Recently I had open heart surgery. For years, I have had a mostly symptom-less, genetic, mitral valve prolapse in my heart. The bill came due this year. I wrote the piece below about it. We are a cheerful blog, en generale, but we are also real, and sometimes life takes you by the shoulders and shakes you for loose change :D. It has been said that life can be “brutiful”, both brutal and beautiful.
Yes. My recent experience was the yin and yang of both of these elements. Here you go:
If you ever have to have major surgery, which I fervently hope you do not, you may wonder what the hospital recovery experience will be like.
Since I recently had open heart surgery with full sternotomy (they open your chest, via incision through your sternum), I will try to explain a little about it, metaphorically.
Imagine you are in Disneyland, at the Indiana Jones ride. There are the usual suspects…the walk to the dark tunnel, the little ride carts, waiting cheerfully for your arrival, the friendly staff in safari hats, the send-offs as they make sure you are buckled up in your seat.
But this doesn’t turn out to be a Disney ride after all. This is open heart surgery recovery. This is a ride through he-double hockey sticks. And you are not getting out of this ride until it is over.
The ride starts abruptly. It feels wild from the start. There are jerking twists and turns that are not actually thrilling. There are unexpected bumps, and they can hurt. Those bumps keep coming, and coming, and coming. And the tunnel is so confusingly, horribly dark. It’s not fun. There is no fun to be had here. You are scared, uncomfortable, hazy, and often in pain. But for all of your wishes you can not. get. out. of this cart.
No one else can get you out either. It’s impossible. You realize that you have to stay for the whole ride, in the impossible darkness.
But then, in your fogginess, you realize something. Somewhere in the distance, there are tiny lights in this darkness surrounding you. The lights are small, but they are twinkling. There are lots of them. They are friendly and they seem to be whispering encouragement.
These are your medical professionals. These are your dedicated nurses. They never leave you. Never. You think you are alone, but you never are. There is always a nurse or more than one nurse. They are watching, they are there, and they are continually helping. Doctors too, are always there. Their lights are steady and consistent. Other kind hospital staff members are there too.
All of these people are lights in the tunnel. They can’t stop the ride, but they give you hope and comfort as you hold on for dear life.
And when the ride finally, finally comes to a stop, you have a greater appreciation for how dear life really is. You are mind-boggled that you hadn’t noticed how precious and fragile life had always been, before.
You want to get out of the cart yourself. You can’t. But you look up and see your loved ones are right there, as they have forever been, ready to encourage as you are pulled out. They are smiling broadly. They are full of love, hope, and prayers.
You are beyond thankful that God sends loved ones. You have always loved them. Now, somehow, you love them even more. Your hand grip on God has become even tighter.
Your buckle needs to be unbuckled, and there are other technical things that need to be done to exit the cart. The tunnel lights have morphed into their human medical professional selves, who are already putting everything in place for your successful departure from this ride, this hospital. You don’t have to think about how to get out of the tunnel now. They have already thought of it for you. They are always thinking steps ahead for you. You are weak and wobbly, but they are sure-footed and everlastingly kind and good.
When at last, you amble out of the tunnel, the sunlight feels more sunny and more light than you can ever remember.
And standing there, in the brilliant light of day, is your surgeon and team.
You might find yourself in tears as you reach out to shake their hands. Yes, the ride was horrible. But you are back. You are going to be just fine. In fact, you are going to be better than fine. This team, with heaven’s help, has fixed your problem.
They have literally given you the next chapters of your life. So many beautiful chapters, filled with family, friends, laughter, and learning…and as you ponder this, you look around to see…
that these good people have already turned and walked, hand in hand, back to the tunnel. They are awaiting their next arrivals. They smile at you over their shoulders.
Your pure bond of gratitude with them is forever.
They were the lights in your tunnel.
They were just doing their jobs.
And they love you too.