Friday, May 26, 2017

We're Going Home

Luke 6:37
Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

When people are facing a severe illness or a major surgery, that may be one of the most significant opportunities for spiritual transformation that they will encounter. ~Allan Hamilton (Quote borrowed from my blogging friend, Jean Wise, at Healthy Spirituality)

This is the final installment of the Asheville misadventures.  If you are just joining us here, please begin with "The Voice of the Lord" featured under Blog Archives to the right of this page.

Danny and I entertain a host of medical professionals who will be in the operating room with him.  The anesthesiologist, her assistant, and the device technologist describe their roles in the procedure, and give us confidence that Danny is in good hands.  Enter Dr. S., the doctor who will actually be doing the surgery.  He embarks on what I've come to call the Litigious Litany; you know, just like all those drug commercials on television that feature an endless, and alarming, list of side effects.  Not in the least reassuring, but most likely required by law.

I look down at the Bible resting in my lap, and say a silent prayer of thanks to God for its presence.

For His.

When we are told the operation will take between two and three hours, Danny urges me to return to the hotel instead of sitting in an uninviting waiting room.  I leave my cell number with the nurse assigned to Danny's case, and head out to summon yet another Uber.  As I have to make many phone calls once again, the privacy of my hotel room is just what the doctor ordered.  (Yes, pun intended!)

I spend the next two-and-one-half hours contacting folks and perusing my new Bible, but most of my time is spent in prayer that all goes smoothly for Danny.  God continues to assure me that I should be anxious for nothing.  Danny will come through with flying colors.  What can I do at this point but trust completely in Him?

When call from Dr. S. finally comes in, I answer immediately.  "Mrs. Orlando, your husband is out of surgery and in recovery.  Everything went beautifully!  A text book case if I ever saw one.  I couldn't be happier with how things turned out."

"Oh, Dr. S., that's marvelous news!  When should I come back over to the hospital?"

"Don't leave your hotel for another hour or so," he advises.  "It will take him a while to come to himself.  By that time, we should have him back in his room."

More texting!  More calls!  More prayers of thanksgiving!!!  The success of the surgery means the doctors will release Danny tomorrow, and we can enjoy one night at the cabin before having to head home!

My arrival at the hospital could not have been better timed.  As I approach Danny's room, they are just wheeling him into it.  What a tremendous relief to see him awake.  Alert.


Once the staff departs, and we are alone at last, we shed grateful tears of joy.  That's when Danny takes my hand, looks into my eyes, and says in all solemnity, "There's something really important I have to tell you, Martha.  Just before they put me under, I forgave her.  I forgave Pastor Diane, and I meant it with all my heart."

Tears spring anew to my eyes.  "Oh, Danny, I'm so glad you could, that you finally did!  This is such a blessing!"

"And you know what else is a blessing?"  Danny asks as he squeezes my hand.  "When we get back to Kennesaw, we can quit looking for another church.  We're going home."


For those of you who have been faithfully following this saga, you know that Danny faced some overwhelming complications during the ensuing weeks.  The pacemaker, successfully implanted in Asheville, became infected; we were advised by Dr. S. that there was a 15% possibility of this happening.  Consequently, Danny underwent three surgeries in the span of six weeks:  Pacemaker installed; pacemaker removed, and new device placed on the right side of his chest, not over the heart as before.  He now has a matching pair of scars, both of which are healing perfectly, thanks be to God!

All your prayers, your notes, your comments here and privately, have meant the world to both of us through these stressful ordeals.  We truly felt God's presence and peace throughout.  So now, allow me to leave you with some gorgeous photos that Danny managed to take at the cabin on the Sunday we arrived, and on the Thursday evening when at last we could return.  May the glory of God's creation bless you, my friends, and may you always remember how precious you are in His eyes!


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Only to Find Gideon's Bible . . ."

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

This post continues our recent misadventures in Asheville.  If you are new here and want to catch up, look at the Blog Archives to the right of the page and begin with "The Voice of the Lord" published on April 7th.

Not long after Chaplain James departs, the head nurse stops by.  "I just want to let you all know that the surgeons are running behind schedule over at Mission.  They can't confirm when the ambulance will be coming to take you from St. Joseph's to there, but I'll stay on top of things, and tell you as soon as I'm notified.  So sorry for the delay, but these things happen."

This isn't what Danny wants to hear, especially since he has fasted since midnight.  I feel so badly for him, but I can't even give him a sip of water; at this point, we want this operation over and done with, and would never dream of doing anything to jeopardize that!

Time drags as we wait for word.  And I begin to wonder, too, if James has forgotten all about that Bible he promised to bring me.  Does he even know we're still here, way past the scheduled time for Danny's surgery?  This train of thought is unexpectedly, but delightfully, interrupted.

"The ambulance is on the way," the head nurse announces as she enters the room, a beaming smile on her face.  "All set?"

"I've been all set for over two hours," Danny declares, a bit grouchily, but who can blame him?  His stomach has been growling non-stop the entire afternoon.  Luckily, the nurse is not one who is easily offended.

When Jenny and Juan, the EMTs, arrive, they waste no time getting Danny transferred to the gurney and hooked up to the monitors so his pulse and blood pressure can be checked along the way.  Unlike my first experience (and hopefully my last) in an ambulance, this journey is short, sweet and well within the speed limit.  An added bonus?  I get to sit in the back with Danny!

We arrive without incident, and Jenny and Juan expertly lower the gurney from the ambulance and have us on our way to the pre-surgery rooms in no time.  We have to wait outside the one designated for Danny for a few minutes.  That's when I see Juan, who has been eyeing the heart monitor, do something that Jenny finds surprising.

"Why are you printing out the patient's heart information?"  she asks her partner.

"I've been in this business for over twenty years," Juan says, "and I've only seen two third degree heart blocks in all of that time.  I want some proof this go around."

Danny and I can't blame Juan for wanting a "souvenir," but the revelation doesn't offer us much comfort as surgery looms.  Is Danny's condition that rare?  Are the doctors going to be able to fix him as promised?  Lord, I really need Your Word right about now!

Finally, Danny's room is ready, and he is quickly settled in.  Now we wait to be visited by the pacemaker technologist, the anesthesiologist, and the doctor who will perform the procedure.  Before any of them make an entrance, and unfamiliar face appears at the doorway.

"Hi," the man says cheerfully.  "I'm Mark, the chaplain here at Mission.  My friend, James, told me you all requested a Bible?"

"Yes, we did!"  I say enthusiastically.

"Well, then, here you go," Mark says as he places the Bible into my hands.  "A complimentary gift from the Gideon's!"

I can't help but chuckle.  These Bible-delivery fellows may not have made it to Homewood Suites, but they sure did make it to Mission.

And not a moment too soon.

To be continued . . .

Friday, May 19, 2017

Amazing Company

Philippians 1:18b-19
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know through your prayers and God's provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

Surgery day has arrived at last!  I hurry through coffee and breakfast so I can get over to the hospital no later than mid-morning.  With the operation scheduled for 12:30, I want to have ample time with Danny beforehand, and I need to make arrangements for the hospital chaplain to pay us a visit.

I can't help but recall Danny's previous two surgeries - one to install the original defibrillator and the other to replace the battery - when our former pastor, Wallace, arrives in time to pray with both of us, then stays with me throughout the entire procedure.  What comfort this gives me, and what peace of mind it gives Danny to know I won't be waiting out the ordeal alone.

This time around, everything's different.  Though we feel, still, the incredible calm generated by the prayers of so many, there's simply nothing like having a believer physically present, to join hands, and pray aloud over us.  I can't help but wonder what the St. Joseph's chaplain will be like.

About an hour after I make the request, a middle-aged man in a wheelchair appears at Danny's doorway.  A warm smile engulfs his bespectacled face.  "Am I at the right room?"  he asks in a voice as pleasant as his expression.  "I was told you all wished to see the chaplain."

"Yes, yes," says Danny eagerly.  "Please come in!"

James, as he introduces himself, rolls into the room and settles his chair near the foot of Danny's bed.  He wants to hear our story, of how and why we came here, where we are from, and what we do at home.  As we speak in turn, James listens empathetically and with genuine interest.  A born pastor, I think to myself, and perfectly suited for a chaplain's role.

When James hears the part where we leave the cabin in such a hurry, I don't think to bring my Bible, he regards me kindly, and says, "I'll see to it that you get one today before the surgery.  That's a promise."

I am grateful beyond words!

James lingers much longer than we expect, and we are both so happy he does; he is amazing company!  Finally, we join hands and, though I can't remember exactly what James speaks in prayer, Danny and I are instantly filled with God's peace and assurance.

And in the midst of uncertainty, we can rejoice.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"I Say a Little Prayer for You"

James 5:16b
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

In the midst of my recap of our "vacation" in North Carolina, my husband, Danny, suffered a setback with his new pacemaker due to a severe infection.  I simply could not continue with the story here until we had some positive resolution.  Praise the Lord, we have!  After enduring two surgeries in a week's time, Danny is back home and improving every day.  And even though you now have a sneak peek at the final outcome, I hope the encounters and revelations from our North Carolina experience shared here will inspire and encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

I am back in Danny's hospital room after my successful Walmart run, delighted to see that Dr. H. has arrived with good news.  Surgery for the needed pacemaker is slated for 12:30 tomorrow (Wednesday)!  Having a definite time frame at last, I am anxious to contact family and friends to keep Danny in prayer, and though we haven't attended our church in months since the dissolution of our band, I'm still active on the prayer chain.  I promptly email the coordinator all the information.

"But are you sure that's all right to do?"  Danny queries after I tell him the prayer chain has been alerted.

"Honey, just because we haven't been attending church doesn't mean these people don't care about you, about us," I assure him.  "And don't you agree that we need all the prayers we can get right now?"

"I can't argue with that," he says, and adds wistfully, "I wish we could go back there, but there's no way I can.  Just can't let go of the hurt, you know?"

I squeeze his hand understandingly.  "It's hard to forgive, isn't it?  But hanging onto the grief will only end up harming you."

"I know, I know," Danny says, not without some frustration.  "I'm just not ready.  Not yet."

We chat away the afternoon as the friendly nurses come and go at regular intervals.  Although he doesn't want me to leave, Danny urges me to get going around five o'clock so I can once again indulge in the complimentary food and beverages at the hotel.  I don't want to leave him either, but with as much money as this "vacation" is costing us, who am I to argue with free?

Back at the hotel, I happily run into Claudia again in the dining area.  It is such a joy to reconnect with her, and not have to dine alone.  We talk about family and work like we've known each other all our lives.  I can feel the mercy of God reaching out to me through her kind company, and I do hope my presence is as much of a gift to her.

I return to my room after dinner, still wishing the Gideons hadn't let me down, but so gratified to have clean pajamas to sleep in and fresh clothes for the next two days.  And unexpectedly, but oh, so welcomed, a deep, abiding sense of calm settles in my bones.  Worries about tomorrow, subdued in Claudia's companionship, completely melt away.  Is Danny sensing the same?

"How are you feeling, honey?"  I ask as soon as Danny answers his phone.

"Believe it or not, peaceful," he says.  "I'm not concerned about the surgery at all.  What will be will be."

"It's the prayers!"  I exclaim.  "We're covered with them!  I feel that same peace, too!"

And if ever either of us doubted the immense power of intercessory prayer in the past, those doubts vanished that day as morning mist in the sunlight.

Thanks be to God!

To be continued . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2017


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

My friends, I'm not sure when I will share a new post here at Meditations of My Heart after this one.  The day this is published is the day my husband, Danny, undergoes surgery to remove his pacemaker because of infection.  The doctors will have to give him an external device until he is completely healed, and they can then give him a permanent pacemaker, so he will likely be in the hospital most of this coming week.

What we need at this time is prayer.  Lots of it!  Prayers have already been pouring in, and both Danny and I have felt the comfort and peace of God through the intercession of others on our behalf.  

But we know we need continued prayers to see us through the coming week and you, my dear friends, are exactly the right ones to do this!  Oh, and please feel free to share our needs on your church prayer chain or Bible study group, and share my blog to your Facebook feed.  Any word, breathed in prayer, is a blessing to those being prayed for.

We don't understand all that is happening and cannot fathom the "why" of it all.  It isn't a circumstance that immediately elicits a urge to be thankful, yet we are called to be thankful in all things.  To rejoice always.  To pray without ceasing.

Because Christ Jesus is our Savior, the One who laid down His life for our transgressions, and was raised to life that we might live eternally, and forgiven, with Him; that is reason enough for us to be glad and grateful to God no matter where we find ourselves.  It is why we have hope even on the bleakest of days and under the most crushing of circumstances.

Know that Danny and I thank each and every one of you for your love and your prayers.  If you leave a comment below, it might take a day or two for me to respond, but rest assured, I will get to all of them.

May God's peace reign in your hearts, and may His blessings continue to flow in your lives, dear ones!  You are all precious children of God!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Romans 8:26
The Spirit helps us with our weakness.  We do not know how to pray as we should.  But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.

God's surprises heal with a loving tenderness, especially in the times we are most vulnerable.  When I realize I can't do it, I have nothing left - God comes to where I am, in my greatest need.  He meets me in my weakness, takes me in his arms with astonishing love and mercy.  ~Jean Wise, Healthy Spirituality 

This is the sixth installment in my series about our recent "vacation" in North Carolina.  You can read the previous five under April in the Blog Archives on the right hand side of this page.

I wake.  I shower.  I dress in day-old clothes.  I need coffee.  Now.  Before breakfast.  I need fresh air.

I need to pray.

The words are not there.  I do not know how to pray as I should, but God, through His Holy Spirit, hears my groans.  He intervenes and prays for me when words are inadequate.  This experience is more humbling than I care to admit.  Didn't You give me the gift of writing, Lord?  Why wouldn't I have the words?  Why would You withhold them?

Because He is the God of surprises, healing me when I am the most helpless, meeting me in my weakness, finding me in the lowly place, and calling me to look up.  Up to Him.

I do, but then close my eyes.  A tear escapes.  Is this another day of waiting, or will Danny have surgery?

Saying thanks to God and trusting in His plans, I hastily eat the hotel's breakfast (the bacon rates a 10 on the Martha Meter), then it's out the front doors to call an Uber and return to the hospital.

Danny is chipper and upbeat, unlike the plodding of his heart, and we are elated to be reunited.  We chat about our previous evening's experiences, and he is so glad to hear how well I am being treated at Homewood, and that I've made friends with Claudia, who will be staying the this week on business.  "It makes me feel so much better knowing you have someone to talk to in the evenings," Danny says.  "Let's hope we'll hear some good news about the surgery soon.  And no matter what, you need to take an Uber to the nearest Walmart for some new clothes and phone chargers.  We can't keep borrowing them."

"Tell me about it," I say.  "It's disgusting to have to wear the same outfit I had on yesterday, but I'm sure the hospital staff has seen and smelled worse!"

"No doubt," Danny says with a laugh.  "But you always smell good to me."

It isn't long after this exchange that Dr. H., the cardiologist, pays a visit.  "We couldn't schedule for today," he says regretfully, "but we have you slated for tomorrow at 12:30."  We are disappointed, but not disheartened.  It will all happen in God's timing, the only timing we can trust.

I am off to Walmart, and miracle of miracles, this store is in the midst of a refurbishing; every associate, it seems, is out there on the floor and ready to help for a change.  More angels?  Yes, indeed!  I am guided to every aisle and assisted in every need, especially when it comes to the phone cables.  I have no clue!  But by the time I reach check-out, I've been helped more times than I can count, and am feeling so blessed to have found the exact items we need to ride out our Asheville stay.

As I board the Uber, with my first female driver, a person still attached to the "Flower Child" lifestyle, I'm given the opportunity to share my faith with her as I describe Danny's situation.  She seems receptive, open even.  And we exchange hugs once she has delivered me safely to St. Joseph's.

Oh, Lord, I hope the witness I gave makes an impact upon this one dear soul!

Because isn't that what we're called to do?  Bear witness to the love of Christ for this sinful and broken world?  It isn't easy when the words escape us.  When we have to depend on the Spirit to intervene on our behalf.

But He, the God of surprises, will shine through and shine forth.

And sometimes, hugs speak louder than words.


I have every intention of completing this series in the coming weeks, but because of a new situation Danny and I are currently facing, I'm going to have to take a break.  Although the original surgery went well, Danny has, unfortunately, developed an infection around the wound site and will have to have a second surgery this coming Friday.  We would most appreciate your prayers, dear friends, for a successful operation and perfect healing this time around.  Thank you!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Angels We Have Heard . . . Right Here!

Psalm 91:11-12
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

This is the fifth installment of my series regarding my husband, Danny, and our most unexpected "vacation."  You can find the first four listed at the right side of this page under Blog Archive, April.

It is almost 6 o'clock in the evening.  Danny has made phone calls to his family (not his mother as she would be worried witless) and work about our sudden turn of events, and I've reached my mom at our 5:30 daily rendezvous.  She is, needless to say, in shock, and so sorry to hear of all that has transpired.  It takes every ounce of will power I have not to dissolve into tears while speaking with her.

Danny notices my distress after I hang up, and takes my hand.  "This has been a long day.  You need dinner and rest.  Don't worry about me.  I'll be fine."

As much as I hate to leave, I know Danny's right.  I really need to eat.  I would love a glass of wine right about now, just to help me relax, and let the worries and pressures of this most eventful day take a back seat, if only for one evening.  I kiss Danny good-bye, promising to be back as soon as I can in the morning.

And I realize, as I stand outside the hospital entrance, summoning an Uber, how vulnerable I suddenly am.  A woman alone, in an unfamiliar city, relying upon the kindness and assistance of strangers, is not at all a comforting feeling.  I find myself wishing with all my might that this is just a bad dream, one from which I will wake up any minute and find myself in the cabin with Danny, sitting on the porch rockers, gazing at the breathtaking mountain views.

God knows I'm on the verge of a full-fledged pity party.  That is not in His plans.  I've got you, Martha.  Everything is fine.  I'll never leave nor forsake you.  Just watch . . .

I watch, but I don't see them at first.  It's not until I'm about ready to turn in for the night, opening every drawer in hopes of finding Gideon's Bible, when the light breaks through.  Angels!  God, You sent angels, one after the other, all evening long!  Have I entertained them, unaware?

  • The Uber driver, who upon hearing my plight, promises to pray for Danny and me, and share our situation with the prayer group he leads at his church.
  • The clerks at the Hampton Inn, where I mistakenly think I'd booked my room, only to find out it is at Homewood Suites on the same road.  They, too, hear my story as tears well in my eyes, and quickly assure me that because both hotels are under the Hilton umbrella, a shuttle will be sent for directly.
  • The shuttle driver, who is also a concierge at Homewood, is not just sympathetic, but guarantees me that her staff is ready to help in any way possible.  "We have a complimentary buffet with free wine and beer going on right now.  There's only about thirty minutes left, so don't worry about checking in until you've had something to eat and drink."  Free???  Did she say free?  Now I don't have to leave the hotel yet again to find dinner!  "And there is a complimentary breakfast in the morning, so don't miss it."  Can we say, "Heaven?"
  • As I'm enjoying a savory meal and a glass of cabernet, I notice this same woman saying something to several members of the buffet staff.  I think nothing of it until a young server brings me a to-go cup with its lid on right before dinner closes.  Curious, I open it only to find it filled to the brim with wine!  Uh-oh!  This is going to be an all-evening sipper!  Another miracle at the wedding at Cana?
  • When I finally get around to checking in, the young woman at the desk makes me feel right at home, and will procure a toothbrush and toothpaste for me momentarily.  Lifesaver!
  • Once in my room, I make a few short, but necessary, calls to family, trying to conserve my cell phone's power.  The conversations are comforting, but emotional.  I feel I need some fresh air.  Teary-eyed, I press the elevator button.  When the doors open, there is one woman inside.  I press the "G" for ground, but up we go!  We both laugh when I admit I must have pushed the "up" button instead of the "down."  Later, when I'm sitting outside on the hotel patio, this same woman shows up, introduces herself as "Claudia," and asks if she can join me.  As God would have it, she is also a Christian.  We talk for over an hour, and I'm so grateful for her company on an evening that was fast beginning to feel unbearably lonely.
Yes!  God, in His great mercy, sends me angels this night; little do I know then that He would continue to do so throughout our stay in Asheville.  But now, I understand how to watch for them, to be aware of their abiding presence.

I might not see wings, but God grants me the grace to see their hearts.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hurry Up and Wait

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

This is part four of a series about what happened to my husband, Danny, and me while we were on "vacation."  To read parts 1 - 3, click on the three most recent blogs displayed on the right hand side of this page.

Once at the St. Joseph's campus (Mission, where the actual surgery takes place, is full), the ambulance crew wastes no time getting Danny to a room that's been prepared for his arrival.  We are visited in turn by an array of nurses, who hook him to an IV, a heart monitor, and run various routine checks.  To a person, each one is friendly, welcoming, and most sympathetic when they hear the story of how we ended up in Asheville in the first place.  I imagine they are envisioning how they would feel if faced with the same unexpected predicament.

We are advised by Danny's chief nurse that the general doctor for the floor and the head cardiologist will be paying him a visit, most likely in the afternoon.  It is now lunch time, and Danny and I are both ravenous.  When the nurse announces that his lunch will be delivered shortly, I get directions to the cafeteria, fix a salad to go, and hoof it back up to the room.

As we eat, my eyes keep wandering to the heart monitor display - 40 . . . 41 . . . 39 . . .40 . . . 40.  So flat.  So slow.  So scary!  I put on a brave face for Danny's sake, but on the inside, all I can think about is crying.  How painful it is to see this man I love propped up in a hospital bed with all those tubes and wires!  Yet in spite of all he is and might be facing, Danny maintains his good humor.

And we both hold out hope, huge (my word for the year) hope, as we share the same feeling that what's happening is all in God's plan.  We simply have to be strong, and wait on His timing.

And wait on being seen by the promised doctors.  >Sigh!<  Time may seem to fly in the outside world, but when you're cooped up in a hospital room, it definitely slows to a crawl.  To pass the time, Danny helps me locate a hotel not two miles from the hospital, one with reasonable rates, at least for Asheville, home of Biltmore Estates, a year-round tourist mecca.  I make my reservation reluctantly, not wanting to leave Danny later that day, but knowing if I don't get a square meal and a good night's sleep, I will be worthless the following day.

The next step is loading the Uber app on my phone.  Danny goes through this step by step so I won't be confused when it comes time to actually use it.  That's when we notice that our phones are losing power - fast!  We have to find chargers somewhere in the hospital as the phones, especially mine for securing transportation, are our life lines.

A hasty visit to the nearest nurses' station and, miracle of miracles, the staff scurries around and, in short order, presents us with the very chargers we need to keep our phones alive and kicking!  We are definitely in good and caring hands here.

But still, the afternoon wears on with no sign of either doctor.  Danny shows his first sign of irritation.  "I wonder why they made such a fuss about transporting us up here in a hurry.  The doctors don't seem overly anxious now, do they?"

"They'll be here, honey," I reassure him, though I'm getting impatient myself.  "And I think we should take it as good news that they aren't in a mad rush to get to you.  It must mean they think you are stable for the moment."

"I guess you're right," Danny concedes.  "I sure could use a good cup of coffee; this hospital stuff stinks."

"There's a coffee shop downstairs in the lobby," I tell him.  "I'll go get us both a cup."  (Just know, this establishment's coffee is so good, it puts Starbucks on notice!)

By the time I return, Dr. M., the overseeing physician, is chatting with Danny.  He is a congenial fellow with an easy smile and a relaxed persona.  He places both of us at ease.

He's not gone thirty minutes when the cardiologist, Dr. H., makes his appearance.  He, too, is affable, though more on the serious side.  He is the one who painstakingly explains two facts about Danny's condition of which we were uninformed to that point:  What a third degree block to the heart actually means (see Voice of the Lord for the description), and that his current defibrillator is actually maintaining his pulse, as low as it is.

"I've already spoken with your cardiologist in Atlanta," Dr. H. says, "and he concurred that we should go ahead with surgery to replace your defibrillator with an actual pacemaker.  We are hoping to get you into Mission tomorrow, but that all depends on the anesthesiologist's schedule.  At the latest, we'll do the procedure on Wednesday.  Who knows?  Maybe you'll actually have a chance to spend time at that cabin after all."

Dr. H.'s optimism breathes new life into the hope we already hold.

And we are thankful once again that God has brought us to this place.

To be continued . . .

Friday, April 14, 2017

(Not Mr. Toad's) Wild Ride!

This is the third installment in a series of posts regarding our recent "vacation."  If you are just now joining me here, you might want to read The Voice of the Lord and Off the Bucket List to catch up with the story.

Psalm 18:6
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help.  He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry to Him reached His ears.

Psalm 25:1
In You, Lord my God, I put my trust.

I'm sitting in the ambulance with the driver, Kaitlin; we haven't yet departed as she is watching a monitor, which allows us to see Danny and the other two EMTs as they make sure everything is tightened down for the impending ride.  I can barely hear their voices, but it is so comforting to see Danny acting like himself.  I may not be able to sit in the back with him, but at least I can check on him whenever I choose.

My phone rings unexpectedly.  "Hello, this is Martha."

"Hi, this is Shayla with Watershed Cabins," a bubbly voice greets me.  "I'm just calling to see if you all arrived safely and if the cabin met your expectations."

"Well," I say slowly, "yes and no."  In a split second, the spectacular vistas at Big Sky Lodge are superimposed upon the surreal view from the ambulance windshield.  "My husband is having issues with his defibrillator, and right now we're heading up to St. Joseph's - Mission Hospital in Asheville.  I don't know that we will spend much, if any, time at the cabin this go around."

Shayla is quick to say how sorry she is, and tells me sincerely that she hopes all goes well.  You're not the only one.  I thank her and hang up.  And for the first time that morning, my own words uttered awaken me to the stark facts.  We never think for a moment in our mad dash to get to the hospital that we would not be able to return to the cabin to retrieve anything for an extended stay.  No extra clothing, no phone charges, no toothbrushes.  Would we even be back there in time to pack up and leave?

"All set," Kaitlin declares cheerfully.  "Are you ready to leave?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," I answer truthfully.

"Just so you know," she continues, "since you are a civilian passenger, I won't be using the siren or going excessively fast.  Your husband will be fine on the trip, so don't worry.  And once we're at Mission?  He'll get the best care there is, guaranteed.  It's one of the top cardio hospitals in the country."

At that moment, I really, really want to believe her.  I want to believe with every fiber of my being that God had us take the trip to the cabin because of this very fact.  As Kaitlin maneuvers through Bryson City and reaches the parkway on ramp, I ponder her words, and I pray.  Lord, was this Your plan all along?  If it is, then cabin or now cabin, I give thanks to You.

Kaitlin hits her stride once on the parkway.  She obviously has a different take on speeding than I do.  And she has no problem riding the bumpers of the slower cars clogging the left lane, forcefully urging them to merge right.  I can't recall how many times I find myself groping for a non-existent assist bar as we whiz along at an unheard of, at least in my book, 90 miles an hour.  Okay, Lord, help, help help!  This is freaking me out!  Kaitlin passes a barreling semi like its standing still.  What good is it to be going to the best cardio hospital around if we don't make it there alive?

My cry reaches the ears of the Lord.  I look over at Kaitlin.  She is as cool and collected as can be.  Even her hands on the steering wheel exude confidence.  I realize at once that there is no need to worry, not one bit.  God reveals that He is with her, too.

Just as we are nearing Asheville, there is an accident up ahead.  It has slowed traffic down to a crawl.  Kaitlin confers with her fellow EMT, Jeremiah (gotta love that name), who has received word from the dispatcher regarding the accident's location.  Knowing she isn't supposed to use the siren with me in the passenger seat, Kaitlin is relieved to hear another ambulance approaching us from behind.  She does not hesitate for a second to fall right in behind it, hugging its backside as if coupled like a train car.

Think Moses parting the Red Sea.  Cars and trucks of every description veer to the left or the right, making way for the emergency procession.  It's slow (thankfully) but steady going.  I actually find myself wishing I, too, had a siren on my Scion so I could cut through heavy traffic like a hot knife through butter!

Jeremiah indicates the exit we can take to dodge the mess altogether, and return to the interstate above the wreck.  Here, Kaitlin throws all caution to the wind.  Light flashing and siren howling, she pushes toward the exit, follows Jeremiah's direction, and sails down a two-lane road at a speed I dare not guess.  This is by no means my favorite part of the journey, but I'm pleased that the siren isn't glaringly loud inside the cab.

Finally, we pop out onto a now clear interstate, and clip the few short miles to the hospital.  "Sorry about the siren," Kaitlin says with a grin, "but sometimes, we have to bend the rules."

"I'm glad you did," I admit.  "While I didn't like the speed, this is a great story to tell my grandchildren.  What will they think of their Gammie's wild ride?"

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Off the Bucket List!

The road leading down, down, down from the cabin

Joshua 1:9
"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

This is the second installment of a series of posts I'll be penning regarding the events that occurred when my husband, Danny, and I were supposed to be enjoying a relaxing vacation in the mountains.  To read the first episode, click on The Voice of the Lord in the Blog Archives.

We make it down the mountain safely.  Danny pulls over in a gas station parking lot so we can trade places.  As I adjust the driver's seat to fit my shorter frame, it dawns on me that in the five years we've had our Subaru, I've only driven it once.  Once!  And now, circumstances being what they are, I have to navigate the car several miles down the Great Smoky Mountain Parkway?  Lord, please be with me.  Take away my fears . . .

"Just remember," Danny cautions as he fastens his seat belt.  "The Subaru accelerates extremely fast, so go easy on the gas pedal, okay?"

What I want to say is, "Now you tell me."  What I end up saying is, "Okay," as the last thing Danny needs right now is more worry.  He's carrying enough for both of us.

Taking a deep breath, relieved that the traffic on the parkway is sparse, I set a course for Bryson City, knowing that this feat is only possible with God's help.  And help, He does!  Within minutes, I acclimate to the feel of the car, stay securely in the right hand lane, and cruise at a conservative, for most drivers, 50 miles per hour.

Danny, never a good passenger in the best of times, has only words of encouragement and assurance.  His words of comfort, I have no doubt, are God-inspired.  I feel as though I'm being embraced in a calm, warm blanket of peace.

We arrive without incident at the Swain County Medical Center.  I drop Danny at the emergency room entrance, and proceed to find a place to park.  This only takes a matter of minutes as the lot is neither large nor crowded.

When I pass through the emergency room doors only moments after Danny, I anxiously scan the waiting room.  There's no sign of him!!!  My heart plummets.  His condition must be worse than I imagined if he is seen that quickly.  I approach the admissions desk in fear and trembling.

The receptionist, Helen, greets me warmly.  I explain who I am, and ask where Danny is.

"He's already been taken back to a room so they can run tests as soon as possible.  He gave me his medical information, and I'm filling out the necessary forms for you all right now, so no need to worry about that," she tells me cheerfully.  "I need some further information from you, and then I'll take you to his room. I'll bring the paper work to you to sign when I'm done."

It takes about ten minutes to help Helen out; I thank her repeatedly as I follow her down the hallway to Danny's room.  When we arrive,I can't believe he's already in a hospital gown!  Even in the midst of what could be a dire situation, I'm relieved to see that Danny hasn't lost his sense of humor.  Turning to the nurse, he says, "You were my friend until you made me put this on!"  And a bit later, "You know, your mama was right when she told you to wear clean underwear.  Sure glad I did!"

Naturally, these comments elicit chuckles from the staff, and help me fight back the tears begging to flow.  It isn't until Helen finds me where I'm standing outside Danny's room, as I don't need to be in there as tests are run, that they burst the dam.  The trigger?  "Does he have a living will?"

Clearly aware of my distress, Helen is immediately empathetic, guiding me gently through the paperwork, and explaining in a soothing voice where I need to sign.  I am, once again, convinced that God has intervened in a most unexpected and welcomed way.  Because of her kindness, I'm able to pull myself together, and manage a smile for Danny before entering his room.

After putting Danny through a battery of tests, the doctor finally enters the room and explains that the heart condition he has can't be treated at their hospital.  Danny has what's known as third degree heart block.  Don't think clogged arteries, as we both thought at first; it's when the top half of the heart refuses to work in sync with the bottom half, causing an electrical imbalance.

"My recommendation for you is to go to St. Joseph's - Mission Hospital in Asheville," the doctor tells Danny.  "They have a dedicated cardio wing and a highly qualified team of surgeons.  We can transport you there by ambulance."

"But what about my wife?"  Danny asks.  "She can't drive expressways, and the ones in Asheville are horrible.  I need her with me."

"She can ride in the ambulance with you," the doctor assures us, "and we'll have security keep an eye on your car for you while you are gone."

As I'm sure you've probably already guessed, I'm not at all keen about riding in an ambulance, but what else am I supposed to do?  There are no alternatives if I wish to be by Danny's side.

When the ambulance crew arrives, they couldn't be any more courteous and caring as they strap Danny into the gurney and wheel him outside to the waiting vehicle.  "You'll have to sit up front with me, Mrs. Orlando," says Kaitlin, our driver.  "There aren't enough seat belts in the back."

Oh, joy!  A ride in a speeding ambulance AND shotgun to boot!  Danny overhears her, and can't refrain from joking once again.  "Hey, Martha, it's just one more thing to check off your bucket list!"

"Who knew?"  I shoot back at him, my smile a little too forced.  Resigned, and praying God will give me strength and courage, I hoist myself into the passenger side of the ambulance, fasten my seat belt, and prepare for take off.  

To be continued . . .

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Voice of the Lord

Psalm 95:7
The Lord is our God, and we are his people, the sheep he takes care of in his own pasture.  Listen to God's voice today!

If you want to make God laugh, make your own plans.  ~Ceil Ryan, Surrounded by the Spirit 

My husband, Danny, and I have planned this anniversary getaway to Big Sky Lodge, a luxury cabin in the Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina, for months.  After long weeks of illness and stress, we are more than ready for a vacation together, to reconnect with one another, and to recharge with God.

But there is a problem.

Over the past two weeks, Danny experiences bouts of light-headedness and shortness of breath whenever he overly exerts himself.  He attributes it at first to having been under the weather for a while.  But when he makes a run to our local Costco the Friday before we are slated to leave on Sunday, he has a spell, which forces him to sit on the curb to regroup before he can go into the store.

Concerned, Danny calls his cardiologist's office (he has an ICD - Internal Cardiac Defibrillator) just to make sure these episodes have nothing to do with his heart.  The nurse assures him that there is no reason to be alarmed.  He has an appointment scheduled for the week following our vacation, and is advised to wait until then to be checked out.

This is what Danny wants to hear as he is as excited as I am to be returning to the mountains, but he can't shake the feeling that something is wrong.

Saturday, we are at Publix, making a final grocery run, when Danny decides to check his blood pressure and pulse.  The former is fine, but the latter?  Forty?  And holding???

Now Danny is truly anxious.

Once home, he calls the cardiologist's office again, and speaks with the P. A. on weekend duty.  He, too, nixes the need for panic, but does recommend, since we are embarking on vacation, the purchase of a blood pressure cuff.  Danny follows his orders, and the cuff is packed along with a week's worth of groceries, clothing, toiletries, and games into our Subaru the next morning as we prepare to head out.

Giovanni, Danny's son, helps me load up the car, as Danny is reluctant to exert himself.  "You know you'll have to unpack the car once we get to the cabin," he tells me.

"No problem,"  I assure him.  "Consider it done."

When we set off Sunday morning, Danny is seemingly feeling better, and is able to drive without any issues.  That's a good great thing since I cannot handle expressways.  No way, no how!

It appears for all intents and purposes that our plans for an awesome vacation will come to fruition.


Danny wakes at 1:30 that night.  He takes his pulse.  Forty.  He prays the Lord's Prayer over and over and over again before he can finally fall back asleep.

Monday morning, the pulse reveals the same low and disturbing number.  Danny places another call to the cardiologist's office, and blessedly, reaches the triage nurse.  This time, he receives the right advice.

"Get down to the nearest hospital, and have them do an EKG.  Now!"

The voice of the Lord speaks loudly and clearly through this woman, and Danny doesn't hesitate to move on her admonition.  "Martha, grab your purse.  We have to drive to Bryson City asap."

"What?"  I am incredulous, and I've just opened my Bible to do my reading for the day.

"I'm serious," Danny says.  "I'll drive us down the mountain, but you'll have to take over on the Great Smoky Mountain Parkway."

"But Danny, you know I can't . . ."

"Yes, you can.  You have to."

I grab my purse and my Kindle, and out the door of Big Sky Lodge, we fly.

Praying all the way.

To be continued . . .

We're Going Home

Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven. ...