Once upon a time, my pediatrician said to my mother that I had a heart murmur. Apparently, he didn't think much of it as no further investigation was pursued. Fast forward to having a bad pneumonia in February, 2006, just as Sukie and I were leaving our congregation of nearly fifteen years, St. Bartholomew's in Yarmouth. My wise pulmonologist listened to my heart, said that I had a heart murmur and ordered an echocardiogram. A bicuspid aortic valve was revealed. A thoracic CT scan followed and further revealed an aneurysm of the ascending aorta. Since then I have been under the care of my local cardiologist, Paul McGrath, who in 2008 referred me to a consulting cardiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Eric Isselbacher.
Last November, McGrath again referred me to MGH, having noted in my annual echocardiogram that the stenosis of the valve had become more severe. I also reported increased exercise intolerance while I was hiking with an AMC group in the White Mountains last summer (i.e, I was taking up the rear...). At MGH, Isselbacher referred to a cardiac surgeon, Thomas MacGillivray, a specialist in thoracic aortic disease. Sukie and I had an appointment with him on February 8 and scheduled surgery for Tuesday, April 12, at which time both my valve and the ascending aorta will be replaced.
I had known all along that surgery was a matter of when not if, so this did not come as a surprise. However, thinking that one might have to have open heart surgery someday is very different than signing the consent form to actually have it. Dr. MacGillivray emphasized that it is not critical that the surgery been done immediately but neither should I delay until such time that it becomes an urgent necessity. I chose to wait until April so that I could be with my congregation, St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Scarborough, through Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Day. I further conjectured that warmer weather and longer days would also make my recovery more "pleasant."
As well as having utmost confidence in my surgeon and in the care I will receive at MGH, I also know that I will be embraced in love by all of you, even as loving you has been such a blessing for me all these years. Gratitude is at the heart of this journey.