My youngest son was born with a congenital heart defect. At three weeks old, he was given a new heart valve and conduit in open heart surgery. That was six years ago. This summer he finally got a new conduit and valve in his second open heart surgery. For most of us, we whine about the little things that bother us as we cruise through our busy lives without ever stopping to realize that there are some people who are less fortunate than us and who endure real problems. Problems like broken body parts.
My son has endured a faulty heart for his entire life. But he has not really comprehended what was wrong or what it would take to fix his heart defect. He’s been on medication that his brother has never been on and he’s always had issues with not eating and has thus been on the smaller side of the growth chart. But for the most part, he’s never had to face the music and realize that at some point, another big surgery was in his future. He really had no real idea what he was getting into. Unlike his parents who were very aware.
This past week, he has had to come to terms with that big surgery and deal with the long and often painful journey of recovery. He walked himself into the surgery ward smiling, happy to finally be getting on with the ordeal. When we saw him again, three hours later, he was connected to more plumbing than the Borg Queen and he looked frail and weak. He had come through the ordeal with flying colors. The surgeons had once again performed a modern medical miracle and fixed his broken conduit. He would not require another cracked sternum operation until he was long into adulthood.
He cruised through a day and half stint in ICU and was taken to his recover room where he only stayed a couple of nights. By the fourth day after the surgery, he was out of the hospital and by the fifth day, he was home again. We had to travel to Seattle for the surgery. His immediate recovery was right on schedule and amazing to all who heard of it. But for him, the real struggle lies ahead. The long, six weeks of waiting for his little body to fully heal. Every day has its hard parts but over all he is doing fine and on track to a full recovery. By all indications, he should be a happy, normal First Grader this fall.
But he has faced something incredibly hard this summer. He has come to terms with his own health problems and he has gone through a very trying and scary recovery that has perhaps made him stronger than anyone else sitting in his classroom this fall. Everyone is the hero of their own life story. But for my son, he is a bigger hero than I personally have ever known. He is more incredible than any character his writer dad could ever create. He is my hero.