Climbing the stairs was too difficult. “Maybe I’m just a little out of shape” she thought.
Her doctor said, “the EKG doesn’t look good” and ordered another round of tests. He scheduled her for an echocardiogram, ultra-sound and more. When the nurses had her all hooked up, they told her to sit down.
“We’ll be right back” they said.
When the nurses returned, they told Suzanne they weren’t going to go through with the tests. They had seen something that bothered them, and called her doctor. He wanted her to see a cardiologist immediately.
Suzanne and David had worked long and hard to reach this point in their lives. They were doing alright. They saved. They prepared for the future.
Suzanne was very involved in the youth ministry at First Baptist Church. She loved the children. Her summers were spent organizing and volunteering at Hillmont Summer Youth Camp.
2008 was the year Suzanne had decided to retire from teaching.
“I just wanted to do other things. I wanted to be available to help others” she said.
It was during that first summer of retirement, while at Hillmont, that she noticed she “didn’t quite feel right.”
“I was having trouble catching my breath. I just thought I was out of shape” she would say. “I decided when I got home, I would pay more attention to my diet, maybe lose a little weight, exercise more.”
Her close friend Jean Purdom remembers, “Suzanne and I were on a trip to North Carolina when I first noticed she didn’t look right. She seemed a little pale. We always considered her our little “energizer bunny”, but she just wasn’t feeling right. She was worse when we returned from our trip.”
By November, Suzanne decided she would get a complete physical. So her doctor ordered a series of tests, including an EKG. He told her, “the EKG doesn’t look good. I want to order more tests and see what’s going on here.”
When she arrived to have the tests, the three nurses hooked her up. The could see that something wasn’t quite right. Two of the three nurses left the room. They told Suzanne to “just sit down, we’ll be right back.”
When they returned, they began to disconnect Suzanne from the devices that held the answers to what was wrong.
“Why,” asked Suzanne.
“We called your doctor, and he said we’re not doing these tests. He wants you to see a cardiologist immediately.”
Suzanne’s heart was not beating properly. They would learn later, her heart was swollen. She had Sudden Death Syndrome.
This was serious.
They went to church on Sunday as usual, and during the service, Suzanne saw her friend Dr. Bradley Stancombe. Stancombe is a neonatel-perinatal specialist at Gateway Medical Center. So after the service, Suzanne decided she would ask Dr. Stancombe if he thought they were doing all the right things so far.
“Do you think we’re headed in the right direction?” she would ask.
Stancombe told her he would think about what she had told him, do some research and call her later.
David decided that they needed a break from all the stress of the week. He decided a long ride in the country would be a good way to just “get away.” So they set off to Bumpus Mills to check on their lake house. The place that held so many family memories.
Dr. Stancombe said he had been “caught off-guard” by Suzanne’s story, and he was bothered by it.
“We had a brief conversation about her situation after church, and she told me about her week,” he said. “So after church, my wife and I went to lunch, and then went shopping. I couldn’t get Suzanne off of my mind. As a doctor, you have this “sense” about things. After thirty years of practice, you just know when something doesn’t add up.”
Meanwhile, David and Suzanne were just entering Bumpus Mills. They were at the point where cell phone service is virtually non-existent, when suddenly the phone rang out.
It was Dr. Stancombe.
“I just don’t like what you’ve told me,” he said. “I want you to go straight to Vanderbilt. I’ve called and made some arrangements for you.”
“You want us to go right this minute?” asked Suzanne.
“Yes. Right now” was his reply.
David turned the car around, and pointed to Nashville. When asked what that drive was like, he said, “very fast.”
Suzanne arrived at Vanderbilt and was admitted for three days of tests. What they learned was that her heart was not shaped right, and wasn’t working properly. They told her that her heart was shaped like a football, and should look more like a basketball. Her heart could pump blood in, but couldn’t pump it out. Doctors began her on a series of medications in hopes of fixing the problem
Over the next three weeks, there was no improvement in Suzanne’s health. In fact, she was feeling worse. One day she decided to go to work with David. By the end of that day, she told him, “I just can’t do anything. I’m having trouble breathing.”
David called her doctors and they said to bring her in immediately.
Suzanne was admitted again. This visit would last for two weeks. There would be more tests, biopsies, questions. Then, the team of doctors who had been treating her, introduced Suzanne to the Vanderbilt Transplant Team.
Suzanne had Idiopathecardiomyopathy. Her heart was swollen.
Suzanne kept telling hereslf, “these medicines are going to work, I just know they will.” There wouldn’t be a need for a transplant.
So the Simpsons went home. There would be more medications. No stress and no anxiety were the doctor’s orders.
The waiting would begin.
Suzanne believed it would all work out. Her faith was in her God, and he was in control.
Suzanne turned it over to him.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36
To learn more about organ donation, visit www.organdonor.gov.