The journey isn’t over but it sure has gotten easier. Hopefully this will encourage those of you just starting a journey of physical, spiritual or emotional endurance, or those in the middle of it.
It started with a heart murmur that sounded raspy 7 years ago. That’s when I saw a cardiologist for the first time who told me I had Left Ventricular Outflow Tract Obstruction with Systolic Anterior Motion. The nursing students crowded the echocardiogram room because I’m supposedly a textbook rarity. But I survived.
Three years later, in my front yard trimming bushes, I collapsed with complete heart block. Grade 3 they called it. The EMT gave me 3 doses of Atropine to keep me alive on the way to the hospital. That night I was put on an external pacemaker & I received my permanent pacemaker the next afternoon. But I survived.
Three months later an MRI revealed moderate mitral valve regurgitation & hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. My meds were increased. But I survived.
Six months later, after trying to convince myself I would not ever have heart surgery, my cardiologist said the regurgitation was now severe and it was time. But I survived.
In early August 2015 my wife & I met with the cardiovascular surgeon who explained everything & said without the surgery I’d be dead in 2-5 years. We set the date and cried on the 3-hour drive home. But we survived.
On August 21, 2015 my family & I walked into Florida Hospital Orlando at 5am. By 7pm that evening I had endured over 6 hours of open heart surgery, 2 of those clinically dead on the heart/lung machine. They repaired my mitral valve, closed the PFO, & resected a large portion of my septum, including my AV Node, which left me 100% pacemaker dependent (ventricular). But I survived.
Three days later I was back in surgery to repair my pacemaker’s atrial lead that had come loose during the heart surgery. But I survived.
Three months later the lead came loose again & the tip was barely touching a nerve running through my chest & stomach. I had weird abdominal pacing. My belly bounced with every heartbeat so the EP turned off the atrial lead. But I survived.
A month later I started cardiac rehab but I could hardly breathe and my heart rate was sporadically racing. I was in AFlutter. I stopped rehab. But I survived.
In early December I had cardioversion that put me in sinus rhythm for 3 weeks so I could get through Christmas and I survived.
On New Years Eve 2015 I was back in the hospital to have the atrial lead replaced once again and during pre-op they discovered I was in AFib. So I had atrial ablation plus the lead replacement surgery. I watched the fireworks from my hospital room that night. But I survived.
In February 2016 I resumed cardiac rehab & had completed all 36 sessions by late April.
I survived the heart surgeries which led to debilitating pump head, horrible depression, caused me to develop Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease, significant Vestibular Dysfunction, and now I battle mild pulmonary restriction. At 58 years old.
My story is not unique. But like many facing uncertainty, health challenges, financial struggles and family issues, I survived. Life has meaning and purpose given to us by God which we should seek to fulfill. Don’t ever let anyone diminish what you’ve gone through – or are going through now.
I survived what most people will never experience & cannot understand. And I have the battle scars to prove it. Will your battle scars testify to your ability to overcome?
“I am bound to cross of Jesus, my life is not my own.
For the old man is dead, and the new man now lives.
My life is in Christ alone.”
“Bound To The Cross” by Gary Stripling (ASCAP)