I was able to bring Georgette home from St. Mary’s hospital last Monday (June 21). The trip took about 7 ½ hours. In order to keep her blood from clotting, we had to stop every 90 minutes so she could get out of the car and walk around. All things considered, she is doing very well. She’s not allowed to drive for 4 weeks and is forbidden from lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk for 6 weeks.
Even though my mom went through a heart surgery last November, I was not fully aware of the impact that such a surgery has on a person. During the surgery, the patient is put on a Heart/Lung machine which takes the place of the patient’s actual heart and lungs while the surgeon is repairing the heart. Although the patient’s heart is restarted after the surgery, the same cannot be done with the lungs.
During the surgery, a breathing tube is placed through the patient’s mouth and partially down her throat. The end of the tube has a balloon-type apparatus that expands so that no outside air can travel through the nose or mouth to the esophagus. The other end of the tube is hooked up to a ventilator that does the breathing for the patient. The ventilator is not shut off (and the tube removed) until the patient can breathe on her own (with the help of oxygen that is delivered through another tube that is placed in the patient’s nose).
After the patient gets to the point where she can breathe on her own, she has to work on building up her lung capacity. This is a long process that requires the patient to use a device to “exercise” the lungs to build up new capacity. As I’m writing this (9 days after the actual surgery), Georgette still gets short-of-breath if she carries on a regular conversation for more than a few minutes. She also gets tired and short-of-breath if she walks too much.
In addition to the rebuilding of lung capacity, there is, of course, pain associated with the actual healing of the patient’s chest, as well as the patient’s back, shoulders, and neck (which were all traumatized during the actual surgery).
While Georgette was in the hospital, there were at least 25 other heart surgery patients on the same floor who were in various stages of recovery. All of the patients were encouraged to walk as much as possible. At any given time of the day, there were one or more patients walking in the hallway with the assistance of others. The thing that struck me the most was how totally helpless all of the patients were. They were like children, completely dependent upon others for their survival.
One of Georgette’s nurses told us that one of the other patients on the floor was an older doctor who had been as healthy as a horse until he had a heart attack and needed a heart bypass surgery. She said he was having a very difficult time coping with the aftermath of the surgery and was angrily lashing out at his wife (whom he was now totally dependent upon).
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said that only children are allowed into heaven. What he meant was that in order for any of us to make it into heaven we must be like a child in the eyes of God. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Children are, by definition, dependent upon one or more people (usually their parents) for their growth and survival. As adults, we take pride in the fact that we are self-sufficient and independent. More often than not, we behave as though we no longer have any need for God (or anyone else).
Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a personal crisis to wake us up to the fact that we really are dependent upon God for our survival and happiness. When a personal crisis occurs, we forget about all of the earthly things that we have been focused on and we redirect our attention to what’s really important to us. If we’re fortunate enough to have a faith, we revert back to a childlike state by becoming completely dependent upon God. We don’t really have much of a choice. Like St. Peter, all we can say is, “Lord, where else is there to go?”
So if our Lord allows us to go through a personal crisis (to give us an incentive and opportunity to recognize our dependence upon Him and seek out His assistance), what can we do to stay in that state of dependence once the crisis passes (if it actually passes)?
The day after Georgette and I returned home from the hospital, I went into my office for a few hours to go through my mail. In the mail was a marketing newsletter that I subscribe to that had an article about the toy company, Mattel Inc. The article told about how Mattel recently opened up a limited edition buying opportunity for collectors of Barbie dolls. There was one original 1978 Barbie Dream House that was offered at a “bargain” price of $2,000.00. Also available was a collection of 40 different original Barbie dolls priced at several thousand dollars. When I read about the “opportunity” to buy Barbie dolls (and other related items), I couldn’t help but think about how on one day a Barbie collection could have great meaning and significance to a person, and a day later it could become completely meaningless and insignificant (depending on the person’s circumstances).
The article about the Barbie dolls also made me think about my daughter Laura. When Laura was about 9 years old, I took her with me to a department store to purchase a few miscellaneous items. While I was looking for something in one of the isles, Laura was in another isle looking at the Barbie dolls. She picked one out and brought it to me and asked me to buy it for her. She already owned several Barbie dolls (and also had access to other Barbie dolls that were owned by her two older sisters, Anna and Maria).
When Laura asked me to buy the doll for her I said, “No, you already have plenty of Barbie dolls.” She then proceeded to point out that this particular Barbie was different and that she would take good care of it and share it with her sisters. I then asked her a very simple question: “Laura, how many Barbies does it take to make a girl happy?” Her answer was, “Just one more.” I already knew what her answer was going to be. I had previously read about someone who had asked John D. Rockefeller, the billionaire founder of the Standard Oil Company, how many dollars it took to make a man happy. His response was, “Just one more.”
Laura followed me around the store begging and pleading with me to buy her the Barbie doll. I finally caved in and bought it for her after making her promise that she would not ask for another Barbie (or Ken) doll until she was at least 16 years old. (I figured by then she would no longer have any interest in dolls.) Laura thanked me for several days after I bought the doll. (As a side note, Laura took great pleasure in showing off her new doll to her two older sisters who continued to express displeasure in the fact that I had caved in and bought a new doll for her).
When Georgette completely heals from her surgery, our current medical “crisis” will be over. At that point do you think it would be wise for us to become (by our thoughts, words and/or actions) independent from God? Or would it be wise for us to remain like children in the eyes of God and continue to pray to Him as if our entire existence depended upon His divine intervention? I think it’s safe to say that God expects and desires that we all remain dependent upon Him for all of our needs. The best way to show that we are dependent upon Him is to communicate with Him daily through prayer. He won’t mind if we sometimes beg and plead for help, as children sometimes do. And He will, of course, be pleased if we acknowledge His help and thank Him for His assistance, just as parents are pleased when their children show appreciation. This can all be done through prayer.
So I have a question for you: “How many prayers does it take to make it into Heaven? I think you know the answer: “Just one more.”