June 15th, 2012. A day that I will never forget. But this story starts long before that day and long before I was ever even born. Flash back to the 1985. My parents were in their mid-twenties and had just gotten married. One day, two months after they had gotten married, my dad suddenly felt an immense pain in his chest and lower back.
A relatively healthy 25 year old, he had no idea what was going on and was rushed immediately to the hospital.
They had no idea what was happening or how to fix it. My dad died that day. But luckily a miracle happened and after over a minute without a heart beat, they were able to revive him. Had that not happened, I would not be here today. Doctors later discovered that his aorta had ruptured due to a genetic disease called Marfan’s Syndrome. No one in his family had the disease, so he was a fresh gene mutation. Marfan’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder of the connective tissues in the body. Connective tissue is one of the four types of biological tissue that support, connect, or separate different types of tissues and organs in the body. These tissues are found all over the body. Marfan Syndrome causes those tissues to be weaker than normal and sometimes deformed which caused the connective tissue in my dad’s aorta to be weaker than normal and burst under the excessive growth.
Despite all this, with his second shot at life my dad took advantage of everything he could.
He went on to start his own business and have three children. But the issue with Marfan’s syndrome being a genetic disease is that it was hereditary, and my parents had a fifty-fifty shot of passing it on to their children. Good thing they weren’t gamblers because all three of us ending up inheriting the disorder.
The early years of my life with Marfan’s were practically normal. Other than having to go to the doctor once a year and take medicine every morning, there was nothing drastically different about my life. Sure, I was a lot taller than the rest of the kids because Marfan’s causes the legs and arms to grow longer than normal, but that has definitely ended up more of an advantage than disadvantage.
As the body grows larger, so do the internal organs. The accelerated growth of our hearts was concerning to doctors because they didn’t want the same thing that happened to our father to happen to us. They told us that once the diameters of our aortas reached a certain size, then they would have to intervene. As a thirteen year old boy, I basically brushed this aside and said there is no way that I would have open heart surgery. Even knowing what happened to my dad 20 years before that, I still thought there was no way it could happen to me. Even when my older brother ended up having to have the surgery, I still believed that somehow I was different and I would not need it.
The bubble of ignorance I was living in was finally burst when I was 16 years old. During my annual summer checkup, I was told that I would most likely need to have open-heart surgery the following summer. I was in complete shock and disbelief. How was I supposed to undergo a life-threatening and life-altering surgery the summer before my senior year of high school? I became angry at the world for dealing me this awful hand. Things that I used to love seemed to not have any meaning to me anymore. I stopped caring about everything. I started drinking way more often than I should have been as a junior in high school. I was constantly anxious.
I lived like this for an entire year. It was one of the darkest periods of my life. Eventually the time came for the surgery and I was trying to be tough and strong on the outside but on the inside I was a complete wreck. The day before my operation was scheduled, I was walking on the street in between some of my pre-op appointments when an elderly man stopped me. He handed me a piece of paper that had a prayer on it and nothing wanted to do with religion at the moment, I tried to hand it back to him and keep walking.
But the man grabbed my arm and looked me in the eyes and said, “If you say that prayer, the holy spirit will come through your chest and bless your heart.” then went into the store in front of us. I was so shaken up that I just sat there and stared at the piece of paper for a little but then I went into the store to find the man. He was nowhere to be found. It was a small store and there wasn’t an exit in the back so I have no idea where the man could have gone. I am not trying to imply anything and I don’t know if you reading this are a religious person, but I am just trying to say what happened. After this event I was weirdly calm and comfortable about my surgery the next day.
I woke up from the operation on June 15th, 2012 feeling like I had a new lease on life, surely similar to what my dad had felt 30 year before that. After a recovery period of about a month, I went back to my normal routine but with a completely different outlook. I had been given a second chance and there was no way I was going to waste it.
These days I try to take advantage of every opportunity possible. I don’t complain about the little things because I know it could be ten times worse. And most importantly any time that I am down, I think of that strange man that gave me so much comfort in my time of need and that comfort comes rushing back. It truly feels as if I had one life before my surgery and another life after it. June 15th, 2012 is the day that I was reborn.