In October of 2010 the Lord impressed upon me the need to record an EP of intimate worship songs. Working with my good friend and producer, Nick Coetzee, we started working on song selection and arrangement. I really had no idea what direction the project would take. However, something inside my deepest core was telling me it had to be “heart-related.” God was preparing me for a journey.
In late summer 2010 my GP noticed my heart murmur was loud and raspy. He sent me to a cardiologist who diagnosed me with Left Ventricular Outflow Tract Obstruction with SAM (Systolic Anterior Motion). Over the following years my condition was kept in check with beta-blockers, and monitored every six months with an echocardiogram and annual heart catheterization.
In October 2014 I collapsed in my front yard with complete (Grade 3) AV block. Atrioventricular (AV) block is partial or complete interruption of electrical impulse transmission from the atria to the ventricles. I was rushed to the ER and fitted with a temporary pacemaker to keep me alive overnight. The next afternoon a permanent pacemaker was implanted. I was monitored for another 2 days and released to go home.
In December 2014 I had a cardiac MRI (fortunately my pacemaker is MRI-compatible) and it was revealed I also had cardiomyopathy and moderate mitral regurgitation (MR). I was maxed out on the beta-blockers (200mg of metoprolol twice daily). By June 2015 the MR had increased to severe and a heart catheterization confirmed the need for surgery.
Due to the high risk nature of the surgery, my cardiologist promptly referred me to Dr. Tom Martin in Orlando. In early August 2015 my wife and I drove to Orlando (we live in Jacksonville) and met with Dr. Martin and his PA. While initially we were skeptical about literally placing my heart – and life – in a stranger’s hands, those concerns dissipated when Dr. Martin – a devout Christian – suggested we hold hands and close the consultation meeting in prayer. And what a powerful prayer it was! I was scheduled for surgery two weeks later.
On August 21, 2015 I had open heart surgery to repair my mitral valve (30mm annulopasty ring), close the patent foramen ovale (PFO) – hole in my heart, and a septal resection to correct LVOT Obstruction. During the surgery the atrial lead from my pacemaker became dislodged and 3 days later I had more surgery to insert a new lead. Due to the septal resection, which probably removed my AV Node, I am now 100% pacemaker dependent. I started cardiac rehab on 10/19/2015.
At 9 weeks post-surgery I was pain free but sore in my chest. My incisions had healed quite well. The sternum was not as sensitive as it was right after surgery, but I still felt pain if I moved or twisted suddenly – or if the weather was about to change. My fatigue level was pretty high. But fortunately I work from home (self-employed) and can pace myself accordingly.
Two months later I still had soreness in my mid-belly right below where the incision ends. I know there are some wire leads the surgeon left in place from when I was on the temporary pacemaker over the weekend between the major surgery on Friday and the pacemaker lead repair on Monday. That kinda freaked me out.
Emotionally I hit a wall around 2 months post-OHS and just couldn’t seem to pull myself together. I probably suppressed a lot of feelings from all I’ve been through (what man doesn’t?). But my beautiful wife of 35 years has been my rock and caregiver. I am so blessed I get to spend another 35+ years with her!
In early December 2015 I went into Aflutter and had outpatient cardioversion (under general anesthesia they shock the heart back into sinus rhythm). That worked for a while – at least through the holidays. On New Years’s Eve 2015 I was admitted back to the hospital for pacemaker atrial lead replacement surgery. During pre-op they discovered I was in AFib. As a result, I had atrial ablation as well as the pacemaker lead replacement. During an ablation, using high-powered radio waves the doctor destroys tiny areas in the heart that are firing off abnormal electrical impulses. I was in the hospital overnight and sent home in complete sinus rhythm!
I restarted cardiac rehab in mid-February and can’t get over how much better I felt almost immediately. By the summer of 2016 I still was not 100% back to normal (whatever that is). My stamina was weak but I enjoyed much better heart health. My sternum still ached and the chest and upper back muscles, nerves, etc. are still healing. But I’m alive and feeling so much better!
UPDATE (04/27/16): I just completed the 36 weeks of cardiac rehab and couldn’t be happier with the results! It’s been a long journey but I’m alive to retell it & live a long life with my wife and children (and hopefully one day some grandchildren as well!)
UPDATE (10/10/16) – One-year echo shows my EF is now between 60-65%! Sternum still aches when I sneeze. But otherwise, I have my life back!
Back to the recording: as Nick and I were praying about the recording, songs would come to us and the project began to take shape. Of the 5 songs on the EP, I knew the title of the project needed to be “The Heart of the King” – having no idea that my journey would take me where it has these past 5 years. Dr. Martin’s hands were guided by The Great Physician as he literally put my heart back together. And most importantly, during this journey, God my Healer showed me the importance of having the heart of THE King Himself.