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Pastor finds peace with prayer

Pastor finds peace with prayer

by MATTHEW NASH

Sequim Gazette

Greg Austin, pastor of Gardiner Community Church, can attest to the power of prayer and his faith in God.

In July, he went through surgery for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, HOCM, similar to athlete's heart syndrome.

Six weeks later Austin was back to work as pastor and now he's ready to talk about his experience on Nov. 2 at Trinity United Methodist Church for the Aglow International of Sequim meeting.

"When my doctor told me what I had, I thought he was talking Latin to me," Austin said jokingly.

He first found out about the disease after his second mild heart attack.

The muscle of Austin's heart, the myocardium, is thickened and a natural obstruction formed in his left ventricle, preventing blood from flowing.

Typically, the disease

shows no symptoms and the first sign usually is heart failure.

"I was real fortunate that I had a mild heart attack first," Austin said.

About 500,000 Americans have the disease.

Doctors prescribed medicines for six months, to no avail.

They determined local doctors couldn't perform the needed surgery and he was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for a septal myectomy.

"Most people don't require surgery and just need medications," Austin said. "Mine was to the point where I needed surgery."

Austin said the time between diagnosis and surgery was hard.

"You start thinking about all the possibilities," he said. "It wasn't your everyday heart surgery."

But he and others turned to prayer.

Austin got the support of his church and people around the world to pray for him.

"I had churches in Eng-land, Germany, Ireland, Holland and across America praying for me," Austin said. "Just the knowledge that people cared enough really lifted me to a place of quiet confidence and a sense of peace."

A photo was taken of him before the surgery and Austin appeared to be beaming.

"People thought it was a post-surgery," he said. "It had a profound effect. Even the hospital personnel thought I was all done."

Without the grisly details of the open-heart procedure, Austin's surgery was a success.

"I felt like God was really answering prayer," Austin said. "A lot of people pray to prevent surgery. A greater testimony is that you can go through surgery with God."

Creating awareness

Austin lives in Port Orchard but has been pastor in Gardiner for more than five years. He's giving sermons again and the church has been incredibly supportive.

"They've sent me cards, e-mails and been careful not to hug me too tightly."

Since the operation, Austin has been trying to create awareness in his congregation and with family

and friends.

"I wouldn't call myself a crusader but I have a real desire to let people know to check it out if they have this disease," Austin said. "If we can keep someone alive, then it's worth it."

The disease is hereditary and Austin has asked his family to be checked.

One of his nephews has HCM without the obstructive condition, and all of four of his grown children are going to be checked soon.

"Odds are 50 percent or higher that at least one of them have it," he said.

"A lot of people's dads died at age 53 and that's when doctors discover (the disease). Had they known about it, maybe they'd still be alive," he said.

Austin is now a member of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association, which can be found online at www.4hcm.org.

For questions on the Aglow International of Sequim event, call Trinity United Methodist Church at 683-5367 or Esther Fiddler at 683-3167.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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