The road leading down, down, down from the cabin
"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 . . .