I turned 40 today. Up until three and half years ago, I was dreading this day.
You see, I was born with a heart defect. The doctors originally thought that it was a hole in my heart, but later tests proved that it was something called aortic stenosous. I felt fine. I didn’t have any other health problems. All it did was prevent me from playing organized sports in high school. Mom would take me to the hospital every year to see the cardiologist. It was kind of fun. Every year his office seemed to be in new part of the hospital, and it became an adventure just to try to find it. I thought every kid got to go the hospital every year until I realized that my younger brother never went.
Then, at the age of 13, I started having these chest pains. Mom took me to the cardiologist on a Tuesday. The next day I was admitted to hospital for tests. And on the following Tuesday I had open-heart surgery to repair my aortic valve. I remember them describing the procedure to me as “poking their finger through the valve to widen it.” That night after the operation, an observant nurse noticed that my blood pressure was dropping. One of the sutures had come loose, and I was bleeding internally. They rushed me back down to surgery and repaired the damage. In the end, 21 pints of blood were needed for the operation. I am thankful that this happened before the HIV and hepititis epidemics.
After recuperating from the surgery, mom asked the doctor if I would ever have to go through this ordeal again. The doctor’s response haunted me for next 23 years. He said that I might never have a problem again, or it might occur again when I’m about 40.
Three and a half years ago, I started to have those same old pains in my chest. I knew immediately what it was. After some tests, the doctors discovered that I was going to need another open-heart surgery. I really did not want to go through that again. But this time was different. They could not repair the valve. They were going to have to replace it with an artificial one.
Looking back over the sequence of events, I feel that God had a hand in all of this. Now days, open-heart surgery is an everyday occurrence, even on children. But back in ’76, it wasn’t. In fact, the first adult open-heart surgery did not occur until the mid 60’s. I believe that God had kept me healthy until the procedure was perfected for children. I also believe that God knew the technology for artificial valves back in the 70’s would not have lasted my lifetime. He kept me healthy for another two-dozen years until the technology was advanced enough. This artificial valve inside of me should last well beyond my normal lifetime.
So, if you’re standing near me and hear this clicking like a loud watch, it’s me. It’s my heart.