried. I’m fine, just fine.” That, too, was typical of Dad, never wanting to bring attention to himself, never wanting anyone to worry about him.
“Just the same, please promise me you’ll see the doctor on Monday.”
He looked at me and hesitated before speaking. I thought he’d be annoyed because he never liked to go to the doctor, and never liked reminders about going, either. Instead, he smiled a faint smile, and said, “OK. You win. I promise I’ll go.”
I smiled my approval. “You’d better go! Or, I’ll keep at you until you do!” I teased, not wanting him to know fully the extent of my concern.
“I think I’ll head back to the room now,” Dad said quietly after to listening to the band for a few more minutes. We were surprised because this was Dad’s favorite thing to do on vacation: go to the town’s band concert, listen to the music, and dance with Jeffrey in his arms.
“Maybe we should all go back to the hotel now,” suggested Mom, as she began to gather their belongings.
“Maybe with a little rest, we can go to Atlantic City,” agreed Dad. Going to Atlantic City had been a possible destination for our last night of vacation, since it was close to where were staying.
We returned to our rooms. I waited a while, and went to my parents’ room. Dad was sitting on the edge of the bed, encouraging my mother to go to Atlantic City. “I think you should go. I’m a little tired now, but you should go. You’ll enjoy it.”
Before long, plans were in place: Mary Lou, Walter and Mom would go to Atlantic City. Ken stayed with little Kenny. I begged off because my eyes were stinging and my vision was blurry. Besides, I thought to myself, “I can stay and watch Dad.”
After they left, I waited for just a few minutes, and went to check on Dad. He was sitting in a chair by the door. He was leaning forward, looking down at the floor. This was not like Dad, usually a robust and jovial man.
“Dad, are you OK?” It was hard to hide my concern this time, but I did the best that I could.
He looked up at me, gave me a weak smile, and replied, “Just feeling a little upset, that’s all. Maybe I had too good a dinner.” He smiled his weak smile at me again.
“Dad, I’ll be right back.” I knew I had to get help, but I didn’t want to upset him. I leaned over to kiss him, and I touched his arm; it was cold and clammy.
I ran to the front desk, and told the young man on duty that I thought my father was in some trouble; I told him the symptoms, and about touching his arm, and the clamminess of his skin. He told me he was a member of the city’s rescue squad team. “I’ll be right down to the room,” he promised.
I ran to check on Jeffrey. He was sleeping peacefully so I ran back down the hall to Dad’s room. “What am I going to tell him?” I worried to myself. “He’s going to be upset that I caused a ruckus for no reason.”
I knocked lightly on the door, and went in. Dad was now sitting on the edge of the bed. “Dad, I told the man at the front desk about you; he’s on the rescue squad and he’s coming down to see you.”
Instead of, “Why did you go and do that?” that I expected to hear, I heard, “OK, thanks.” That made me even more nervous. Dad was ill; I knew it, he knew it. We just didn’t know how ill at the time. That would become apparent in the next few hours and the days to come.
Before long, the rescue squad arrived, coinciding almost at the same time as my family’s return from Atlantic City. They returned from Atlantic City almost immediately upon arrival there. Walter did not have a tie so he was not allowed inside the casino. They took that as a sign that they should come back, and they did so, to find that they had made the correct decision. They came into the hotel room only minutes after the ambulance had come in.
“Donna! What-?” was all anyone could manage to say. I quickly told them. One of the EMTs approached us. “Your Dad is having a heart attack and needs to be hospitalized. The hospital is about a half hour away. Follow us!”
We quickly made plans for Ken to stay with both Kenny and Jeffrey, and followed the man to the ambulance. The ride to the hospital seemed interminable. The silence was broken with whispered words of prayer lifted to the Lord.
The prayers and silence continued as we waited for the doctor to speak to us after evaluating Dad. The doctor walked into the room, looking grim. “Your husband has suffered a major heart attack. There appears to be a blockage in the aorta. There has been major damage to the heart muscle.”
“What can we do to help him?” we asked, hoping beyond hope that the small community hospital would have some resources that would restore Dad’s health.
“We’ve done what we can for him here,” the doctor stated in a very matter-of fact manner. Then, in answer to the pleading looks on our faces, “But I just ended an internship at a specialized heart and lung center. It’s about an hour away from here. I can call and see if we can’t get him evaluated for further treatment there.”
More prayers were whispered. Shortly afterward, Dr. Weiner returned, smiling. “It’s all set. The ambulance will take your husband tomorrow morning. Once you get there, you’ll have to fill out the admission papers,” he instructed my mother.
We all breathed a sigh of relief. What a wondrous thing, a doctor at this hospital has connections to a hospital renowned for helping people with heart problems. We weren’t past all of our problems but with this, we overcame a major hurdle. Maybe they could help Dad. We were determined to find out.
After Dad was safely in the capable hands of the cardiologists and nurses at the heart hospital, I had some time to reflect on the past few days. It never occurred to me until then that at some point while I was checking on Dad, my eyes stopped hurting. I clearly saw the miracles formed by the Hand of God in the twists and turns of these life-changing events. How else to explain my temporary eye irritation that kept me near my father and then left as quickly as it had come, the young EMT who happened to be on duty at the front desk that night, culminating with the trip to the small community hospital that had as its Emergency Room doctor someone with connections to a specialized hospital that suited our desperate needs?
These may not be what some think of as “major” miracles, but on the other hand, I’m not sure if any miracle can be classified as “small”.
However, I am very sure that this series of miracles linked together to answer my family’s prayers that night and the days that followed. We were given the gift of having Dad for an additional ten months, and we will always be grateful for the extra time that we had to spend with him.
I am also sure that on that day, and every other day, there is Someone watching over us.