It’s been almost four weeks since one of my oldest friends, Nick, had what should have been a fairly routine, albeit serious, operation. At first everything seemed to have gone well, but after a few days things began to go downhill. Nick’s heart function fell to 10% and his kidneys started to fail. He had a cardiac arrest. The surgeons opened his chest to look for the problem, but they couldn’t close it again without sending his heart into arrhythmia. And so began an extraordinary period of three weeks in which Nick lay in hospital, totally sedated and ventilated, with his chest gaping open and internal organs brazenly exposed, covered only with what looked like to me cling film.

It’s amazing how quickly hopes evolve into something manageable as horizons narrow. Nick had been expected home after a few days, but suddenly it was about “ifs” rather than “whens”. Everybody prayed for him, even friends who aren’t normally religious. The surgeons tried twice to close his chest, but they couldn’t do it. The consultant warned that if Nick made it through this stage, his ability to function normally may be permanently impaired. “We’ll take that” said Sue, Nick’s wife.

Then, on the fourth attempt, they managed to close his chest. Hallelujah! Followed by more improvement: gradually Nick’s heart function has increased, he’s been given a temporary tracheostomy to help him breathe, and his sedation is slowly being reduced. We’re cautiously optimistic. Today Sue texted me: “He’s wiggled his toes”; and later, “He smiled!!!”.

I know it’s a cliche, but this experience has heightened my sense of gratitude for so much I take for granted. Please pray for Nick. Show your family and friends how much you love them. Thank God for this wonderful world! Enjoy life! Wiggle your toes! Smile!

Duncan McCall