While I'm Waiting
It happened again. I've heard stories of people who say God speaks audibly to them. I'm not sure about that (other than in Biblical times). Or that they felt God's presence. Perhaps. Or that the Holy Spirit convicted them, and it fully changed their direction in life. I believe that, as I've heard and seen real life stories of this happening, albeit infrequently. I'd like to explain away what happened as sheer coincidence, but it would take more faith to believe that than to admit that God was at work.
First, a little backstory. For the past 8 weeks I had been living in Houston, having traveled south to be evaluated for a heart-lung transplant at Houston Methodist after my heart failure symptoms returned a full 7 months ago. I had already been to Houston Methodist months earlier to obtain part of the work-up for the heart failure symptoms, and the doctors there had not really offered anything at the time to address them. So I returned home, hoping to find a hospital within 4 hours of my home who could do the heart-lung transplant, since I had been assured that was the only remaining solution left to try.
While the heart-lung transplant evaluation was a whirlwind of dozens of tests all in 4 days, there were a few lagging tests and doctors' appointments that had dragged out what I had been told would be a one week process of testing, and a decision on listing would be made at the end of the second week. Here I was, still waiting for a phone call back from one of the transplant cardiologists to tell me the plan moving forward. Would I be listed? Was there another surgery available? I was stuck in my least favorite period of time as a patient- the wait.
And then it happened. It was the Thursday before Easter at 2:24 p.m. My cell phone rang. It was an Appleton, Wisconsin number that I didn't recognize, but since it was local and not marked as spam, I picked it up.
"I'm sorry I just missed your call," the female voice said. "So I'm calling you back."
I was exhausted, so I had been resting in my room at the hotel for transplant patients, trying to fall asleep. Hadn't made a single call all afternoon. "Oh, well, I didn't call you," I said.
Then thinking some more, maybe she had tried to call the clinic, or someone from the clinic had called her and for some reason my cell phone number showed up as the caller. "Were you trying to reach MotionWorks Physical Therapy? Maybe someone from there was trying to reach you," I offered.
"No," she said. "But I have heart failure, and my doctors don't seem to know what they're doing, so maybe physical therapy could help me. My sisters just died from this mitochondrial disorder, and I'm not doing so well. I'm afraid I'm going to die before they do anything about it." She mentioned that she knew she probably needed a heart transplant.
I asked her who she was seeing. She told me what little testing they had done. I was thinking, this is crazy. Why is she telling me her cardiac history? I am a complete stranger. This person had no idea who I was, my name, my background, that I was a physical therapist, and that my practice had nothing to do with the heart.
In January I had a Zoom appointment with a heart failure/transplant cardiologist, and over the course of the appointment, I learned that his special clinical and research interest was congenital mitochondrial disorders that cause heart failure. Since I knew I didn't have that, I paid little attention, although he did order a genetic test to be sure. I always wondered how or why I ended up ever talking to this kind physician who really seemed to want to help me for over an hour, since so little came of the appointment.
Suddenly it hit me. I shared with this stranger who was fearing for her life while she had two young children at home about this heart failure/transplant physician at UC San Diego who specialized in mitochondrial disorders. That she could call there and send her records, and she could meet with him via Zoom without even having to travel out there. She wrote down his name. And that was it.
A 7-minute random phone call with a complete stranger whose name I still don't know. While we take the time to remember on Easter a miraculous resurrection performed over 2,000 years ago, it might be wise to take the time to consider that the very same almighty and powerful God is alive and working today right here in our lives, at times when we least expect it.
Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them with suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Hebrews 13:1-3
Jill Murphy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of MotionWorks Physical Therapy and an advocate for patient-centered care. A Christian mom of three, she survived a seven year journey through the broken American healthcare system in search for an answer to a heart arrhythmia that appeared during pregnancy. A stroke, open heart surgery for constrictive pericarditis, and several other surgeries later, Jill is telling her story of unfailing resilience in her upcoming book, Doctor Heal Thyself.
Having grown up on a dairy farm 40 minutes from Lambeau Field, Jill is an avid Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan, and is up for any activity with her three children, including walking, biking, throwing the football around, hiking in scenic locales, gardening, playing piano, singing, and coaching a middle school basketball game or two.