What Dr. Luke has to Say About Heart Surgery

A recent study of heart disease in China showed that China's level of heart disease is nearly as high as that of western countries.  This is significant because heart disease is by far the largest killer of people in western countries and cost these countries more money than any other disease.  China's current trend is that with more diabetes, more smoking, less exercise and a rapidly growing elderly population China will in less than a decade have the same amount of heart disease as western countries.  This will be a major challenge for both individual Chinese and the greater society of China as they try to understand how to address this problem and the large amount of money that will be needed is used.

However, not only will heart disease cause lots of challenges but it will also cause China and its people lots of suffering.  Why is this?  Because more people will get sick from heart disease, more people will die from heart disease, more people will not be able to work from heart disease and more people will loose their financial savings from heart disease than from any thing. .  Heart disease will cause lots of physical and emotional suffering throughout all of China in the coming 3-4 decades.

What can be done to help these people?  First, preventing heart disease by having a good diet and adequate daily exercise.  Treating problems such as high blood pressure and Diabetes when they develop and not waiting until a person has developed severe complications from these diseases..  However, once a patient has heart disease what can be done?  One of the great advances in the last century in medical science began in the 1960's.  This was heart surgery for heart disease.  This surgery is now done all over the world.  Millions of people since the 1960's have had this surgery including many people in China.  This surgery has helped millions of people to live longer with heart disease than they otherwise would have. 

What is this surgery and how does it work?  Why does it help people so much? A story of Song Dai Hui will illustrate this point.  Song Dai Hui was a 56-year-old man who one day had a heart attack.  After he was taken to the hospital and stabilized he then had some tests on his heart.  After the tests were done the doctors told Song Dai Hui that he had a heart attack because he had some blockages in his arteries around his heart.   The doctor went onto explain that the heart had arteries around it which supplied blood to the heart.  When these arteries are blocked completely due to heart disease then no more blood can flow through them.  It is this lack of blood flow, which causes a heart attack.  A heart attack is simply where the heart muscle is killed due to a lack of blood supply.  The doctor went onto say that some of the heart muscle which was not killed could be saved by giving it a new blood supply.

Song Dai Hui asked how you give the heart a new blood supply?  That seemed a bit odd to him.  The doctor told him that this surgery could do that for him.   This surgery was a major operation.  It required for the patient to be put to sleep.  Second, it required for the patient to have his chest bone to be split apart so that the doctor can get to the heart.  Then after that the doctor found the arteries around the heart, which had the blockages in them.  Then they took other vessels from either the legs or the chest, which did not have blockages in them and placed them over the diseased or blocked artery.  This placing of a good vessel over the diseased artery was the amazing part of the surgery the doctor told Song Dai Hui.  Song Dai Hui told the doctor that he was not quite sure that he understood what the doctor.

The doctor then explained it like this to Song Dai Hui.  The doctor took a small rubber tube about 20 cm long.  In the middle of the tube he drew and one cm long ring around the tube.  That ring, the doctor said, represented the blockage.  Then he took another 5-cm tube.  On either side of the make believe blockage on the tube he put each end of the 5-cm tube.  In the real heart they sewed each end of the tube into the diseased vessel.  That way blood from one side of the vessel is able to go around the blockage and supply blood to other parts of the heart.  You could also say the blood now 'bypasses' the blocked or diseased vessel. 

This was amazing thought Song Dai Hui.  What happened if he did not have the surgery? The doctor told him that this is different from person to person.  However most people with the surgery live many years longer than those do without the surgery.  Plus the more damaged a heart is the more benefit a patient would get from the surgery.

What were the side effects of the surgery Song Dai Hui asked the doctor?  The worst side effect was death. About 2% of people died from the surgery.  The doctor told him that this was fairly low.  Then there are wound infections which could occur, infections and swelling in the legs where they took the bypass vessel, pneumonia which can develop after surgery, and pain from the surgery in the chest bone which would be broken to get to the heart.  The doctor told Song Dai Hui to think about this and he would return later to get the answer about whether we wanted surgery.

After the doctor left, Song Dai Hui was talking with his wife about all the doctor had said.  He was glad to be able to get good medical care and get his heart better.  He knew he needed to exercise more, stop smoking and loose some weight.  He went to many banquets with his work and over the years had gained too much weight.  He knew all of this must change.

He also realized that he was not as happy as he should be with life, work, marriage, and family and just about everything.  This lack of happiness was not new but having time to think about it in the hospital made him stop and think about what he should do.  Frankly he did not know.  He had tried to change many times over the years be always continued to do the same things and was still unhappy.  His wife knew he was unhappy as well.

How could they change?  How could he change?  That afternoon a friend came by to see Song Dai Hui.  He was a friend from a former place where he worked.  This friend had heard Song Dai Hui was in the hospital through another friend and came to see him.  After they talked for 10-15 minutes Song Dai Hui told his friend that the new job he was in had made him no happier than his former one.  He told his friend this because he left, the former job because he was unhappy and thought a new job would make him happy.  Before he had left his last job he had told his friend this.   He also told his friend that he was unhappy because of his former job. Song Dai Hui's friend looked him in the eye in the hospital room and said, 'Can I tell you how to be happy and have a happiness that will last forever?'  Song Dai Hui was very interested in having this type of happiness.

Song Dai Hui's friend told him that he was unhappy not because of his work but because of what was going on within himself.  Song Dai Hui's friend told him that he would be unhappy in any type of work.  Though he thought this was a little bit harsh he knew this was true.  This was what he liked about this friend, he was always honest and told Song Dai Hui the truth.

Song Dai Hui's friend turned to a place in the Bible he had with him and read the following place.  'I lift my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalms 121.1-8).'

Song Dai Hui thought this was a very comforting passage to read for someone like him with many difficult decisions to make.  His friend asked Song Dai Hui if he would like to have this help?  Of course he would, Song Dai Hui responded.  The problem was that Song Dai Hui did not know the Lord that this passage was talking about. Song Dai Hui's friend told him he would tell him how to get to know this Lord and get this help.

First, his friend told Song Dai Hui, he must realize why he does not know this Lord in the first place.  He pointed to another place in the Bible which said, 'The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1.18-20).'

Basically his friend told Song Dai Hui that even though people had all they needed to know God or the Lord they rejected him.  Thus they are without excuse.  This would be the same thing as the doctor telling Song Dai Hui everything he needed to know about the surgery and then rejecting the surgery and dying several weeks later from more heart problems.  He would have no one to blame but himself.

He then showed him another place in the Bible, which said, 'for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23).'  This meant that all people had rejected God, not just a few, but everyone.  What did God do about this?  Did he leave man to wonder in a lost state and the wickedness he had mentioned in one of the prior passages just read?  No, Song Dai Hui's friend said and he then showed him another place in the Bible, which said, 'You see, at just the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly die. But God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).'  Song Dai Hui's friend said this showed that even while we were doing wrong and going our own direction in life, Jesus Christ died for us.  This showed God's great love for us.

Song Dai Hui was not quite sure what Christ's dying for us meant one way or the other.  His friend showed him another place in the Bible, which said, 'What benefit did you reap at the time from the things you are now ashamed of?  Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6.21-23).'

Song Dai Hui's friend explained that our actions or sins or wickedness destroyed our relationship with God and led to separation from him.  The payment or wages for this sin, which separated us from God, is death.  However, the other alternative is eternal life through Jesus Christ.  We have a simple choice, life or death.

Song Dai Hui knew he needed a better life both now and later.  His life needed the help they first read the Lord could give him.  He wanted that life.  How could he have that life?  His friend explained it by reading another verse in the Bible; 'if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10.9).'  His friend said this meant that you needed to believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross-for your sins so you would not have to bear them and the separation and death because of them.  Then believe that after he died on the Cross and was buried, three days later he was raised to new life to show his victory over sin and death.  If you believe these two things you will be saved.

Song Dai Hui wanted to believe this and have new life.  He prayed this prayer with his friend.  'Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned and am separated from you because of my sin.  I believe that you died on the Cross-to take away my sin so I would not have to bear them.  I also believe that after you died you were raised to new life.  I ask that you come into my life and save me.'

Song Dai Hui the next day had the surgery on his heart so his heart and he could live longer and better.  Song Dai Hui also, through accepting Jesus Christ into his life gained a new spiritual heart which gave him not only a better life now because of help from the Lord but also eternal life.  You too can have that life by asking Jesus Christ into your life.