Eight years ago today I had open-heart surgery to correct a congenital atrial septal heart defect. That operation was the culmination of 2 years of symptoms, a misdiagnosis of seizure, a finally a correct diagnosis of Transient Ischemic Attacks (i.e. tiny strokes),
After my operation, my brain did not work as it did before all that. This was due in part to the trauma of the operation itself, and in part from trauma caused by the TIAs and the neuro-chemical roller-coaster of going on and off and on and off unnecessary seizure medications.
And it was the greatest gift I’ve ever received. I saw people demonstrate their care for me by taking time off of work to drive 1-2 hours one-way to drive me to cardiac rehab. I learned what the cognitive impact is of an open heart operation, and I’ve used that experience to help three close friends and family work through their own struggles after an open heart operation. I’ve also deepened friendships with coworkers who are battling neurological disorders of their own.
None of that could have happened without the gift of this heart defect and subsequent repair.
To some extent, that operation has defined my last 8 years, not by what it has taken from me, but rather by what it has given me.