Our family won't waste any time wondering where to start our Thanksgiving list of blessings this fall. We'll begin by thanking God for my father's successful heart bypass surgery. Everything else will be "gravy," as they say. Or, considering the first item on our list, maybe everything else will be "nonfat turkey broth."
The last time we gathered on this page, I wrote an editorial about the perspective gained from sitting beside my father's bed in the coronary care unit of St. Anthony's Hospital in Oklahoma City.
I wrote that piece to the tune of a symphony of beeps and buzzes sounded by a montage of monitors above and beside his bed. That night, Daddy looked like a techno-zombie. By my count, at least nine hoses and four needles protruded from his head, neck, torso and arms. And I couldn't even see all the electrical wires taped across his chest.
At the time, his medical team focused on two major tasks—managing pain and weaning him off the ventilator. I never thought about it before, but those are competing interests. When the nurse supplied enough morphine to alleviate his pain, his central nervous system slowed down, and he couldn't breathe on his own. But when she backed off the meds, his pain—and blood pressure—skyrocketed.
About midnight, Daddy's head cleared, and we talked. I knew he agreed to withstand more pain in return for pulling the ventilator out of his throat. He kept writing "gag" on my notepad, and I told him, "If you can take some pain, you can wake up enough, and we'll yank this thing." He nodded vigorously, and a couple of hours later, he started breathing on his own, through his nose.
We didn't know it, but that night after his surgery was only the second-scariest portion of the week. A few days later, the pain medications hid the husband and father we've known for decades and replaced him with someone we scarcely recognized. As Daddy talked, Mother and I communicated with our eyes: "Who is this guy? And will Marvin Knox ever return?" The same thing happened when my brother, Martin, helped out.
For the second time that week, a major adjustment in pain medication resulted in a significant upward turn in his health. Once acetaminophen replaced the "strong stuff" floating through his brain, Daddy started peeking out of the eyes of the medical patient who occupied the third room from the end of the hall on the fourth floor of St. Anthony's.
Through it all, God's grace was sufficient, not only for my father's every need, but also for the worries and anxieties of his family. We thank God for healing Marvin Knox. And we thank God for modern miracle workers—cardiologists, surgeons, nurses, techs, physical therapists and medical researchers whose work is absolutely inspired. And perfectly divine.