Dear Kids and All Readers,
Friday, February 5, 2021, was National Wear Red for Heart Health Awareness Day. Coincidentally, one of my family members had major heart surgery that very day. (All is well! Problems repaired.) And here comes Valentine’s Day when we celebrate all that is heartfelt.
These events have made me reflect on my own heart surgery back in November of 1994.
My surgery was a seven-hour open heart repair of a congenital birth defect called Atrial Septal Defect. Basically, the two upper chambers, or atria, of my heart had a massive hole the size of a fifty-cent piece in the wall, or septum, between the atria. Little wonder I had been tired my entire life with very little oxygen getting to the right places!
No one caught this problem until I was in my forties. After complaining for years of shortness of breath, chest pains, and lethargy, I was told every time that I was just stressed and working too hard. I will always believe that it took my switching to a female primary care physician in early 1994 to get the problem properly diagnosed and a surgery date set.
I arrived at the hospital on a scary, cold and gray Friday morning. As I later told my students, my heart stopped beating (to begin the surgery), and I lived to tell about it! But I almost didn’t live. I was taken to another planet until Sunday night, having slipped into unconsciousness due to a grand mal seizure from an air bubble left in my bloodstream after being taken off the heart-lung machine. When I wouldn’t come to, the doctors told my family, including my thirteen-year-old daughter, that they gave me little hope of a full recovery–if I survived. My poor daughter, God bless her, remained strong and a staunch advocate at my side in the ICU.
But my time wasn’t up. I had more to do–like raise my daughter, see her graduate from high school and college, marry, and give me grandchildren; teach kids for almost twenty more years; and, retire and become a children’s mystery book author! So I opened my eyes, did everything I was told to do to recover, which took a full six months since I was so sapped, and finally learned to swim in the summer of ’95. My energy surged back like a tidal wave that June and hasn’t left. I count my blessings every day. No more naps, just verve and a strong heart that serves me so well. I’m an Energizer Bunny!
I thank the doctors, hospital staff, and family and friends who kept up a long vigil at the hospital to pull me through and care for me in the aftermath.
So, get a clue, Readers. We all have our stories, don’t we? This is one of mine. You never know when you’ll need every ounce of strength to survive a physical ordeal. And, kids, don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or do drugs. If I had slipped into any of those bad habits in my youth, I wouldn’t be here today. So the doctors told me the day after I rejoined Planet Earth.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you from the depths of my healthy heart!