An encounter with a myocardial infarction

1 Nov

It is now 3 years since I had my MI (heart attack). My wife, Ann (an anesthesiologist), my two young daughters and myself had just returned from a 200 km road journey (through ghat roads) from Agartala (capital of Tripura) after a brief stopover at Ambassa, where we have a branch hospital. I was driving and tired. We went straight to the hospital were I did a neonatal colostomy (for anorectal malformation) and a Caesarean section. The baby took time to come out of anesthesia, so I left Ann to extubate the child and went home. I parked the vehicle (a Mahindra Bolero) in the garage and walked home in the dark. When I reached the bottom of the stairs to my home (there is a steep climb of about 40 feet), I found it very difficult to take a step forward. I tried shouting for help but no sound came out. I managed to crawl up all the steps and reach home where I sat on the floor. I told Hannah, our eldest daughter to call Ann. Ann thought that I was just tired. A little later, I vomited and started experiencing severe chest discomfort. Ann and other doctors came home and lifted me down in a blanket and took me to the hospital. An ECG confirmed an acute anterior wall MI. We did not have streptokinase in stock. Ann sedated me and called my classmate, Ravikannan at the Cachar Cancer Hospital in Silchar (120 kms away) and he brought the streptokinase. I had severe chest pain for a day. Ann managed me calmly (although she confesses to having some unease when she arranged the resuscitation tray with endotracheal tube at my bedside). In a few days, I was well enough to be wheeled around the hospital. All the staff, family and friends prayed for my recovery and took good care of me. I did an echocardiography on myself and found a poorly contracting heart with an ejection fraction of about 35% – I could not believe that it was my heart ! After about a week, one of the staff nurses had acute appendicitis and I managed to do the surgery from a wheelchair with the operating table lowered completely. Our obstetrician assisted me and closed the abdomen. I was then brought to the Christian Medical College at Vellore where I underwent angiography and stenting of my left anterior descending artery. I spent about a month at Vellore and Bangalore – there was no further change in my heart and we returned back to Makunda.

My father and some other close relatives had coronary heart disease and my father had died of an acute MI. Ann had taken me to a cardiologist a few months before my MI – all biochemical tests were normal and i was able to complete a full treadmill test without any signs of ischemia or discomfort. I had also started to exercise. I had no other risk factors (except family history). I was told (after my MI) that I had developed an acute coronary thrombosis.

After my return to Makunda, we found that I had to work as much as before my MI. There was no additional help, a lot of pending bills had accumulated and workloads had increased. I started tentatively at first but was soon doing as much surgery, ultrasound and other work as before. After an experience like this, every twinge in the chest is taken seriously (as you don’t want to have another one) ! I avoided long surgeries. Sometimes, I was forced to do some long surgeries. There was a patient with tracheo-esophageal fistula who would have died if I had not operated. There was a patient undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy who developed a biliary leak and I had to do a hepaticoduodenostomy. Since I knew that there was no one else to take over, I just took deep breaths and completed these and other such surgeries one stitch at a time. When I was tired, I had a bed put in the hospital where I could lie down for some time.

I was asked to walk 2 kms every day. I found this tiresome and took my daughters along. One day I noticed a tapping sound and found an unfamiliar woodpecker pecking on a dead bamboo stump (which was being used as a post for holding the volleyball net at the school). I photographed it and posted it on Flickr and it was identified as a relatively rare woodpecker (Stripe-breasted woodpecker – Dendrocopos atratus). I became very interested and started noticing all sorts of interesting birds and insects. I upgraded my equipment to a Nikon D300s with Sigma 150-500mm OS lens (from my old Nikon D70 with Nikkor AF 70-300mm lens) and also bought a 27″ iMac for editing the photographs. The equipment budget was passed by Ann under the head “Cardiac Rehabilitation Expenses” ! I found that observing, photographing and reporting these wildlife in the campus and surrounding areas was very relaxing and added new meaning to my walks.

I have been to cardiac reviews every year. I have not become any better ( the ejection fraction is still around 35% ) but I haven’t become any worse. I am able to do almost all the things I did before my MI. I cannot run or do anything which demands exertion. I am happy with my lot – it is God’s portion for me. We have to accept the whole package and cannot pick and choose the things that please us. It is also God’s way of telling us that He is sufficient and that in our weaknesses, we experience His strength. I have never questioned why I should experience this – in His infinite wisdom, God permitted it and that is enough. We need to trust God absolutely and in everything.

This experience has brought our family closer. We have realized the shortness and unpredictability of life. It also has made me look at everything with a greater heavenly perspective. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven temporarily posted to this earth. We should not develop any deep roots here. The values of this world are temporary and not eternal. We should rather invest on those things that have eternal value – those things that find God’s approval. We should live for His approval – that the thoughts, plans and purposes of our hearts find His approval. This is our strength and that is sufficient.

Should my life be different ? I think I should just go on being the person He wants me to be. I am not perfect but will become more and more like Him. Our physical bodies degenerate with the passage of time but spiritually we become stronger as we experience His faithfulness and learn to trust and obey Him. When I was young, I did not want to commit my life into the hands of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I felt that this would lead to a loss of control over my life and I wanted to enjoy life in the way I wanted. Later, when I made the commitment, I knew it would be for life – a vow had been made like the one at the time Ann and me married – I will seek your will and follow it all the days of my life (in sickness or in health etc.). Many people advise me to take rest and relax. I find that doing the work that is pleasing in God’s sight brings the greatest rest and relaxation. Contentment and happiness are the rewards of obedience. Strength and health are given as the need arises. I spent several years after my undergraduate days spending time with young Christians, challenging them to find the same fulfillment that comes only by walking in God’s path, holding His hand. After joining Makunda, this became difficult as work took a lot of time. I think that I may again be able to do this as more time becomes available. I find that even if I don’t physically travel to other places, I can still communicate with people over the internet. I look forward to whatever God has in store in the days to come. My ambition is to live a life pleasing to Him when on this world and to be welcomed back as a servant who has completed the task given to him when I go to be with God in heaven.

23 Responses to “An encounter with a myocardial infarction”

  1. Vinod Shah November 2, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    Dear Vijay,
    I have known you now for 23 years since you first came to Chinchpada and I am amazed at how God has used you through weakness (the MI) and through strengths which are very many (brilliant mind and intellect, very good surgical ability and a great visionary).
    I feel jealous!!
    Vinod

  2. ivijayanand November 2, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    Dear Sir, Thank you for your comments. I have been inspired by your life and testimony from the time I first met you in 1987 at one of the Pachalur camps. You have been a role model for many of us – Vijay

  3. Alok Mahendroo November 2, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Dear Vijay ji,

    My belief has always been ‘whatever happens is always GOOD’.. and as in your case I can see it not only let’s you do God’s good work but now has enabled you to admire God’s GOOD WORK in all creatures big and small as in this whole universe….

    the more we observe… the more there is to admire….

    Keep writing … photographing… sharing… admiring….

    warm regards
    Alok

  4. Amy and Arpit Mathew November 2, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Thank you for sharing this, Dr. Vijay. Your life is an inspiration to many and your single-minded devotion and dedication to your perceived calling is something we can all learn from. May God keep you well and bless you and your family to make you a blessing to many people in the years to come as well. You and the work in Makunda are often in our thoughts and prayers.

  5. ivijayanand November 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Thank you Alok and Arpit for your comments, prayers and best wishes – Vijay

  6. ivijayanand November 3, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Respected Sir
    All glory and honour be to our God. Your life and testimony is an inspiration for all of us. Indeed with God everything is possible. We are very much blessed and happy to have you as our Leader. May God Bless and continue to use you and your family for His glory.

    Yours faithfully
    Johnson

  7. ivijayanand November 4, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    Thanks Johnson.

  8. priyanka kadam November 4, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Sir and mam ,your life has been an inspiration for me…with the little i know about your ministry for the lord i understand that your chosen to serve the lord….many the lord continue to use the two of you to encourage and inspire many,was blessed to meet you.

  9. ivijayanand November 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Thank you Priyanka. We were very happy to have met you at Shiloh. May God be with you.

  10. Viju John November 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Dear Vijayanand,
    Thanks for sharing. Your focus is inspiring and your commitment challenging. I always wondered how you both can go on as you do. May God bless you and the work.
    Viju

  11. Anish V John November 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing your sir..ever since i met you last year you’ve always inspired me..Looking forward to meeting you sometime..May God continue to bless you and family especially the ministry at Makunda..
    With love and prayers,
    Anish

  12. ivijayanand November 5, 2011 at 1:35 am #

    Thanks Viju and Anish – may God bless you – Vijay

  13. santoshmathewpersonalSanthosh November 5, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Vijay and Ann,

    This was quite moving to read….you as a family have been great examples for us and many!

  14. ivijayanand November 5, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Thanks Santosh.

  15. Jason J. David January 5, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    Hi Vijay Anand,

    Came across your blog from your facebook. Deeply touched by what you experienced recently (the MI) and how you have channeled its aftermath, by putting it down so powerfully in words only a faithful Christian could.

    What an amazing guy you have turned out to be, which I knew you would be, even back when we were together from 6th Standard to all the way upto 10th Standard in “D” Section at MCCS. Want to know who I am? Jason David….remember? Pen me when you get a chance, jason9787@yahoo.com

    • ivijayanand January 8, 2012 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks, Jason. Am travelling. Will write when I get back. Happy New Year – Vijay

  16. Selvajothi abraham October 13, 2015 at 1:49 am #

    Hi anna
    I did not know you had an MI. I thank God all is well with you now. I have 3 vessel disease about a year ago and had a triple bypass. Lad 100% rca 90% and circum 70%. It was by God grace i survived. I would love to visit makunda one of these days. Hope ann akka and family are doing fine. Give my regards.

    • ivijayanand October 13, 2015 at 6:01 am #

      You are welcome, Selvajothi Abraham. May God bless you. All of us are fine.

  17. Madhusudhan G October 13, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    Dear Dr.Vijay,
    Was shocked to read about your MI. God has been kind for your selfless and dedicated service being rendered. Hats off to your professional commitment and am sure you will be showered with blessings thu’ the love and affection of the lives you have saved till date.

  18. ivijayanand October 12, 2016 at 6:46 am #

    Follow-up Note:

    It is now exactly 8 years after my MI (12th October 2016). I have been thinking of what has changed in my life due to the MI.

    One of the biggest changes in the past 8 years has been my growing interest in biodiversity documentation and wildlife conservation – God opened my eyes to the beauty around me (which I had not noticed in the previous 20 years!). This has been directly due to the MI – as described in the blog post ( https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2011/11/01/an-encounter-with-a-myocardial-infarction/ ). A large number of observations, photographs and sounds have been posted to these and a large number of other sites:

    Flickr ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivijayanand/ ),
    iNaturalist ( https://www.inaturalist.org/people/8853 ),
    Oriental Bird Image Database ( http://orientalbirdimages.org/photographers.php?action=birder&Birder_ID=1033 ),
    Xeno-canto ( http://www.xeno-canto.org/contributor/XNOSZCRTKL )
    IBP ( http://indiabiodiversity.org/user/show/4409 )

    I am doing active work to document and conserve biodiversity in the area where God has chosen to put me in (Assam) – the hospital has also started a “Makunda Nature Club”. My first article was published in “Indian Birds” last year and some more are on the way:
    ( https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281374943_Sighting_of_Purple-throated-_or_Van_Hasselt%27s_Sunbird_Leptocoma_sperata_brasiliana_in_Karimganj_District_Assam_with_notes_on_its_status_in_India )

    My heart condition remains the same but I am able to do most of my work without difficulty. There are still times when I am unable to continue and need to take rest. The work at the hospital has increased tremendously in volume and variety and it has been a privilege to work with a group of highly committed staff to see God’s purposes and plans take shape before our eyes. Brief details of the work are at http://www.makunda.in and on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/380594120460/ ). The hospital has evolved into a successful model of a self-sustaining large volume, high quality service to the poor.

    My wife, Ann has been my greatest support. As we age together, we look back at a life full of God’s faithfulness and thank Him once again for allowing us to share and enjoy a full and exciting life – we will complete our 25th anniversary this December. Our children, Hannah and Deborah study in Class XI and VII in the school started in our campus.

    I meet many people who have had MIs, or suffer from cancer or other such diseases which can return – all of us are living on borrowed time. A God-given second chance at re-examining where we stand, making course corrections and living the life that wins His approval. My life after the MI has been an example of what God can do with us inspite of our infirmity. I thank God for letting me have the MI so that I had this second chance – surely nothing happens to us without it being a part of His plan for our lives.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Obeying a call to Medical Missions – a Testimony | The Sparrow's Nest - September 13, 2017

    […] 7. https://www.facebook.com/groups/380594120460/ 8. http://cmcvelloremissions.org/ 9. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2011/11/01/an-encounter-with-a-myocardial-infarction/ 10. […]

  2. NCCI | Obeying a call to Medical Missions – a Testimony - September 19, 2017

    […] 7. https://www.facebook.com/groups/380594120460/ 8. http://cmcvelloremissions.org/ 9. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2011/11/01/an-encounter-with-a-myocardial-infarction/ […]

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