Name: Cindy Windsor
Occupation: Middle School Teacher
Favorite verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Why this verse is important to Cindy:
After going through a really tough couple of years, this verse became one that I clung to often. You see, my husband, Freddie, who was once really healthy, fit, and active, had a virus attack his heart. There were weeks of him struggling to breathe at home, so he finally went into the doctor for answers. Blood work and numerous cardiac tests concluded that he’d been having “mini-heart attacks” and we were told he had congestive heart failure. Within just months of this diagnosis, Freddie became very, very sick and there was nothing that medicines or local hospital stays could remedy any longer; his cardiologists told him that he needed to get to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. I followed the ambulance those three hours to Mayo with fear of the unknown. During this time, to add to the stress, I was also pregnant, with only five weeks left until our son would be born. Freddie spent the next four weeks in the ICU at Mayo where he eventually had his first open heart surgery so an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) could be placed. The LVAD would essentially keep him alive until he could get a heart transplant! (So much was happening so fast. There were a lot of “tough pills to swallow” during this time, and all while I was praying that Freddie would simply LIVE to help me raise our baby.) The LVAD meant that his heart had a mechanical pump inside of it and that there was a “driveline” from the LVAD that exited his abdomen, leading to a large external controller and two 5-lb batteries that he carried around in a bag so that they could keep the LVAD working day and night. Eventually Freddie returned home and we were settling into his recovery, our new life and learning new equipment and care, and a week later, I gave birth to our son, Zion. Needless to say, those first weeks were a blur.
I’d love to say that the days got easier and the stress lifted some, but it didn’t. While Freddie started to get better for the next few months, his health eventually took a huge nose-dive. At one of his monthly appointments at Mayo, cardiologists noticed he had a slight electrical delay in his heart so it was decided that he’d have an ICD (pacemaker/defibrillator) placed into his heart too. Within a week following his ICD surgery Freddie began having difficulty breathing again. Unfortunately, we found out one of the leads of the ICD got “stuck” on a leaflet of his tricuspid valve, causing the blood to flow in the wrong direction. This also ended up throwing off the pressures of his heart resulting in his aortic valve regurgitating blood too. Freddie was very sick at this point and couldn’t walk the length of one city block without stopping and bending over with his hands on his knees for breath. At this point his kidneys were working to just flush fluid that they weren’t even getting the blood supply they needed to thrive and his kidneys were beginning to fail him too. He was quickly moved to status 1A for a heart transplant. The next weeks were filled with blood work, med changes and countless back and forth trips from home to Mayo. A PICC line was placed, more medical equipment filled our bedroom, our baby was nearing his first birthday, and my stress level was through the roof! At this point I had to consciously choose daily to either worry or pray. I knew I couldn’t do both. And to be honest, oftentimes it was moment by moment where I had to choose, because worry had a funny way of sneaking in on me right after I concluded my heartfelt prayer.
Eventually, Freddie was officially “living” in the hospital at Mayo in Minnesota while he waited for his transplant because he was simply too sick to live at home any longer. That was a really difficult time—being apart so that he could be monitored 24-hours a day and I could still work to maintain income and insurance benefits. After about a month of Freddie living in the hospital, his heart had enough and stopped functioning well enough to pump blood to his brain and other organs so it was decided that surgeons would remove his heart and put in a Total Artificial Heart (TAH) to keep him alive until transplant. Then, after a long couple of months of living with the TAH and being on dialysis, he received his new heart and kidney. Freddie is now just six months out from his double transplant, but he is fully living life. God worked miracle after miracle in Freddie and he is walking and living and breathing to prove it daily.
Needless to say, Freddie went through a lot and in this “long-story-short” version of everything he experienced. You may have noticed I briefly mentioned my stress and worry. But, my stress and worry were surely not brief. It was two-years of what felt like a heavy burden and it was so intense that it could consume me if I let it. But I knew I couldn’t. I knew that through all of this there was still so much joy—so many blessings in my life. This scary and stressful time taught me that while I may not feel happiness day to day, moment by moment, that I can still feel joy. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. God knows that we will have burdens in our life, but He’s there to carry us through those times if we choose to lean on Him in our prayer. He doesn’t want us to put our energies into worry and stress and all the un-truths of the “what ifs”. He wants us to spend our energies on what IS true, what is lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. All of the GOOD stuff. He doesn’t want us to allow our circumstances to determine our joy. So, while life is often full of difficulty and strife, never forget to look towards the light, find the good in people, and think about all of the beauty and praiseworthy things of this world.
Photo credit: Amy Jo Core and Alison Nickel