91: One of Those Days

91: One of Those Days

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

One of Those Days

I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker.

~Voltaire

It was one of those days when nothing seemed to line up right. I’d woken up late and then rushed out of the house to a doctor’s appointment only to spend way too much time in the waiting room. Then, during what I expected to be a routine examination, I was advised that I needed minor surgery. I walked out of the appointment and straight into the beginnings of a January snowstorm. I wondered if anything would go right that day.

Later, at home, more irritations piled up: dinner burned in the oven, the kitchen sink clogged, and the cat coughed up a hairball the size of a small gerbil. No way was I going to that book discussion at the library. Instead, I decided to surrender to the bad karma of the day.

“I’m taking a long, hot bubble bath and I’m locking the bathroom door,” I told my husband. “Do not come knocking.”

He nodded knowingly and I escaped behind the door. I ran the water and poured an extra dose of my favorite orange-scented bubble bath into the tub. I submerged myself and closed my eyes. Then the phone rang.

“Uh, Monica. Please call me back right away. Your brother passed out at the bowling alley and someone is taking him to the hospital right now.”

My brother Louis had gone bowling with a group of friends that evening. They were preparing to leave the lanes when he passed out cold on the floor and appeared to have stopped breathing. His friends stood around, stunned, until one woman in his group grabbed him and started shaking him until he regained consciousness. Louis appeared alert but woozy, and complained of feeling tired. Since the nearest hospital was only a short distance down the road, another friend drove Louis directly to the emergency room.

I towel-dried my hair and threw on the nearest pair of jeans and sweatshirt I could grab before I ran out the door. I was Louis’s next of kin, his only sibling, and I was on my way to him. I’d always been a praying woman, but at that moment words seemed to elude me. All I could think to utter at that moment was a simple phrase, “Lord, please be present in this situation.”

A few minutes and a few miles later, I was at my brother’s bedside. Pale and solemn-faced, he was hooked up to monitors and IVs. We spoke briefly. Exhausted from the day’s events, he dozed and I allowed him to sleep. Every few minutes, though, Louis appeared to have a spasm. When questioned, his nurse told me that meant the external pacemaker attached across his chest was engaging.

My eyes went wide. “External pacemaker?”

Enter the cardiologist with the rest of the details. Louis and his friend had just been seated in the emergency room as the cardiologist was walking through. Suddenly, Louis lost consciousness again, slumped forward from his chair and fell to the ground. Alerted by the thud, the doctor turned and went to my brother’s side to assess the situation and begin treatment. Louis was then taken directly into the Intensive Care Unit.

As I understood the cardiologist’s explanation, my brother’s heart was no longer responding to his body’s electrical impulse to beat on a regular basis. Treatment, in the doctor’s terms, was simple: implant a pacemaker and all would be well. A routine procedure, he assured.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t so certain. Any type of cardiac surgery, no matter how routine, frightened me. “Are you sure my brother needs a pacemaker?” I asked.

“You know,” he began, “if your brother had come into the ER and explained the details of what happened tonight, we might have started with neurological testing, or written the episode off as fatigue due to a recent virus he had. But, your brother collapsed right in front of me. As a cardiologist, I could see what he was experiencing right away.”

I nodded.

“It’s funny,” the doctor added as he turned to leave, “I usually never walk through the emergency room waiting area, but tonight I brought some paperwork down to the ER receptionist as a favor to another doctor.”

I sat at my brother’s side as he continued to doze. In those stolen moments of peace, I examined my thoughts from earlier that day. Just that afternoon, I had wondered whether anything would go right that day. Now, in some odd way, it seemed as though everything had gone right. Then and there I started to play a game of “what if.” What if my brother had not gone bowling that night and instead collapsed at home, alone? What if his friend had not shaken him awake at the lanes? What if he had not just happened to be down the road from one of the best hospitals in the county? What if the cardiologist had not passed through the ER when he did? What if Louis’s heart condition had been written off as fainting from fatigue and he had been sent home with nothing more than instructions to rest? What if?

There are many different names for what I sometimes like to call “the powers that be.” Call it the work of God, Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, fate, or kismet, but as far as I was concerned some force of divine providence had intervened on my brother’s behalf. Now in hindsight, it seems to me my prayer had been answered before it had even been spoken. All the day’s happenings, one by one, had built upon each other and led to my brother’s quick diagnosis, treatment, and speedy recovery. Even the frustrations of my day had kept me at home where I was able to receive that important phone call in a timely manner. Clearly, the Lord had been present all along.

And the Lord continues to be present because four years later Louis remains happy and healthy. That snowy January night the stars aligned and my forty-four-year-old brother was given what he considers a second chance at life. We both agree there is no greater miracle than that.

~Monica A. Andermann

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