As many already know, on September 2, 2022, my wife had open heart surgery to replace a failing heart valve and correct an aortic aneurysm. Thankfully, she is doing very well in her recovery and growing stronger every day, with life almost getting back to routine. That this is possible after only four months is a testimony to the advances in modern medicine, the skill of her doctors and nurses, and the power of prayer. However, there remains another aspect of this that deserves consideration: the power of providence.
My wife had always known that she had a heart murmur. She was born with a hole in her heart which spontaneously closed during her teenage years, so doctors at the time attributed the heart murmur to that condition. However, just three years ago, in a follow up with a cardiologist, she learned for the first time that she had been born with a bicuspid aortic valve that would require surgery some day, though the doctor diagnosed the condition as mild at that time. In fact, the doctor had hopes that her situation might remain mild long enough to see a coming advance where the problem could be fixed through a less invasive procedure. We accepted this and moved forward–not really thinking too much about it.
In the Spring of 2022 Tracy had taken something to the curb for collection when she was struck with tremendous pain in her lower leg that made it almost impossible to walk. The general physician was originally concerned that it could have been an Achilles tendon rupture, but thankfully it turned out to be a severely strained muscle. This all seemed more embarrassing than anything at the time, but it proved extremely important. After all, who wants to explain receiving a severe muscle tear by simply walking slowly up a small incline? But this motivated her to lose some weight, attributing the muscle strain to being out of shape. That proved to be critical.
When she returned in June, the muscle had healed, and she had lost quite a bit of weight. But when she saw her cardiologist in July and he learned that she still had no more energy, he immediately scheduled her for more tests and determined that her bicuspid valve had gone from mild to severe in a short time (which explained her lethargy). This necessitated an immediate heart catheterization to determine if she had any blockage and, as a result, what further procedures would be required. The heart catheterization confirmed that she had no blockage but that she would indeed need open heart surgery to replace her heart valve. The cardiologist then referred us to a surgeon who specializes in this particular valve. After yet another consultation, we had confidence in the Ross Procedure as the primary option due to Tracy’s relative youth and then a mechanical valve as a backup. The recommendation was to have the surgery sooner rather than later. Therefore, after some back and forth, we scheduled surgery for September 2nd.
While all of this mostly appears like a normal series of events, the timing of many things proved extremely important. If Tracy had not hurt her leg, she would not have had the same motivation to lose weight, which proved a critical factor in the urgency of further testing on her heart. Even the choice of doctors themselves proved important, giving her access to one of the world’s best specialists for her condition and procedure.
More than this, my schedule mattered. This surgery would require my wife to be in the hospital a week and need extensive care for a month. It just so happened that many months before all of this, with the approval of the elders at Brown Trail, I had contacted the Maui Church of Christ with plans to preach there for the month of September. To do this, I would need to accelerate my classes at the school and do additional work to clear my schedule, which I subsequently did. However, flying to Hawaii and hiking around Maui could have been fatal for my wife, though we did not know it at the time. The timing of all of this, then, sadly meant cancelling our trip to Maui (for our 30th anniversary), but the preparation meant that I had the entire month available to care for my wife—something that had never happened before.
It would not ordinarily seem like a severe injury to my wife’s calf muscle or a cancelled trip to Maui would be positives, but, I would argue, that is often how providence works. Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in prison in the working of God’s providence. Esther faced possible death in the working of God’s providence. Philemon faced some form of economic hardship in the working of God’s providence. And while the nature of providence is such that we can only see it in retrospect, and then only with an obligatory “perhaps,” the events of the past year have provided more evidence of how providence works than in any other time in my life. There is, of course, far more to providence than simply the answer to our prayers, though that certainly applies, but I will forever be thankful for what God has made possible through these events in a way that I can only explain through His providence.