Caring hands of friends and saints felt when in pain

My column was late this month; I had a heart attack. Excuses, excuses.
A bit different, I know, from, “the dog ate my homework” or “it must have got lost in the mail”. And not one I really want to have to use more than once, nor recommend even slightly.
But should you have a heart attack, I can recommend from experience — have it, in hospital.
In TV shows, people having heart attacks dramatically clutch their hand to their chest, their faces show intense pain, they drop dead on the floor. I happily skipped the dropping dead bit.
Hand did not clutch chest but pressed bell at hospital bedside and action happened.
It was only a little bit of drama for the doctors and nurses to make their work more like a TV show — I bet they missed not having to get out those paddles!
However, they did infuse this leading lady with lots of drugs and one I called “my new best friend”, which hung from one of those wheeled coat hanger contraptions and kept me out
of pain until I could meet my new “best friend” in surgery. I call it St Ent.
In TV shows, people who recover from the paddles or surgery lie in bed looking gorgeous in the next scene. I lay feeling grateful, no way gorgeous, without make-up and earrings, sure signs that this had been serious.
Back home now it is wonderful to go to bed and know I am not going to be woken by chest pain. It’s scary, especially when you live alone. You wonder what to do. Call an ambulance?
What if it is just indigestion? Was it the sausage I had for tea? Or is indigestion activating a panic attack? Or just angina? “Where is my puffer (officially glyceryl trinitrate spray) and why is it taking so long to work?”
So I prayed.
“Give me a hand, Shirley. You know what this was like,” I prayed to a dead friend who had suffered years of angina pain at night. (No Scripture mentions Mary with angina.)
Shirley was also the other grandmother of my daughter’s children. I am sure she came to my help on several nights. But maybe even people in heaven can have mixed motives when answering prayer. You see I was taking her/our grandchildren to the musical Singing in the Rain and the opera Cenerentola later that week.
We made both shows and the three flights of stairs up to the Aotea Centre both nights responded to my puffer.The grandchildren loved the shows and the day after the opera came my hurried trip to hospital.
Struggling up the Aotea carpark stairs also reminded me of my own late mother, who used to pop a little blue pill under her tongue before climbing the steps of His Majesty’s Theatre to our seats “in the gods”. (More heavenly help from another angina sufferer who also loved live performance?)
When you are in pain or lying anxiously in hospital it is hard to pray for long. The 23rd Psalm and the Magnificat made me concentrate harder than Hail Marys. But I knew my prayer group and friends in the parish held me in prayer. I was in caring hands in hospital, heaven and wherever my
family and friends were. I was aware of both the power of prayer and the communion of saints.

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Michael Otto

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