Mortality versus morbidity.
Strange words unless you are in the health care field.
Morbidity is the bad things that happen during a disease.
Mortality is death, pure and simple.
Some diseases have high morbidity but low mortality. They have really bad symptoms but you can get over them. Some diseases have low morbidity and high mortality because you die so quickly, you don’t suffer.
A month ago my nephew, Ronald Ennis, M.D. died suddenly at the age of 48. He was a pathologist in Dennison, Texas and was well respected and well loved by his friends and family. Ronald is one of those rare success stories of children who have a difficult childhood but rise above it to excel. Ronald was one of the kindest people I have ever known. Even though he lived hours away in Dennison, Texas every Christmas he would come to see my mother and daddy and bring them a fruit basket. He loved my mother and father.
I’m not sure what happened to Ronald. His father’s family history is rife with early deaths in the fifties of his uncles from heart disease. And, his father has had heart disease. So, it seems he took a shower and was getting ready for work and just dropped dead. His wife and daughter found him. This is never a good thing for any wife or child to remember. But, I will recall and remember Ronald fondly as one of the nicest, most motivated, hardest working people I ever knew.
That is why this past Tuesday while walking in the heat I felt the call of mortality. No morbidity, just mortality. I started having chest pains during my walk and they were not getting any easier. I’ve never had such pains and I stopped to ask a yard man if I could use his cell phone. Within 45 minutes, I was in the ER with a dozen or so health care personnel swarming over me. I knew I had already beaten the odds. Most massive heart attacks never survive the first thirty minutes. My chest pain was getting better on its own before I ever got the first shot of morphine. But, quite a bit of thinking occurred during those hours.
Have I really done for God what I should do? For, I believe with all my heart and mind and soul that only work done for God that has eternal consequences and that touches people is worth your time and effort. All else will fade.
Do my friends and family know I love them? I’ll never forget taking my kids to Sears when they were preteens and having the check out lady ask them if I had told them “I love you” today. I was proud when both of them said yes. For, that is something I say to my kids every time we talk. “I love you” can be the hardest words to utter and yet the most powerful.
What will be my legacy? We all wonder if we will be remembered. I was in the middle of finishing up a major rewrite on my fourth book. I left the manuscript open and unsaved when I went for a walk. What would happen if I did not return to finish it? Would anyone know what I was trying to say in my book? Would anyone care? I realized that the most important legacy I can leave is to know that I responded to God’s invitation to join Him in His work, not MY work. I learned a hard lesson when I went through my depression and my daily prayer is that I do what God wills for me to do today! I hope that is what people will remember about Bruce Hennigan. I know my books will never be “literature” and will never be required reading. But, through my writing, God has used me to touch people’s lives and has used those words to change people.
Am I about to die? As I was placed on the cardiac catheterization table, I was crying. I am a physician. I know all too well every conceivable outcome and consequence. I know the morbidity and the mortality! I prayed a simple prayer. “God give me the courage to face this with the faith and knowledge that Your will is done whether I wake up after the procedure; wake up after surgery; or wake up in heaven.” And, as the nurse was giving me my Versed, I knew that I would remember nothing of the subsequent test and would awaken an hour or two later hopefully in my hospital room with good news.
As the Versed kicked in, nothing happened. Nothing. My memory did not fade. I recalled everything that happened. I remember my cardiologist telling me each step of the procedure and I felt the contrast in my aorta and in my coronaries. I recalled him saying everything was normal. I recall him asking me if I wanted to have pressure applied to my groin puncture or an angioseal (a plug that does not require holding pressure to stop the bleeding) and how painful it was when he put in the angioseal. I recall him squatting down so he could look me in the eye and tell me my test was normal and he was going to go tell my wife. I did not have to wake up. I was awake and, frankly, grateful for it. For, I heard and saw the professionalism and care of the team that took care of me.
That evening, as my wife was taking us home from the hospital, I marveled at how good God is. I had faced my own mortality and found that everything about my heart was stone cold normal. But, why hadn’t that been true for my nephew? Why hadn’t he had the chance I had? I cannot know God’s will and I cannot know God’s plans. But, this one thing I do know. I must make every moment; every opportunity count for God. He has given me more time and that is the one precious gift we can give back to Him. So, I am hoping that I will now finish this book and, hopefully, more books.
If you are planning a gift to the American Heart Association, give in memory of Ronald Ennis, M.D. He was a good man!