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It was a pile of dirty laundry on the floor that put everything in perspective for Lindsey Dempsey. Five years ago, the young mother came home from the hospital to grab a few things after her 32-year-old husband, Rob, had a heart attack. That’s when she saw the dirty laundry, and in a moment, she knew how much she loved her husband—messiness and all.
Just a few weeks earlier, their marriage was almost over. Lindsey was getting sicker and sicker and doctors couldn’t figure out why. Rob was trying to pick up the slack around the house and with their 3-year-old daughter, Bristol. It got to the point where Rob told Lindsey that she either needed to quit her job, come home and get well, or their marriage was over.
Lindsey felt they needed her income, but their marriage was more important. They would have to find a way to get by with one income. She quit her job, and the next day Rob had a heart attack.
“In every aspect of our lives, we were absolutely hitting rock bottom,” Lindsey said. “We had no life in us anymore and then the heart attack. I wasn’t angry at God, but I said, ‘How much more are you going to put on our plate? What have we done? Why is this happening?’ That’s when I started realizing that it was a faith problem for us.”
Rob survived the heart attack, but it wasn’t until Lindsey looked back on the previous few years that she saw how God had been working to strengthen their faith.
No Love at First Sight
A lot of love stories start out with two people seeing each other across a crowded room and falling madly in love without saying a word. That wasn’t the case for Lindsey and Rob. The first time they met, they didn’t even like each other that much. It would take a few years for them to reconnect and fall in love.
It was only a few months after they married that Lindsey found out she was pregnant with a little girl. She always knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but their financial situation didn’t allow for that.
“I was working, but I was miserable because I just wanted to be home with my daughter,” Lindsey said. “I almost resented my husband—it wasn’t his fault—but we both felt like I needed to work because we needed the income. That’s where God kinda started working in our lives.”
On top of being a newlywed and a new parent, another stressor hit the young couple. Right after Bristol was born, Lindsey got sick. She felt like she was constantly on the verge of fainting. Doctors told her over and over there was nothing wrong with her.
One even told her she was crazy.
Eventually they learned Lindsey had postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a rare condition that occurred when her heart rate spiked after she stood up.
“I was physically, emotionally, spiritually just completely bankrupt, and Rob was, too,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey went to Vanderbilt University where they confirmed the diagnosis and told her resting was the only way she could start to feel better. Now Lindsey believes that the illness was God’s way of making her quit her job so she could stay home with her daughter, but at the time, it just seemed like one more blow they’d have to endure.
“(God) had to break us down to that point where we didn’t have a choice but to get down on our knees and trust Him with what was going to be happening over the next few years,” Lindsey said.
Faith Like a Child
Rob, Lindsey and Bristol were at home the night after Lindsey quit her job, and Rob said he wasn’t feeling well. His chest was hurting, his eyes were dilated, and he knew he needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible.
“He’s like, ‘I think I need to go to the hospital. I think I’m having a heart attack,’” Lindsey said. “When that came out of his mouth, we went into panic mode trying to find aspirin, freaking out. What do I do? Do I call the ambulance? I’m afraid he’s about to just fall out in our floor. It’s just not something anyone is ever prepared to deal with when you’re young.”
In all the confusion and panic, Bristol came into the room and asked what was wrong. Lindsey told her her daddy was really sick and needed prayers. She didn’t really mean that exact moment. It was just what you tell toddlers who are scared.
“This is where God showed me how much I lacked in faith,” Lindsey said. “She just dropped on her knees right there in the middle of the living room and said, ‘God don’t let my daddy die. Please heal him. I love you, Jesus. Amen.’ And she stood up, and she just had this look on her face like okay, it’s taken care of. We’re good … In that moment, I just remember thinking, Wow, here’s my 3-year-old completely trusting God, and I’m running around freaking out because whatever’s going to happen, God has already written it … In this moment He is working everything out for your good. I call her my hero because in that moment I really felt God change the course and the direction of my heart.”
Operating Room Angel
They drove the 45 minutes to Huntsville Hospital where doctors and nurses had a hard time believing someone so young could have a heart attack. You need to understand that Rob is a big guy, but it’s more linebacker-big instead of overweight-big. After examining him for a few hours, they told Rob he would have to go into immediate surgery to put a stent in his heart.
Lindsey was a wreck. She started weeping when they told her Rob needed emergency surgery.
On the way into the operating room, Rob made the nurses promise he would get to see his little girl again. They obliged, probably thinking this would be a routine procedure, but when things went awry, they weren’t sure they would be able to keep that promise.
On the operating table, Rob went into cardiac arrest.
Oscar, a 6-foot-6 nurse at Huntsville Hospital, just happened to be in the room. He immediately started performing CPR. Doctors later told Lindsey they were confident Oscar was the only nurse who was big enough and strong enough to perform successful CPR on Rob until they were able to shock his heart to get it working again.
After the surgery, a lot of the nurses were crying when they were talking to Lindsey because during the operation, they didn’t know if they were going to be able to keep the promise they made to Rob. If it hadn’t been for Oscar, they probably wouldn’t have been able to.
Grateful for Laundry
Rob stayed in the ICU overnight, so Lindsey went home to get a change of clothes and grab a few things he needed. It’s when she came home that she saw that pile of laundry, the one that had frustrated her for so long.
“I just remember walking in the house and seeing that pile of laundry and being thankful for it,” Lindsey said. “I thought, How far has God already moved my heart to be able to look at a pile of laundry and say, ‘I’m so thankful that’s there because the alternative is that Rob isn’t with us anymore and I wouldn’t have the honor to be able to pick up and take care of his laundry.’ ”
The heart attack was five years ago, and things have changed for the better for Rob and Lindsey. Rob made a full recovery and is now participating in a medical study to help others. They even added one more baby to their family, a son named Briggs, almost two years ago. Their marriage, while not perfect, has blossomed into the relationship God meant for them to have.