Since I write my blog posts about two weeks in advance, this one is a bit “anticipatory.” Last week I was scheduled to undergo a second heart procedure, and my prayer is that as you read this, I’m already well along in my recovery process.
If you’ve been reading my blog over the years, at least once a year I’ve reflected on my open-heart surgery in December 2006, when I underwent an ARR (aortic root replacement) – having my entire ascending aorta replaced, including the aortic valve, along with four arterial bypass grafts. (Don’t I sound medical?) Anyway, my surgeon was up front from the start, pointing out that perhaps 10-12 years down the road, I’d need to have the aortic valve replaced. Apparently, replacement valves don’t come with lifetime guarantees.
|My "heart pillow," a fond|
souvenir from 2006.
The procedure I was to have is called a TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement). This was determined after I had a TEE (Transesophageal Echocardiogram) administered several weeks earlier. (Now your medical alphabet is as good as mine!) This test showed my 11½-year old valve wasn’t working properly and had to be replaced. Actually, a bovine valve (consisting of cow tissue) was to be inserted inside the old one. If I seem more mooooo-dy these days, or develop an insatiable craving for milkshakes, that’s probably the reason.
So I’m calling this post, “Matter of the Heart, Part II.” Interestingly, my hospital wasn’t even doing the TAVR procedure until 2011, five years after my original surgery. Praise the Lord for advances in medical science and cardiac care!
Going in, the cardiologists and surgeons told me that given my overall physical shape, and relatively young age (this procedure is most commonly performed on people in their late 70s and 80s), I had a very good chance of coming through it with the proverbial “flying colors.” That’s my hope, even if I still can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. But whether you’re having heart surgery or getting your tonsils out, there’s always some risk factor.
Prior to my first surgery, while pondering my then-uncertain future and reading my Bible, God directed me to Psalm 41:3, which read, “I will raise him from his sickbed and heal him of his disease.” I remember at the time it seemed as if this verse were printed in neon lights. From that moment, I felt “the peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), even though I knew the Lord had every right to choose to take me from this earthly life if He so willed.
This time I saw no message in neon, but over the course of my reading came across Psalm 27, which included the following passages that seemed encouraging:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?.... Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident…. [God’s] heart says of you, ‘Seek my face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek…. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
As I’ve mentioned before, the Scriptures say a lot about the heart, even though most of the time it’s in reference to emotions and motivations. But in my experience, and in the years I served as a volunteer visiting patients who had just undergone open-heart surgery, I can’t help but believe God built a spiritual component into the organ whose primary role is to keep blood consistently coursing through the body. It’s a daunting, humbling feeling to know you’ve approached death’s door during heart surgery, yet haven’t passed through it.
Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” and in Psalm 51:10, King David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Repeatedly, the foremost challenge for all who follow Jesus Christ is to keep their heart right.
As I write this, trusting I’ve come through my surgery well, I have two “desires of the heart”: To do all I can to keep my physical heart strong to serve my God, family, friends and everyone I encounter, and to keep my heart (my thoughts and motives) right with the Lord that I might live faithfully for Him and speak His truth for anyone who wishes to know more about Him. And may I say, as we hear so often in the South, “Bless your heart!”