14 Seconds From Eternity

December 15, 2005

Cardiology, Faith, Technology

I started to feel strange…
I checked my pulse…
It took 8.75 seconds to charge…
29.5J of energy were delivered…
I felt the explosion in my chest…

After fourteen seconds, it was over. My Medtronic Gem III VR 7231 saved my life. I was in a lethal cardiac rythmn. The general term for this rythmn is ventricular fibrillation. The med tech called it Torsades de Pointes rythmn. I call it a brush with destiny.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Three and a half years ago, I died in the eye doctor’s office. But by God’s grace I am here to tell the tale. I call myself the CyclingRoo because I am an avid cyclist who is also an “electric roo” (a patient who has been saved through the use of an implantable cardioverter difibrilator.

As I noted in my inaugural post, I never really knew whether or not I needed this device – until six weeks ago. Late one night (while in a different city), I was awoken from sleep by my ICD. After talking to my cardiologist, I learned that I did indeed receive a life-saving therapy.

But I didn’t blog about the incident. I did not want to unnecessarily worry my kids. After all, the incident happened while the family was on an official visit to my daughter’s future college (SiU, Go Salukis). And my kids have enough things to worry about just being teenagers. At the same time, I was in the process of considering a new job. So I didn’t want to provoke a lot of medical questions as part of the interview. Of course, I did disclose my cardiac situation; how could it not be obvious given the blog postings over the past year.

I had every intention of blogging about the event this past weekend. I figured that it was time to fully disclose everything that is happening. But as usual, I got side-tracked. So I figured I would do the obligatory “catch-up” post this week (the last week I was going to be in the office with my current employer).

Now, circumstances have overtaken me.

Last night, I left the kitchen table and went out into the living room to watch some television and sit and chat with my beloved mother-in-law. BTW, I use the beloved term quite liberally. After my own Mom passed away, my mother-in-law has truly become my Mom. I will trust her with my deepest and most-heartfelt confidences as I know that she loves me unconditionally. It is fabulous having a mother-in-law who can assume some of the role that my Mom had! But I digress a bit…

I sat down on the couch and started to be a little short of breath. That hasn’t been unusual the past week. I’ve had a sinus infection and I have had real difficulty breathing. But this felt markedly different. I was feeling a little anxious and checked the pulse in my neck. It felt really weak. I checked the pulse on my wrist and it felt unremarkable. But I was starting to feel worse. So I remember putting my fingers back on my neck.

The next thing I remember was feeling my chest explode and hearing my youngest daughter shrieking in abject fear. She witnessed my conversion from death back to life. She saw my body convulse horribly. And I think she knew that something awful had happened. Mom could tell that something was wrong because she said I looked horrible. She was preparing to go for help when my ICD fulfilled its duties. In the course of fourteen seconds, I was headed to eternity. The med tech told me that nothing natural would have happened to prevent my death. Indeed, my ICD (and God’s grace) restored me to wholeness.

There is very little I can say that would fully describe what I am feeling. But here is my meager attempt.

First, I am overjoyed. My God has a purpose for me on this world. And that purpose is not fulfilled. He guided the innovative minds that created the Medtronic device. He guided the leaders of the company through countless clinical trials. He even prepared the surgeon who implanted the device. In all, God laid out a path for my continued mortal life. I can never express the immense gratitude that I have.

Second, I am nervous. I have just resigned from one employer (effective 12/31) and I have not yet started with my new employer. There will be no problem with Microsoft. Especially since this will not materially change anything. I am still able to perform everything that Microsoft needs from me. It may change some of my transit logistics, but that is inconsequential.

Third, I am anxious. I have no reason to fear. After all, the enemy is the real author of fear. But I can tell you that I have cried and prayed about how I am responding to this latest “therapy.” I can say that I am clearly holding on way too tightly. Last night, I was gripped with fear – fear of losing my wife and kids, fear of stumbling through my job transition. But the fear I am feeling is nothing more than fear itself. I have all that I need to thrive. I have a family. And I have a defibrillator that is my “ace in the hole.” So the only thing I have to fear is fear itself.

God, thank you for your continuing mercy and forbearance with such a frail servant. I love you and I will trust you in whatever you have laid before me. I will rest in my faith and expect your peace to come to me.

Friends, thank you for reading this. When I started, I had no idea what I would write. I only started with the odd feeling that “14 Seconds From Eternity” is what I should write about. Most of us have a recognition that there is more to living than just the day-to-day act of survival. Instead, it is an affirmation of Him who made us. We are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ. He calls us to offer up ourselves a living sacrifice. I pray that I can fulfill this calling in your sight. And I pray that each of you (including the wife whom I love in indescribable ways) will hold me accountable for my spirit and my words. I need you now. Not for logistics but for the restoration of peace and joy.

For me, I clearly know that I am a mere fourteen seconds from eternity. May I make all of the moments that precede those final fourteen worthy of God’s approval.




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