Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Before My Heart Stops

It's funny the twists and turns life takes, how one small action leads to this which takes us there and teaches us that.  Know what I mean?  For instance, the person I'm going to talk about right now I may never have heard of if I had not moved to Maine in the summer of 2005 and met a guy named Marc.
Us, in Maine, summer 2005.  Sorry Nicole, I wanted to use the first picture I could find...
The thing is, I DID move to Maine in the summer of 2005, and I met a guy named Marc. We became friends, and stayed in touch.  Then I married Devin, and he married a woman named Kaiti.  Hallie was born in our family, and Truman was born in theirs.  Truman had some trouble when he was born (coartation of the aorta) and needed heart surgery pretty immediately.  Marc and his wife started a blog and I read it to stay updated on what was going on with their sweet little guy.  One day his wife posted a link to another blog that had a video showcasing other children with congenital heart defects because their son was one of the children in the video, created  by Paul Cardall.
Truman, the day he was born.
And that's what led me to the discovery of the beautiful music of Paul Cardall, and the inspiring man who makes that music.  Ever since then, a year ago, I've been reading his blog as well, and I have cried, and I have smiled, and I have been uplifted and had a sincere desire to be a better person and live a more meaningful life filled with love and service.  You may have noticed that I have a playlist on the sidebar of my blog where  you can play Paul's music.  I have it open and playing just about every day.  Someday I'll buy his albums. (Will it be ok if I buy Mindy's first?  He likes Mindy's music too, I know this from reading his blog...)

He has written a book, and I am sure to buy that also and not just because I love reading and am always on the prowl for new books. (Do you ever check out my goodreads sidebar to see what I'm reading?  You should...)  If you have a minute, watch this video, fall in love with his music like I did, decide you want to buy his book too, and spend a minute reflecting about your life and the blessings you have.  "Paul Cardall had end-stage heart failure. We talked about options. There were no easy options. He could choose to live or choose to die. The latter would be easier. He chose life, not passively, but vigorously, with the kind of energy that left me asking what I had been doing with my own life.” -Angela T. Yemtan, M.D., Director Adult Congenital Heart Program Intermountain Region

This is one of my favorite passages from Paul's Blog:

"Driving home all we could do is cry because of what God has done for our little family. Hundreds of people have prayed. Little children have pleaded with God for Eden’s daddy. Surely the creator orchestrated something beautiful and I hope others may feel our same joy.

I feel “endurance” and recognize blood flowing through my body. Like slowly dipping the tips of your fingers in warm water I can now feel a sensation in my fingers. I’m composing music with more feeling. My nails grow. I used to have to clip my nails every other month. Now, it’s every week. I don’t get winded or lightheaded talking. I can follow Eden around the block as she rides her bike and still feel like going another mile. My appetite is strong. I’m up early walking as the sun rises. Needless to say, I feel alive and vibrant. Is this what it feels like to be normal? If so, count your blessings. You all have been greatly blessed by the Creator.

I had a chance to see and hold my old heart in the lab prior to leaving the hospital. Some of the heart had gone to another lab and a small part of the left atrium and superior vena cava is still in me. What I held in my hands was the size of a football and looked awful and somewhat disgusting. Pacemaker leads were still in the fatty substance on the outer walls. Stitches from previous surgeries were still in place in various locations. My right atrium was a big 4-5 inch balloon with very thin walls. It had been deflated. That’s how Dr. Kaza was able to remove the heart. The left ventricle and left atrium was covered with a thick fatty wall. I observed my only functional valve, the mitral valve, which struggled to pump oxygenated blood to my body for 36 years.

As I held this heavy over-sized heart in both hands I said to the pathologist, “How in the world did I survive all these years on this thing?” He replied with a puzzled smile, “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

At that moment for the first time I saw beyond my faith or spiritual hope of a creator or God. I held the physical evidence in my hands. Clearly someone else is breathing life into our bodies. The pump, which sustained my life for 36 years struggling to push blood through my body, leaves experts wondering how is this possible? Surgeons figured a way out. They made it work.

I asked a friend who is a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist about challenging surgeries and the delicate matters of life and death. Why are some taken home to God? Why do some stay? He said, “Sometimes, no matter how hard we work and no matter if we are doing everything correctly the patient for some strange reason passes away. And then there are times where we think to ourselves ‘there is no way this person is going to survive.’ But we go ahead and do the best job we can and the person lives. It’s hard to understand such circumstances. Obviously, someone else is running the show.”

Because of the tender mercy of our Heavenly Father, the Creator preserved my life all of these years. And now, I have a new heart. I am greatly blessed. I don’t know why. I’m humbled and sobered by the miracle that was beautifully orchestrated over the last year. All I know is that God Almighty has breathed life back into my body. He is my friend, your friend, my Father in Heaven, and your Father in Heaven. He is real. He lives. And like the scars in the palm of Jesus hands I have scars to remind me of His love, mercy, and grace.

In conclusion, I have been blessed my whole life with a congenital heart defect. My soul has been stretched. I will continue to search and seek out soul stretching experiences because in this I find joy, wisdom, happiness, and a personal relationship with God. His purpose and plan for each person is real. There is life after death. I do not doubt. We will see our loved ones who’ve passed away. I will enjoy a reunion with my brother. Until then, may we all enjoy our life and find joy in the journey."

And, a few links to more of my favorite of his posts. And one his wife wrote: 
The Donor
Funeral of a Child
Miracle Mason
Lynette's Thoughts
Optimism: It's Contagious
2009: Looking Back
A Bike, and Answers to Prayer
A Father's Love in a Dark Hour

I often think of the words of Joseph B. Wirthlin who put suffering in perspective:
“Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come!” 

His book, Before My Heart Stops, will be available Fall 2010 from Deseret Book. You can preorder it here.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! And that's so wonderful that he received a new heart! I haven't checked his blog in months, so I was really behind and didn't know that he had. What a miracle that everything went well with the surgery. His music is beautiful.