You Have a Calling on Your Life

I am not a doctor and I know very little about anatomy and physiology. I had never heard of a condition called Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism until early 2012. That year, I stared death straight in the face on two separate occasions.

I want to share those experiences, not to sensationalize them, but rather to solidify for you this idea of purpose, calling, and a work that God has prepared for you to do.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10, ESV

Works were prepared beforehand, and it is the purpose and calling of God that you should walk in them as a subject in kingdom of Jesus Christ. I have a purpose and calling in that same kingdom and it is my responsibility to walk in that calling.

A Calling Anecdote

When it comes to being male, I share something in common with most other males in that I am rather obtuse when it comes to recognizing and responding to warning signs about my own health. Every sign of my condition was visible for about four months. I could not keep up with my wife on our daily walks, getting winded very quickly, yet explaining it to myself by saying I was simply out of shape and needed to exercise harder and more frequently to overcome that. Mowing the lawn was exhausting and, at times, dizzying. I had a non-productive cough that would not go away for months on end. I would breathe hard after walking from the car to my desk at work.

This pattern continued, becaming progressively worse until one morning in February of 2012. On that morning, I walked from the car to my desk and was so dizzy by the time I got there that I plopped my head down on the desk for about five minutes just to focus on my breathing.

In typical male fashion, as I lay there, I thought, This isn’t normal. I wonder if something is wrong.

Once I recovered from my short walk, I printed a report and proceeded up the stairs to slide that report under my supervisor’s office door. Just as I reached the top stair, I blacked out and stood there, grasping the railing to keep myself from rolling back down the stairwell.

Again, I thought to myself, I think something is genuinely wrong here.

I do not remember if I did, or did not deliver the report under the CFO’s door. I do remember getting back to my desk where, rather than call a doctor, I called my wife and asked her, “Do you think I should call the doctor?” She responded with an emphatic, “YES!”

The Doctors

The doctor wanted to see me immediately, and after completing only two of four ordered tests, I was rushed to the Saint Joseph Hospital Emergency Room, and from there to the Critical Care Unit which would be my “home” for the next ten days.

It is at this point that I began to realize the gravity of what was happening to me and inside of me. Before this ordeal was over, I had nine different doctors, and more nurses and technicians than I can count poking, prodding, and scanning me.

From this point on I cannot attest to the veracity of this report, because I am simply passing along what the various pulmonologists and cardiologists said to me.

I had a condition known as Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism, commonly referred to as a “Saddle PE.” These are blood clots that either formed in, or more likely moved to, the arteries that feed blood from the heart to the lungs.

One of the physicians was kind enough to tell me that most pulmonary emboli are diagnosed during an autopsy. Another told me that it is rare to get them on both sides, the “saddle” embolism, and even more rare to get it twice, which I did, experiencing a similar event in October of that same year. A third physician apparently sensed that I had not yet bought into the seriousness of what was taking place, so she leaned in toward me, peering over the top of her glasses, and said, “Listen, you need to understand that these clots are really, REALLY big!”

Of my nine doctors, four of them told me outright, “Son, you’re damned lucky to be alive.” The lady mentioned above returned later and showed me photographs of the Computed Tomography Scan revealing my blockages, still trying to drive home the point that the blockages were big and I was in trouble. She was correct. They were huge, blocking about 90% on the right, and about 75% on the left.

As I understand it, deoxygenated blood pumps from the right side of our heart to the lungs where it is replenished with oxygen, and then returned to the left side of the heart from where it is pushed out to deliver that oxygen to the various regions of our bodies. The cycle then repeats, as the blood returns to the heart depleted of its oxygen, to be pumped to the lungs for oxygenation once again.

Blood Pressure

All of us know the importance of monitoring our blood pressure. We are familiar with the inflatable cuff that encircles and squeezes our upper arm while the health care provider listens for a pulsing flow of blood running through our elbow. We know the numbers associated with our systolic and diastolic pressures, and feel pretty good about a measurement of 115/75.

What I did not know until the experience related above, is that there is a completely different, quantifiable blood pressure level that is measured between the heart and the lungs. Because of this, physicians speak of blood circulation in terms of “systemic” circulation and “pulmonary” circulation. To the mind of a physician, these are distinct circulatory systems.

Because the distance from the heart to the lungs is so much shorter, far less pressure is required to move the blood from the source to the destination. Therefore, the pressure measurements are much lower than the standard blood pressure numbers with which we are all familiar.

Common, resting, mean pressure for the pulmonary system runs between 8 and 20 mm Hg. As one of my physicians described this to me, he explained that any resting pressure above 25 mm Hg is abnormal and classified as pulmonary hypertension. He then became a bit more somber, and stated that my pulmonary pressure was not simply very high, but at 40 mm Hg it was well beyond what is typically fatal.

My daughter and I exchanged a look of bewilderment before I turned to the doctor and asked, “Then why am I still here?” He did not have an answer for that, beyond saying, “You’re just lucky, I guess.”

Not “Just Lucky”

I pondered that exchange for a very long time, and slowly came to realize that I had stared death directly in the face, completely unaware. The sobering truth is, mine was a battle medical science says I should have lost.

I am amazed by medical advances, and have an abiding respect for the skilled practice of medicine. But, over time, I have become fully convinced that neither luck nor medicine had anything to do with my survival.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10, ESV

There is something I am called to do, some work God has prepared for me; but I had previously been too imperceptive to see that and to know what that work is. There is a reason God spared my life twice in the same year, and it is my task to figure out what that reason is, to act on it, and to stay focused on my purpose with the same dedication that Jesus stayed focused on his.

There is something God has for you to do as well and your task is to figure out what that work is, to act on it, and to stay focused on it with a Christ-inspired focus.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon
Twitter – @DamonJGray
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Damon J. Gray

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  1. JOHN GACINSKI on October 18, 2021 at 6:40 AM

    I love this, Damon. YES, we all have a calling! How many of us “miss” this calling, not because we don’t hear it (Jesus, after all, said that His sheep hear His voice and listen) but because we choose to ignore it? Either we’re buying into the La-z-boy mode of Christianity where we put our feet up in our favorite chair and wait for glory OR because what God is calling us to do doesn’t jive with what I think it should be?

    “Lord, you want me to clean the church bathrooms and be part of the food pantry ministry?? Don’t you think I should be on TV preaching the Gospel…”

    God bless you, brother.

    • Damon Gray on October 18, 2021 at 6:52 AM

      Absolutely, John! It is difficult for us to purge ourselves of our own concept of “greatness.” Jesus said “I am among you as one who serves.” He also said, “For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” We are to serve and give and labor in the kingdom, and the truth is, we have NO IDEA whose lives we are touching. I have been a Christ-follower for almost 40 years and the woman (college student at the time) who planted that seed in my life has no idea the impact she had on me. I have tried repeatedly to locate her to let her know – “Look at the impact you had on my life, and subsequently the lives of dozens of others.”

  2. Wendy L Macdonald on October 18, 2021 at 12:35 PM

    Damon, I’m glad God gave you a miracle. I look forward to reading the reason–the book–behind this gift of necessary writing time He has given you.
    Blessings – Wendy Mac 🦅

    • Damon Gray on October 18, 2021 at 12:44 PM

      Wendy you are the kindest, sweetest person I know but have never met. Thank you for your gracious comment.

  3. Peggy Booher on October 18, 2021 at 3:41 PM

    As I read the physician’s comments on why you survived those scary times, I thought, “No, you are still here because God wants you still here.”

    Last year I quit attending church for awhile due to fears that I would bring COVID home to my elderly mother. The Lord finally said to me, “Her times are in My hands.” So it is for all of us.

    • Damon Gray on October 18, 2021 at 6:23 PM

      I respect your desire to protect your mother, Peggy. That’s a huge sacrifice. I know because Alean and I stopped attending for somewhat different reasons that I cannot go into, but we finally made a similar counter-decision and returned after a seven-month hiatus. It was awful to be gone so long and such a joy to return. Yes, our times are in God’s hands, thankfully.

      • Peggy Booher on October 19, 2021 at 6:41 PM

        I am fortunate to have a computer/internet service at home, so could watch the services via the internet, but it just wasn’t the same. Even after the Lord told me what He did, I stayed home for awhile, but one day I thought, “I want to be able to sing, clap my hands, and praise God in person.”, so have been going since, missing one or two times. There is also the great richness of being with others who leave their homes and come together to worship. I’m sure Hebrews 10:25 is referring to that.

        That said, I do not want to judge those who believe it best for them to stay at home. It’s not my place to judge.

        • Damon J. Gray on October 20, 2021 at 6:40 AM

          Indeed, Peggy. We judge no one in this regard. For me, this was a decision (quite costly for me and my wife) I had to make for myself, and returning to in-person fellowship was like having a drink of cool, pure water after walking across the Sahara desert empty handed.

  4. Brad Forgy on October 18, 2021 at 4:14 PM

    Thanks for sharing your scary story, Damon! I am grateful you could take a beating and continue clicking! Psalm 116

    • Damon Gray on October 18, 2021 at 6:27 PM

      Hello Brad. It’s good to see you here. Thanks for chiming in.

      I guess I’m kinda like the Timex watch (isn’t that the one) that “takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

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