Saint Luke is the patron saint of doctors, and as I write his feast day (October 18) is just around the corner. So it seemed appropriate to use this space to reflect on God’s care and provision through my recent surgery and convalescence.
I first learned that I was going to have heart surgery in the middle of May. A couple of years before that, my doctor had detected a heart murmur on his stethoscope and had referred me to a cardiologist who had been giving me regular echocardiograms. There had been a gradual deterioration in my mitral valve and now it had reached the point where surgery had become necessary.
That came as quite a blow to me, as in all outward ways I felt perfectly healthy and was rather proud to be involved in a rather strenuous exercise routine without ever becoming weak or tired. (This shows how appearances can be so deceiving!)
In any case, that diagnosis was followed two days later by one of our monthly services of prayer and healing. Phyllis Bruce and the other members of the healing team put a good deal of prayer and careful preparation into that service each month and it was evident that night. The opening song was “Spirit of God, descend upon my heart” and throughout the service Phyllis spoke repeatedly about how the Lord desires to bring healing to our hearts. Of course Phyllis was not speaking about our physical hearts but metaphorically, and she knew nothing about the news from my cardiologist. Yet I felt that the service was meant for me, and through it the Holy Spirit certainly ministered to me that night.
In July I had my first visit to the Mayo Clinic. For two days I went through a number of tests and interviews. In many ways everything was still rather unreal for me, as I continued to feel the picture of health. It was another blow at the end of that time to meet with my cardiac surgeon and discover that there was evidence of blockage in the arteries supplying my heart. As a result I would be undergoing full open-heart surgery.
Five weeks later I was at Mayo again, this time in preparation for the surgery itself. This began with an angiogram—and that was when the third blow came. “Mr Newton,” the doctor told me, “we have decided to admit you immediately to the hospital.” He then informed me that my main coronary artery was 90% obstructed and two others were at 80%. And so I spent the next two days in the hospital waiting for my surgery, all the while feeling as healthy as a horse.
However, it was clear that the Lord had been looking after me all along. Had my doctor not been concerned about that heart murmur years before, we never would have come to know about those blockages, which in reality were considerably more life-threatening than the mitral valve problem. Not only that, but to be here at the Mayo Clinic with access to some of the most advanced health care that the world has to offer.
Well, I suppose the rest is history. The surgery and my recovery have all gone smoothly thus far—and I am not in any doubt that a huge component of that has been your prayers for me. There were times, especially in the hospital, when that support was palpable. So again (and not for that last time), thank you for those prayers. I can’t tell you how much it means to me—and how good it is to be back among you.