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  • Marilyn Jansen

The Big Scary



Jeff was not feeling right on Thursday night. He said he might need to go to the doctor. He had neck ache and pressure in his chest. No sharp pain or other heart attack symptoms. I told him to put a heating pad on it.

I told him to put a heating pad on it!!

Then Sunday at church he bent to pick up something moderately heavy and almost passed out. The pressure in his chest intensified, pain radiated into his arm, he broke out in a sweat, and knew it wasn't good.


Our church prayed for him and I whisked him off to the ER, all the time telling him it was not a heart attack since his heart has been checked numerous times and declared healthy as a horse. (Are horses' hearts healthier than other animals?) Something wasn't quite right.


The EKG ruled out a heart attack but it wasn't quite right. They ordered a blood draw. It wasn't quite right. They ordered a CT scan. It wasn't quite right. They did a more indepth scan. Then things went into hyper speed. You know how the stars are just specs looking out of the windshield of the Millennium Falcon until they hit hyper drive and the lights streak and the ship zooms? That!


Star Wars photo copyright Starwars.com

The ER doc came in and said it looked like an aorta aneurysm and that was one of the top two big scary diagnoses they have in the ER. Before they could say, “May the force be with you,” Jeff was rushed to Centennial Hospital where a cardiac thoracic surgeon and his team awaited us.


On the way to the hospital, I called all our prayer warriors. Their prayers arrived before us.

Dr. Todd outlined our options. Rarest kind of dissection. Biggest scariest surgery we do. The carotid and subclavian arteries would be clamped off and then reconstructed…


But by the grace of God, Jeff’s tear was small enough that they thought it might respond to meds and rest. Dr. Todd had spent the whole time from the last scan until we arrived in the hospital room in consultation with several other doctors and they all agreed waiting might work. If not, we could schedule surgery for Monday afternoon.

They looked at us and waited.

Oh, no! They expected us to make the decision. Us! Twelve serious looking faces stared at us. I held Jeff’s hand. Looked at him and thought, Well the heating pad idea definitely isn’t going to work!

In the end, after asking some stupid and some important questions, we decided to wait and see. We were scared. We prayed and enlisted more pray-ers. The nurses hooked him up with two drip lines and sewed in an arterial blood pressure line. They sewed it in! With thread and a needle.

Those prayers that flew to the hospital before we got there were crucial. The wait worked. New scans showed no additional tear. His blood pressure was easily stabilized. There was very little pain. It is a miracle in our eyes. He watched a lot of Star Wars. Rested, prayed, and healed. There was a lot of waiting.


Tomorrow we should be moved to a regular hospital room. We can leave CVICU! We might go home tomorrow or Thursday, just three or four nights after he checked in. How surreal is that? He is a rock star patient. God is merciful!


We haven’t gotten all the details about what the future holds. We have been told he will probably need a low dosage of beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers for the rest of his life. He should be able to bike and travel and live a normal life. He will have lifting restrictions. He will have numerous scans often.

Nothing about a heating pad.

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