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Heartfelt Prayers And A Doubting Doctor

Stories
Lectionary Tales For The Pulpit
Series III, Cycle C
Timmy's heart had a small hole in it. They could see it on the machine at the doctor's office: surgery would be scheduled. The parents were very nervous for their little son. His birth had been smooth, his infancy unremarkable, his crawling stage turned to walking very quickly. There was no indication of anything until Timmy's kindergarten screening when the nurse detected a faint murmur. "We'll just have that checked out," she said and referred the family to a pediatric cardiologist. There was no fear or alarm in her eyes or voice: the parents were not worried.

But Dr. Murphy was a little more forthright with them. "We'll have to go in there and close it up. It'll be a routine procedure although there are always risks associated with this surgery." He explained complicated medical terms to them and drew a heart the size of a little fist on a sheet of paper. Carefully, he explained where the blood, aorta, and veins were and how they functioned. Surgery was scheduled in a week.

The parents were now beside themselves with worry. Their six-year-old was looking forward to going to kindergarten, not surgery. Now that his training wheels were no longer needed, Timmy was eager to jump on his bicycle, not be in a hospital.

The pastor came to pray with them, and the prayer chain was started. Friends called and started prayer chains in their churches. Soon the family was getting calls from all kinds of people offering their prayers and support.

Time for the pre-surgery came. Friends waited outside while Timmy and his parents went into the examining room. Wires were attached to Timmy's chest with cold, sticky round dots. He giggled when they took them off. One of the nurses gave him a bean bag in the shape of a dolphin. It was blue.

Dr. Murphy came into the room and reviewed the test results. He muttered, quietly called for a nurse, then asked for another doctor. They hooked Timmy up to another machine. Timmy's parents assumed this was routine; they didn't ask many questions.

But the doctor did: he asked countless questions. He was angry. He was surprised. Dr. Murphy was sure something was very wrong. He very calmly asked if the parents would care to wait in the waiting room so they could check Timmy out a little further.

Dr. Murphy spoke with the others in the room. What was going on here? He couldn't find the hole. Two machines couldn't be wrong. He called his mentor, a renowned pediatric cardiologist in Los Angeles and had reports faxed to him. But Dr. Chen also confirmed that there was no hole in Timmy's heart. They compared the old reports: there was an obvious little hole in the old report. But there was no hole in Timmy's heart now.

Dr. Murphy couldn't believe it. He called the parents in and explained the situation. They cancelled the surgery but were told to come back in three months. Then in six months. Then the visits were yearly. Seventeen years after Timmy's surgery was scheduled, he was told he didn't have to come back for routine checkups until he was fifty.

Timmy -- who now goes by Tim -- is in his second year of medical school. The first year was very rough, with long nights of studying, and he hardly ever was able to return home, but he's almost finished with his second year and he loves his field. He doesn't know which area of medicine he'll choose until he's finished with his rotations. But he does know that whatever area it's in, he'll have a chance to share a story. A story of a hole that wasn't there anymore and a story of how one doctor came to believe in the power of prayer because of it.


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