It was a beautiful fall day when my friend John and I slipped our kayaks into the Locust Fork River, Ala., for a half-day paddle.
Not far down the river, my recent sedentary lifestyle caught up with me. The broad pain across my chest was reminiscent of the first wind sprints of my high school football season. Not wanting to slow my friend, I took short pauses and deep breaths, and pushed on for several hours.
Late in the paddle, out of shape and out of breath, I told John that we must stop so I could rest. I sprawled across my kayak in the sun while John paddled in circles, patiently waiting for me to recover.
The break didn’t help. My symptoms grew more intense. It felt like an “elephant sitting on your chest,” that’s in much of the material about heart attacks.
John, a pediatric doctor, walked up to where I was “sunning.” After a thorough probing of my symptoms, he made a diagnosis: I was having a heart attack.
After an extended effort to get me out of the river, we rushed to the Cullman hospital, the nearest facility with a cardiac Cath lab.
The pain and anxiety of my present circumstance didn’t allow much room for other thoughts. But one reality was very present: Our CHM membership was about to get a stress test.
That Wednesday afternoon in Cullman, I received my first stent. Two days later, another stent was added. After three months of recovery, my chest pain returned. Two additional stents were emplaced.
The day after my heart attack, my wife, Mary, sitting by my bed in the hospital ICU, contacted CHM. Staff showed great personal interest in my health condition, even praying over the phone with Mary. Words can’t adequately express the relief that call brought us.
Currently, I’m doing very well in my recovery, and the bills for my medical care have been shared completely.
I’ve been a minister for nearly 40 years and have experienced Christian community in a number of ways. The Biblical model of sharing each other’s burdens in the specific area of health care has made me completely rethink the possibilities of how we can incorporate Christ’s teachings in everyday life.
Our experience with CHM has proved it's not only a viable option, but an excellent model. The authentic Christian concern expressed by staff at every point is heartwarming.
Though I’m doing well, I’m not as physically strong as a year ago. Adventures once invited me without reservation; now, I consider the possibility that things can go awry. What doesn’t occupy my mind in the least, however, is whether I will have access to quality healthcare and cost support. In the waters with CHM, I paddle confidently and comfortably, with the certainty that Christian sisters and brothers are with me around life’s every bend.