Open Heart

I went home and everything went ok. I healed and I grew.

A few months after I turned two, my doctors decided it was time for my next surgery. The two surgeries I had when I was an infant were obviously helpful and prolonged my life, but I needed a solution that would grow with me and take me into adulthood.

In addition, there was a small hole that needed to be addressed. In February of 1983, the hole was pin-size and I was showing no symptoms. By the time I had surgery in April, it had grown to be the size of the doctor’s finger nail. WOW! Even though I had not shown symptoms, I would have soon, had they not addressed it.

And so, on April 11, 1983, I had my first and only open heart surgery.[*] The two main objectives were to close up the hole that shouldn’t be there, and to add structure to the valve space that was still just a “hole” they made in my second surgery. I don’t know the technical name of what they did or what material they used to shore-up the valve space – but it worked!

The following are some pictures from that surgery.


Pre-operation, old school EKG.


Hanging out at the children’s hospital. I remember those animals! Or… at least I think I do. It’s possible I’ve just seen this photo enough times that I think I remember them.


My dad and I before surgery. I DO claim this as one of my first memories. I have a clear picture in my mind of that dresser with gifts people gave me. I know it’s a real memory because in my mind’s eye, I’m looking at it from a different angle.


Clearly, post-op. This one makes me want to cry. I have always been so thankful I remember none of the physical pain.


This is one of my favorite photos of all time. It’s from the day I got home.


Another photo of me after I went home. I’m surrounded by all of the gifts I received. And clearly, MOM, that big bird puzzle you have for the grand children to play with is mine. I have photo evidence. 😉

I’m so thankful I don’t remember much from this and it’s really nice when talking to people about my heart that I can say “my most recent heart surgery was 1983.” A lot of babies born with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) have many more surgery thank I have.

This surgery is also where I get the date for “Happy to Be Alive Day” – which is basically my own made up holiday.

Something that is very important in all of this is that even though it’s been decades since I had heart surgery, this was not a “cure.” There is no cure for CHD. This is a life long health condition that affects everyday life.

Stop by again soon. My next post will be some heart related stories from my childhood years and maybe even Jr. High. I’m still deciding on what pictures to post. You know that “awkward phase” we all go through – I’ll probably put up one or two. 🙂


[*] Open heart surgery is any surgery in which the chest is opened and surgery is done on the heart muscle, valves, arteries, or other parts of the heart (such as the aorta). The term “open” means that the chest is “cut” open. This definition along with additional information can be found at the US National Library of Medicine website.



Filed under cardiology, happy to be alive

2 responses to “Open Heart

  1. Pingback: “Someday” is Now | Life & Love & Why

  2. Pingback: I have stuff to say | Life & Love & Why

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