In a couple of weeks, I will have open heart surgery.
If you are surprised, I am too. You might look at me and say, but Father, “You look so healthy” or “You are so young.” And you are right. Im only 44 years old and I am healthy except for my heart. I recently discovered that I have a birth defect that is called a bicuspid aortic valve. This means that there are two cusps instead of three which open and close as blood goes from the heart to the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that distributes oxygenated blood to the rest of the body.
Often times people, who have a bicuspid aortic valve, develop an aortic root aneurism. This means that the area where the aorta attaches to the valve begins to swell. As it swells the aorta artery walls weaken and stretches. Without intervention they will break. This is what I have and my aneurism has progressed to the point of needing surgery soon.
Many people have asked me, “Father, how did you find out? Did you have any symptoms?” Actually, I didnt notice any symptoms of this. It was completely silent. The only thing I experienced was some skipped heart beats. Starting about 8 years ago, I would have a one time occurrence once every two to three months. However, starting in August, it became something more regular. It probably was a result of an increase in caffeine consumption.
I relayed this to my doctor during my annual physical and she recommended me to receive a calcium score. The calcium score showed an abnormality which was then reaffirmed by subsequent tests. On December 19, she called me saying that I needed to see a cardiologist asap. The next day, I went in to see the cardiologist and after another procedure, the cardiologist said that I needed surgery and needed to see a surgeon within two weeks. The surgeon told me clearly that surgery needed to happen soon and that we should do this in February. And so after one last procedure, I was cleared for surgery. We scheduled the surgery for February xxx.
The surgery will be open heart, meaning they will open my rib cage so to access my heart and aorta. They will remove the dilated part of the aorta and graft a new one onto the remaining aorta and reattach it to the heart with the new valve.
Intentional rehabilitation will take 3 months. Ongoing physical therapy will continue after that. My hope is that I will be able to come back in a limited way to St. Joseph and be present for the Sacred Liturgies during Holy Week. The Easter season will see me focusing on regaining my strength.
Next week, I will write more about my journey spiritually through this. I can tell you briefly that I have had all sorts of emotions over the last 5 weeks. However, during this time, there also has been a current of peace and entrustment to God’s providence. I am so thankful for the gift of modern medicine that will prolong my life and am confident that God will use the hands of the doctors and surgeons that will take care of me.