On the Cardiac Ward by Dan Butler

They all seemed to be about the same age.
They fought their war. They married. They worked. Most are retired or nearly so. Now their children's children live in a new world blessed with technology that seems more magic than science. And they take it for granted, not really sensitive to the miracles around them. Their sense of wonder dulled by familiarity.

The comfortable routine impeded by his chest pain. An abnormal stress test leads to catheterization. So that the family can view films of the newly-discovered arterial blockage pulsating in slow motion like an angry snake. Ready to strike. At his heart.

95% blocked. Urgent Not an emergency. But urgent. Pick your hospital. Pick your surgeon. Pick your date. Make it soon. Day after tomorrow is not too far off.

The cardiologist ls a family friend. The reasons for a second opinion-greed and incompetence--are not concerns. Maybe he made a mistake though. Hope flickers, but is doused by cold reality. We've seen the films. The surgeon agrees. Day after tomorrow.

Check in the night before. Surgery at 7:00 a.m. Be here by 5:30 if you want to see him first. We are night people. We’ll have to stay up all night to be anywhere at 5:30 a.m. He's calm. Almost cheerful. We are nervous wrecks. He starts to give me instructions “just in case." With bravado that sounds much better than I feel, I brush him off. Tell me next week. Dad, It’s getting late now. His eyes meet mine- He smiles. I feel a little better.

5:45 a.m. We arrive in time to push the nurse out so he can say his morning prayers. Let the residents wait. He has the talk to the real Doc. Forty-eight years before, in the pre-dawn darkness off the coast of Normandy, his last minutes on the LST had been spent behind some boxes saying the same prayers, wearing his tefillin at a time and place where God just had to notice. And so, once again he greeted the dawn, wearing his tefillin, saying those same prayers, while his two sons send off the nurse whose watch says 6:05.

Take his clothes home. His slippers. His glasses. He may not be coming back to this room. That vague statement had such an air of finality...

He was on at gurney. Followed by his sons. His wife holding his band. Forty-six years is a long time. No histrionics or emotional out-bursts. Everybody is concentrating on maintaining their composure. RESTRICTED AREA.. MEDICAL PERSONNEL ONLY.

Mom waits. She sends her sons to the morning service at the synagogue. As the world awakens across the miles, daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren and relatives and friends light up God's switchboard.

Years ago, he. his brother, and three others started a Jewish day school. They themselves didn't even have children yet. Forty-five years later, the I.C.U's Medical Director, a graduate of that school, periodically comes out out of the O.R. to report progress to the family. An intensive-care nurse. another alumna of the school, stops by with reassurances. She has changed her weekend schedule so she can take care of this man.

In an adjacent operating room, the initial incisions are made in a Russian Jew who arrived in America 10 days before, needing a quadruple bypass. NOW. The men have not yet met. But their children have lived on the same street for three years. And their grandchildren go to that same school. Together.

Some combination of Medicaid. and medical assistance, and special medical coverage purchased for new Americans by the Jewish community have made it all possible. After only 10 days. Without Hillary Rodham Clinton. Some day soon, he'll learn to say “what a country."

The cardiologist (whose gynecologist wife also graduated from the school) comes in and reports that all is well. He's in the recovery room. Later, there are dismissive words which pass for encouragement from well-meaning friends: “Oh, just one bypass-don't worry," they say about my father's open heart surgery. With the keen perspective of hindsight. though, we realize how many endings there could have been to this story...

But, GOOD FORTUNE has come in the form of multi-colored monitors and caring friends who are doctors and nurses, and cutting-edge technology, and a gifted surgeon.

It was an important day. All the more so, because the miracles didn't escape our notice.
There are miracles ever day. Usually we don't spot them. Either because we take them for granted–or because we're just not paying attention...

In a free society, you have the option of calling it luck. I like to think that luck has a spiritual dimension. Gives my life a feeling of meaning and substance. Yours too. I guess. If we'd only pay attention...