Thank you so, so much for praying for Ava. If you hadn’t heard, she had a trampoline accident Sunday night. Had a baby tooth knocked out, and two of her front teeth were pushed back and up into the roof of her mouth. Her gums were purple and bloody and mangled and swollen, and oh goodness, it was a hard night. My heart just hurt so badly for her. We were so scared that there would be no fixing her once-beautiful smile.
Long story short, I asked for prayer for a healing miracle, and we’re well on our way. Our amazing dentist, Dr. Larry Devese, who loves God and our family, had us come in right away yesterday morning and spent 90 minutes giving Ava lots of novocaine and moving her teeth back in place as best he could. We have a long way to go, but we’re filled with hope. And gratitude. (Please keep praying for her. She’s in a lot of pain.)
I’ll be honest. When we first got the call about Ava (we weren’t with her, but thankfully the rest of Gabe’s family was there to comfort her), I’ll admit that I wasn’t very happy with God’s timing. First Gabe has a heart attack, and just when we’re finally getting used to our new routine, we up and leave for 5 weeks in Cambodia. And then we’ve got jet lag times five, and just when we’re finally getting over the hump, more trauma, this time for our little girl.
And then the money. We paid off both cars this year and were excited to tackle our last debt besides our house (Gabe’s school bill), and then the heart attack bills start flooding in (our homecoming mail on January 13 was a delightful mixture of 4-week-old Christmas cards and 2nd and 3rd notices from the hospital). And now, hello orthodontist.
And then God gently reminded me that, “Hey, you know I’m with you, right? Your husband shouldn’t have survived his Widow Maker artery being 100% blocked. I saved his life. And made him whole. And you remember when Cambodia was just a dream? Remember when you had $340 in the Cambodia Fund and wondered when on earth you’d ever get there? And your baby girl? She could’ve had a brain injury or paralysis, but instead she just has a couple teeth we need to fix, and I created little mouths to heal so quickly.”
And I just cried. Because I did remember. I do remember. And I remember something that happened on December 21, something we never shared because, after seeing how Gabe’s heart attack affected his poor mama in Africa, we didn’t want to scare any of our family while we were all the way on the other side of the world.
But I can tell you now. Because there’s some glory in it for our God.
It was the morning of December 21, 2011. We were so excited (especially me), because we were heading to the Phnom Penh International Airport to meet my friend, Keri, her husband, Scot, and their boys, Garrett and Nathan. We had only ever met online (+ 1 phone chat & 1 skype chat), and now they were flying in from Singapore to spend eight days with our family in Cambodia.
We got to the airport early, and their flight was late, so we were standing up for a long, long time. We were a little restless but having fun people-watching, until Gabe told me he wasn’t feeling well. “Are you sweaty?” he asked me. “No,” I said. The weather was a gorgeous 80 degrees, and we were in the shade with a breeze.
“I’m sweaty.” And he was. Very. His head was sweaty, his feet were sweaty, his whole body was sweaty. And it was a cold, clammy sweat. Exactly the same kind of sweat he’d been sweating on the night of October 29. While he was having a heart attack.
I tried not to panic. I could tell he was worried. He put his hand on his heart (my least favorite thing that he does these days).
“I think it’s my heart.”
And mine sank.
“This is how I felt when I was having a heart attack.”
And then a fog. Scot and Keri got off the plane. We hugged. Gabe hung back. We were going to split up into guys and girls tuk-tuks, so Keri and I could get to know each other on the 30-minute ride back to the guesthouse. But Gabe wouldn’t let me leave him. I don’t blame him. A 30-minute tuk-tuk ride with complete strangers while you’re about to pass out and afraid you’re having a heart attack?
I briefly explained to Keri. She understood. It was a long, long ride. I prayed hard.
We got back, dumped Keri and her family and their luggage and our children, and pulled away in our pastor friend Narin’s van (he owns the guesthouse and was, thankfully, home when we got there). He asked us if we wanted Western care or Khmer. He told us that Western doctors could cost us hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars but with Khmer care there was no guarantee that anything would be clean or safe or fill-in-the-blank-with-comforting-adjectives. Gabe said Western.
Then Narin said, “Or I have a Khmer friend I could call. He’s a believer, and he’s very good at what he does. Do you want me to go back and get his number?”
We said yes. While he was getting the number, Gabe said. “It’s definitely my heart. And we need to hurry. Like we need to get there NOW.”
All I could do was beg God for mercy. Visions of taking my husband’s corpse back to the States while I comforted our daughters filled my head. Cambodia has no real Western hospitals, no way at all of helping someone who is having a heart attack. We had been told he’d need to be care-flighted to Bangkok if anything happened with his heart. We did have the name of one Christian doctor who we could go to. His name was in an e-mail on Gabe’s laptop back at the guesthouse.
The storyteller in me would love to drag out the drama, but I’m going to cut to the chase. We got to the clinic, there was no wait, they took us back for Gabe to get an EKG on very antiquated equipment (that did the job). It was all so surreal. I just took deep breaths and tried to rest in knowing that God was in control, that he was with us even in Cambodia.
The EKG came back normal. His heart rate was low. The blood sugar test showed that he needed food. We had missed lunch, standing and waiting at the airport. He wasn’t having a heart attack. He just needed to eat.
I wanted to kiss the doctor’s feet. Dr. Modich. The same doctor, as we discovered a few days later, that friends had recommended to us in that e-mail.
I went up to the counter to pay the bill, still shaking from everything that had happened. When the receptionist handed me the bill, I gasped. She looked at me, concerned.
Seeing the doctor = $30. EKG = $10. Blood sugar test = $1. Missionary discount = -$5.
Thirty-six freaking dollars.
Gabe ate lunch on time the rest of our trip, threw in some regular morning exercise for good measure, and that was that.
God has our backs, friends. On these dreary Ohio winter days when I’m tired of blending milkshakes and making chicken noodle soup for my hurting little girl, and piles of stuff are glaring at me, and I have writer’s block out the ying-yang, and God is whispering, “Wait,” when I ask him for hints about our future, I’m going to remember.
To God be the glory. Great things he has done.