Heart healing

“Heart” is the Spiritual Journey prompt for this first Thursday in February.
Thanks to Linda Mitchell for hosting our group of writers.

On a Sunday afternoon at the end of July, 2019, my husband had a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest. He was resuscitated by EMTs and went straight into surgery after arriving at the hospital. He got four stents and spent several days in induced hypothermia to reduce trauma to his brain, which can happen when blood flow has ceased and is suddenly restored. He recuperated slowly, painfully; his sternum had been broken by the CPR which saved his life. He came home. One morning in September he woke to jolts in his chest and tingling down his arm. I took him back to the hospital. More heart attacks. This time he had four bypasses. The surgeon mended his sternum with a little metal plate.

He is doing well now. In fact, up until winter settled in, he was doing eight-mile hikes in the park a couple of times a week and feeling as good as he ever has.

As this first Thursday in February drew near with Valentine’s Day and “heart” as the Spiritual Journey prompt for the month, I thought of a couple of things I might like to explore. I had chosen one, in fact, when I saw the heart-shaped hospital pillow that remains in our bedroom. This pillow was given to my husband after the bypass surgery. His attending nurse wrote on it with a Sharpie: “Keep hugging your heart!”

I thought, this is it. This is what I need to write about.

These pillows are given to all patients recuperating from open-heart surgery. The patients hug them when they have to cough or sneeze, lessening the severity of the jolt. The pillow protects the incision site whenever the patients move and when they practice the necessary deep-breathing exercises for their lungs.

It just so happens that the hospital where my husband’s surgery and recuperation has the lowest mortality rate in the country for heart bypass patients (according to reports from 2017-2019). It also just so happens that the county’s resuscitation rate is the highest in the nation. So, if you’re going to have cardiac arrest and need cardiac surgery, it’s the best place to be.

My husband is evidence of this.

I think about the surgeon who held my husband’s heart in his hands, who grafted those bypasses. He told us that as soon as the first graft was done, my husband’s heart immediately began beating stronger; it was hungry for the blood. It wanted to live.

Now. Where’s the spiritual element in all this, you ask?

Beyond the miracle that one human can cut open another and repair his heart, and that this repaired person can heal and live life awhile longer, is the Great Physician who is able to transform hearts and lives. When I was young, I attended a Bible study group in which a couple of guys could play guitars and we’d often sing this version of Psalm 51:10-12:

Create in me a clean heart, O God
and renew a right spirit in me

Create in me a clean heart, O God
and renew a right spirit in me

And cast me not away from thy presence, O Lord,
take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation
and renew a right spirit in me.

Godly heart-grafting, I would say. Cleansing, taking away the bad parts, restoring. The heart must be transformed before the spirit can be renewed. Sometimes a great deal of work must be done…but the Lord is able. If we let Him work. If we are hungry for it. We often think of letting Him into our hearts but it’s really more a matter of offering our hearts—battered, damaged, tangled, sick as they may be—to Him. He knows exactly what is needed. Psalm 51 is the cry of David’s heart after Nathan the prophet confronted him with his adultery and murder. It can be the cry of any of our hearts as we place them in the healing hands of Almighty God, craving His mercy.

I rejoice that my husband lives, that he was made well, that the hospital and the EMTs are the best around.

I rejoice more that the Lord forgives and heals hearts and spirits. He works on my own, daily. He is the physician and the pillow, the healer and the comforter. The ultimate heart-hugger. He is the best place to be.

Not to mention that His own mortality record is unsurpassable.

18 thoughts on “Heart healing

  1. Fran, thank you so much for this post. It touched me deeply. We sang these words fromPsalm 51 every week in the Lutheran church of my youth. I am so glad for your reiteration of them as I have not sung them for a while. They are a touchstone for me, a comfort. We all need that these days. I am so glad for you and your husband. What a trial for both of you, and what a victory. Hungry for blood, for life! God bless you both, and thanks again. Your last line is fabulous.

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    • Thank you, Karen – your words about this song as a touchstone is something I shall remember. So true. The lyrics come back to mind when they are most needed, as many Scriptures do. After all, they are a psalm – meant to be sung!

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  2. What a blessing of a post! Thank you for sharing this heart journey, and it is so great that your husband continues to recover so well. I got shivers when I read the words “beating stronger; it was hungry for the blood. It wanted to live.” – absolutely love this!

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  3. Amen and amen. My Dad had bypass a few months after my mother passed away and I was stunned at the amount of work healing was. He did fine. In fact, I doubt he would think that “his” heart issue impacted his kids at all. Your post brought a lot of those memories back. You are right about Godly heart gratfing, I think. We all have things that build up and need to be cleared–we are hungry for life. I’m so glad you posted. I’ve been hearing about you via poet friends for years and I’m surprised our paths have not already crossed. I’m so glad they have.

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    • Oh, gosh….here I thought I was writing to RUTH…because I read her comment before typing mine. Perhaps, I should take a tiny break from my computer before I read more posts. Thank you, FRAN! xoxo

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    • Thank you, Linda – we all DO need built-up things cleared away from our hearts. One pastor I knew likened it to weeding one’s heart, or allowing the Gardener to do so (for we know as Vinedresser, He prunes the branches…). I am glad Ruth posted as well. She’s a great inspiration to me. Thank you for hosting today and for the bottomless treasure trove of poetry and artistry you share.

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  4. The ultimate heart hugger is the one who loves always, heals always, abides always. Thanks for your post. I can’t even imagine what you went through when your husband was ill. I wonder if you had the feeling of peace which passes understanding? I did when my husband had prostate surgery. It was an odd feeling that at the time felt wrong until my priest said to me, “That’s a God moment.”

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    • I did have peace, Margaret – not right away, when the event was first unfolding and I didn’t know if I’d find him alive or dead on my arrival at the ER before the first emergency surgery. But the nurse that met us in the side room (!!) who handed me my husband’s wallet and told my boys and I that the doctor would be there in a moment to speak to us – she was wearing a beautiful cross necklace, and even in the blur of it all, that stands out. Within the next day or so, peace settled in. It was all in God’s hands. I could only wait to see what He would do. My prayers were wordless; my spirit just rested in knowing He was there and in charge of it all, come what may.

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  5. What a sweet reminder of those days. Like you, I marvel at the heart surgeries that can be performed and save lives today. Offering our hearts to HIm – “He is the physician and the pillow, the healer and the comforter. The ultimate heart-hugger.” Thanks for this reminder as we think about the condition of our hearts both physically and spiritually.

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    • Heart surgeries ARE such a marvel, and this hospital’s high success rate has to do with a clearly defined recovery protocol. I must think about writing on that sometime. Thank you, Ramona.

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  6. Fran, I remember reading your post when your husband went through his heart issues. Prayer worked as the Heart Hugger performed his beautiful miracle. I don’t think I remember that your husband had 4 stents inserted. My husband had emergency surgery years ago and 4 stents were inserted also and now I pray for his daily pain with his hip and the strenuous and rigid diet plan that he must endure to lose 40 pounds. 2 months after being placed on this diet he has lost 23 pounds. Yah! Your faith is so strong that I am going to lean on it to bolster mine. Thank you for retelling the story of the Great Physician massaging your husband’s heart and restoring his health. May the Lord bless both you and your husband.

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    • Yes – he got four stents and they are telescoped, keeping that artery behind his heart open. They way the surgeon described it is that his blockages were so significant that when that last artery went down, there was no more flow. That EMS brought him round is nothing short of miraculous to me and everyone we know, even the medical professionals. The EMTs didn’t give up. CPR and multiple shocks with paddles. Much more to say but ultimately it is a story of praise to the Lord. He provides what is needed, in all things. I am amazed that your husband has already lost the 23 pounds! Extraordinary! I think of him often, since you first mentioned his health battles tied to the weight. I am delighted to know this and will continue to pray for him and for you – with much gratitude for the great inspiration you are.

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  7. I was immersed in the miracle of your husband’s surgeries, and then WHAM, the chills set in with your segue into Psalm 51. I have a stone box that sits right next to my computer screen, containing a prayer necklace I sometimes use instead of a rosary. Psalm 51, verses 10 and 12 are inscribed on the lid. They are the lines I return to each Lenten season, as I renew my often-absent practice of prayer and reflection. The connections to be made between those lines and your husband’s recovery are clear, both in the physical and Spiritual sense. You gave my Spirit an uplifting jolt with your post today, Fran!

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