This happened last week, but I think that’s close enough to call it “my Thanksgiving miracle.”
It began with my biceps tendon basically standing in front of an ObamaCare-like death panel. I was told several weeks back that my biceps tendon had ruptured and that it was too late to save it. Yes, I’d rather frantically called the morning after the injury, but of course given the state-of-affairs of modern medicine and the bureaucracy which owns it, by the time I actually saw the doctor, he told me it was too late.
I am a service-connected veteran with traumatic and cumulative and degenerative injuries to both knees and both shoulders. So this isn’t a story of “that evil insurance company.” This is THE GOVERNMENT.
The doctor told me the story of Brett Favre, who had suffered this injury during his career and had not had the reattachment surgery, and that I didn’t really need to have the tendon reattached.
Continuing with the “ObamaCare death panel” theme, the surgeon also pointedly told me that, “In Europe, they don’t even reattach those any more.”
I had tried to reason with the surgeon – who as the attending physician actually runs the ortho department at my VA hospital. As for the Brett Favre story, I countered with the fact that Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott famously had a broken finger amputated rather than miss playing time the same way Favre elected to play with a busted tendon rather than miss playing time - and so should average people have whatever limb on which they happen to suffer a broken bone AMPUTATED? I hope not. As for the “Europe” thing, I pointed out the fact that “THIS IS NOT EUROPE!” And while my dad was too young to fight in WWII, I actually had a three uncles who fought in that war to ensure that America would NOT become Europe.
Apparently, they lost the war sixty years after they thought they’d won it, but that’s another story.
The ortho doctor acknowledged that a few years ago, they would have reattached the tendon no-questions asked (i.e., BEFORE Obama), but that things had changed quite a bit.
Mark Halperin is one of the leading journalists in America today. He also leans well to the left. So it was quite an admission when he acknowledged that not only did ObamaCare contain death panels, but that they are a cornerstone of ObamaCare.
Howard Dean, a former Democrat governor, a medical doctor and an expert in health care – albeit a doctrinaire liberal ideologue – has also acknowledged that, yes, the ObamaCare IPAB amounts to a “death panel.” And so, yes:
Just as they were dead right about how catastrophically awful this ObamaCare law would be.
I was stunned when the attending orthopedic surgeon said they would not reattach my tendon. I mean, what do you mean, you don’t need to do this surgery? I was saying, “I’m busted; FIX ME!“ I had never had anything like this happen before.
Milton Friedman observed that if you put the government in charge of the Sahara desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand. So what will necessarily happen when you put a bunch of statist bureaucrats in charge of health care? We already know the answer.
And believe me, NOBODY wants to be a health care “loser.” Especially because of a law that MAKES you a “loser” when you’ve never been one before out of naked, cynical political calculus. Especially when you are service-connected by your government for the infamous “pre-existing conditions” that you can’t have taken care of anywhere else.
When I continued to object the “death panel” decision, the chief ortho doctor told me he would leave the decision to the surgeon who would be operating on me, but he didn’t see it happening or even the need for it.
Well, I was rather panicky about this. Aside from the whole “Popeye biceps” deformity (which so far hasn’t seriously manifested itself), there’s a significant loss in strength because a tendon no longer connects your muscle to what you’re trying to lift. As a weightlifter, it was the loss of strength that I feared more than anything else. I didn’t want to go through a surgery only to be mediocre.
Weightlifting has been the centerpiece of my highly successful weight loss (76 lbs in 14 months without stomach “Lap-band” surgery). If preventative care is important, if weight loss is important, just give me the tools I need to maintain that weight loss. Because what happens to people is that they become frustrated, then they give in to a feeling of futility, and then they give up altogether.
That’s why this biceps tendon deal has been such a critical concern for me.
Well, after my appointment with that surgeon, I was rather frantically trying to figure out my next option. And a wise Christian medical doctor friend gave me some wise counsel: to see the doctor who would be doing my surgery as quickly as possible and appeal to him (rather than start a war with the bureaucracy through hospital patient advocates, etc.). I made an appointment.
For two weeks I angsted as I waited to see the surgeon. Given what I had already heard from his boss, I was very fearful. And I knew that time was tendon, because the longer you wait the more a ruptured tendon shortens and contracts. And the story becomes, “Well, sorry, but we waited too long dithering, so now it’s too late for us to fix you. Too bad, so sad.”
We get a picture how ObamaCare will “save” money. By rationing and denying care to people who need it, surgeries and treatment that used to happen doesn’t any happen any longer. And that’s great – unless the rationing axe falls upon you or one of your loved ones.
Anyway, I’m at Tuesday of last week, with the all-important appointment with my surgeon on Thursday morning. And I’m on my daily walk as usual.
Remember, I said I was messed up in both shoulders and both knees. To take some of the stress off my awful knees, I use a pair of canes when I go on long walks out in the desert. Which of course torques my shoulders, doesn’t it? But I need to walk because that’s been a major part of the 76 pounds of weight that I’ve lost over the last fourteen months. So I’ve got a Catch-22 thing going, don’t I?
Anyway, near the end of my walk – which that day was over five miles – I noticed that one of my cane tips had ruptured rather like my biceps tendon. I put large washers in the tip to help the rubber tips last longer, and the washer was gone somewhere out in the vastness of the desert.
Well, I’m usually able to eyeball the cane tip and see that it’s about to wear out and rupture in time to replace it. But let’s just say that I’d been occupied with other concerns.
I could go to the hardware store and buy some washers, but I’ve always used the few that I had in my garage that matched the diameter of the cane tip.
Well, I wanted to find my washer. Which was God-only-knew-where. So as I set out on my walk the next day, I tried to retrace my steps as best I could and said a prayer that I could find it.
As I prayed, it popped into my head to point out to God that I wanted my biceps tendon far more than I wanted that washer (just in case He didn’t know). But I had that moment of theological clarity strike me that God wasn’t the sort who would only grant me one request.
That Wednesday, I walked along with my nose to the ground like a bloodhound. A mile passed, then two. And I was entering an area where there was a lot of soft sand where the tip would have likely become covered up and I’d never see it. To make it worse, because of the soft sand, I’d meandered through that area – and good luck trying to remember the exact same route.
I kind of gave up finding that washer at that point.
Financially, it was hardly a big deal; I could go to a hardware store and probably find an even better-fitting washer for fifteen or twenty cents at most. But for whatever reason, I had kind of associated that lost washer with my busted biceps tendon. So it was kind of sad to let that washer go.
It was within a few feet of giving up on finding that washer that I came upon some 9mm pistol brass. I reload ammunition in several calibers – 9mm Parabellum being one of them – and my nephew (who would be coming out for Christmas) always loves to go shooting. So I bent over to pick up the brass.
Somebody had popped of most of a box, so I’m furiously picking up the brass. And I turned around and walked back up the path I had just come down as I see more brass…
… And yes, there was my washer – which I had already walked by and had not seen, and which I never would have seen had I not been looking for that 9mm brass which hadn’t even BEEN there the day before (or I would have collected it then). The washer was dull and faded; the brass was new and shiny. I needed the latter in order to find the former.
I immediately realized what had happened and why it had happened:
God had heard my silly prayer for that silly washer. And God knew that in my silly heart, I had connected something I clearly didn’t need to find with something far more important to me. And He was telling me that He had me covered, that He knew what I needed – and that He was Jehovah Jireh (the LORD who provides).
And when you’ve got that kind of a God in control, watching your back, taking care of you, why are you so anxious???
I realized that the decision whether to repair my ruptured biceps tendon wasn’t up to the doctors. Because if God wanted me to have that tendon, it was going to be restored no matter what the doctor said; and if He didn’t want me to have it, I wasn’t going to get it reattached no matter what the surgeon tried to do. It wasn’t my surgeon I had to convince; it was my God – the very same God who cared enough about me to allow me to find a silly washer in the middle of a desert just because for whatever silly reason it mattered to me.
It’s one thing to look at the vastness of the sky at night and see the billions of stars; it’s quite another to realize that that very same God actually gives a damn about YOU.
I’ve lost – and FOUND – stuff that was valuable and irreplaceable after desperately praying about it.
It’s an interesting thing: if you are the kind of person who doesn’t believe, the biggest answered prayer in the world won’t matter; if you are the kind of person who believes, the smallest answered prayer can seem huge.
God gives us small things to see how we’ll handle big things. Maybe He gives us small miracles to see how we’ll handle big ones.
All I know is that I had an audience with God, Creator of heaven and earth and all the stars that fill the sky. And He heard very little, very insignificant little me about something as tiny and irrelevant as a lost washer because He cares about me more than I will ever be able to comprehend.
When I went to that appointment with that surgeon the next morning, I had no fear, no anxiety.
I had already prepared myself during the previous two weeks with every argument I could think of for why I needed and deserved that tendon reattachment surgery. I would submit that if a high-priced attorney had been present with me, he wouldn’t have had more arguments to muster than what I had thought up.
And what did the surgeon say when I told him I wanted that surgery?
“Sure. We’ll try to do that for you.”
Here I was with all my arguments and I didn’t even get to use them.
There are a couple of down sides that the surgeon explained to me: because this tendon is ruptured, they’ll have to do an incision rather than doing it with the arthroscope the way they would have been if it had still been attached. That means that they won’t be able to repair the torn rotator cuff I also have in that shoulder in the same surgery because when they scope a joint, they fill it with fluid to clear space for their instruments. And that fluid creates a lot of swelling. Which means that if they do the rotator cuff first, they’d create too much swelling to be able to find the biceps tendon; but if they do the incision to fix the biceps tendon, the fluid and the corresponding swelling would rupture the sutures. He also told me that he couldn’t guarantee that the reattachment surgery would be successful because sometimes the tendon is just too damaged.
Here’s the thing: I realized that the condition of my tendon is up to God. Just as everything else was.
I told that story to a friend who told me his own “mini-miracle” story. He had been arrested for a DUI (bad thing) and had his little dog in the car with him. The police had kenneled the dog and towed his car. His sister came to pick him up, but for whatever reason had refused to take the dog. He’d have to leave it.
Well, he wouldn’t leave his dog. He told her he’d rather walk. So she drove off. And he had to walk miles across an isolated Texas highway out in the middle of nowhere. In the heat of the desert.
He came to a point of desperation. He and the dog were thirsty.
What happened? In the middle of nowhere he came across a gallon of water and a five dollar bill. The presence of the bill particularly freaked him out: because there was a wind and the bill should have blown away, but didn’t. Who had put that there and why? Only God knew.
But God is Jehovah Jireh.
The water helped him make it to a gas station way, way up the road, where he was able to trade his five dollars for a ride.
I don’t know what will happen, but I have a feeling and an attitude of confidence about the success of the surgery (my pre-op is January 14).
Strangely, had I just been allowed to have the surgery, rather than having to angst about just getting it, I realize that my attitude wouldn’t have been nearly so positive. I would have been focusing on the surgery and the recovery and bemoaning the fact that the tendon had ruptured and the fact that had the doctors just told me what I’d needed to know before I’d ruptured it I would have at that time requested the reattachment surgery as opposed to waiting until it was nearly too late. I would have been looking at all the negatives.
As it is, I am very grateful and very thankful. I am thankful to the Veterans Administration for taking care of me. But more importantly I am even more thankful to my God who saw me floundering around and provided for me.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful.
Gratitude is the very best and the very happiest attitude that a human being can have. It is the attitude we should all be walking around with all the time. But for most of us (like me) we need reminders.
I wish you all a happy and a grateful Thanksgiving Day. I pray that you have a sense of Jehovah Jireh specially looking out for you today.
Update, February 5, 2014: Well, I had my surgery. And a couple more divine lessons.
I now realize that my “washer” story was my audience with God. He gave me a divine appointment because He wanted me to know a few things.
On that day, that God told me that 1) He truly does care (cf. 1 Peter 5:7); that 2) if He cares even about my stupid washer, it is obvious that He will care about something I truly care about, such as my biceps tendon surgery; and that 3) whether the surgery is successful or not has nothing to do with the doctors and ultimately everything to do with God. Because He can do anything and if He wants me to have that tendon, I WILL HAVE THAT TENDON.
He since let me know how to turn even the result of the surgery over to Him.
On the one hand, I knew that if the surgery was successful, it would be a long recovery. On the other hand, I learned that if the tendon was too destroyed and contracted to do the surgery, it would be a short recovery and I would be able to get back to my [relatively] normal activities very quickly. What I didn’t want was to make the short-sighted mistake of not having the surgery because of the short-term hassles, only to then regret later that I didn’t do it. I was [finally!] able to completely turn it over to the Lord, and give it to HIM and let HIM decide.
So I went into the surgery with the peace of Christ, which surpasses all comprehension.
I woke up and the surgeon gave me the news. The surgery was a complete success. Somehow – and I got the sense that this was very surprising to the surgeon – my tendon had in fact ruptured, but had somehow become hung-up on the bone, such that it was EASY to find and such that it didn’t contract the way it otherwise would have.
He did the surgery in less than HALF the time he believed it would take.
Just like the washer, that “hung-up” tendon was GOD at work.
Now all I have to do is heal up and start rehabbing.