Monday, September 21, 2009

Open Hearts

Back when I was a little girl, my mother had a friend, her name was Virginia. I have to admit, in my memory of her, there are only a few distinct ones. After all I was quite young at the time.

The most pronounced was of Virginia coming to our house. She had brought a present for me. She knelt down and held out her gift. She said I was a very special little girl and she loved me. It was a very elaborate book of Fairy Tales. The illustrations were intricate, lush and vivid. I found this to be a strange thing to say and to do out of the blue, but my mother told me Virginia was to be admitted to the hospital for something called open heart surgery. My mother told me it was very dangerous, and she would be one of the first women to be given this surgery. She said Virginia may not make it, but without the surgery she would surely die. I would guess this was around 1957 or earlier.

Then one afternoon my mother got a phone call. She was crying when she hung up the phone. Virginia did not make it. She had survived the surgery but after two days, she passed away. My mother told me she was very brave and what she had done was make it possible that others might live.

After that, I had a hard time looking at the book Virginia had given me, even though there were magical pictures inside, and stories of happily ever after. In fact I started having dreams where a big story book would slowly open and inside there were monsters around the words on the pages saying... Once upon a time.... and then the nightmare would begin.

Virginia was brave, and she did make it possible for others to survive. She made it possible that other little girls and boys would not have real nightmares in their lives. Those who pioneer procedures in medicine are heroes.

Today my father-in-law had an aortic valve replacement. In this procedure a pigs valve replaces the faulty valve. It is a major surgery but in my father-in-law's case the survival rate is 95%. Today as we left his room, he was a little cranky and cracking jokes. He was his old self, only rather banged up and attached to a bunch of tubes. He is 86 years old and hopefully with this new valve he will live for many more years.

It takes an open and brave heart to be one of the first at anything.
Thank you Virginia for your courage... and the book.