Fully Alive!

Recently I underwent open-heart surgery. The operation came as no surprise, as my doctors had been monitoring an ever-narrower blockage in one of my coronary arteries for well over a decade. The time had come to intervene surgically before the problem caused a major heart attack.

Despite the almost routine nature of this procedure today (the hospital I chose does 1,000 each year), it surely lends itself to extra long thoughts and reflections. Bypass surgery is, after all, a dramatic intrusion into a person’s body—indeed into one’s very life force—and a sharing of insights may prove useful to others, especially those facing similar episodes.

Not surprising, my most immediate reaction to this successful surgery was a sense of enormous gratitude to medical science and its practitioners. I’ve quite literally received a new lease on life, if the statistics around this procedure bear up in my case. My sense of gratitude is particularly keen because it was 50 years ago this summer that I watched my father succumb helplessly to coronary artery disease at age 58. The doctors at that time could offer nothing better than palliatives as they and my father waited for that fatal attack. One can understand, then, my feelings of heartfelt (the word is so appropriate) thanks for the skill that medicine has acquired over the past half-century to deal with and provide a solution for this and so many other life-threatening conditions.

Perhaps because I had never before been seriously ill, loving gestures from family, community, friends, and even mere acquaintances quite overwhelmed me. So many of these friends and acquaintances offered sound advice regarding convalescence. In a variety of ways, they gave me permission to go with the healing process on God and nature’s schedule and not my own, a most important element for me in this whole remarkable experience.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1999
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