Monday, January 11, 2010

A new heart arrival...

Tomorrow I will mark two weeks since my coronary artery bypass surgery. Not how you would normally wish to have your new year start, but exactly the outcome you would hope for with any major surgical procedure. I made it!

More than 500,000 bypass procedures are performed in the United States each year, making it the most frequently performed major surgery in the country. Having said that, nothing about this procedure is routine from the heart patients' point of view. I ran into a few post-op complications, like passing a blood clot through the lung two days after surgery, and a devastating emotional experience of reliving a 40 year old memory from the Vietnam War. I don't remember having too many PTSD days after the war, but this memory was different, it was real, I was there, and I was reliving a horrible event in my life just as if it were happening now. They changed my medications and I have since moved on. The surgeon said he has had about six other vets have similar experiences, during his years of performing heart surgeries.

They called us "cabbage" patients, which stood for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG). A term I found not all too flattering, kind of reminds me of things that smell bad for some reason. However, there is a very appropriate and special phrase they use in the cardiac intensive care unit upon one's arrival post-op. They use the phrase "a new heart arrival." It is in this critical 12 to 24 hour time period one nurse is constantly at your side to make sure your new heart is well taken care of. It's a phrase, I personally found profound, in recognizing the gift I had been given.

The last thing I would like to share about the surgery is the deep feeling of appreciation and respect I have for our doctors, nurses, and health care professionals. I was well taken care of by all. Health care for all is my vote. Not sure how we make it happen, but why we would deny anyone access to health care in this great country for any reason is beyond me.

The very best thing I had going for me is my rock, Teri, my wife, who massed with her own personal health demons, some how made it through it all with a smile, a kiss, a hug, a rub, a whisper, or a kind word all at exactly the right moments. I have no words to describe the depths of love and devotion I feel for this woman. Truly unfathomable!

I have learned that nothing happens in this world without prayer. Thanks to everyone, friends, family, strangers, and the many church organizations that made Teri and me part of their prayers and prayer lists. This mended or new heart I now have, has challenged my spiritual notions. It must be something to do with facing your own mortality. I leave all who have read this post quoting scripture, I hope I have used it in the correct context, since scripture is the one thing I hardly ever quote.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26


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