Last week I (Georgette) asked Harry if I could use the Adoration Letter to say “Thank You” to everyone for their prayers and support, and to share some of what I went through prior to my heart surgery. He told me that he thought it would be a good idea, and encouraged me to write this week’s article.
When the doctors at Mayo Clinic told me in January of 2009 that I needed heart surgery, my attitude was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I had no intention of going through with such a drastic medical procedure. Instead, as Harry mentioned in a previous article, I asked some of the members of my family to join me in praying for a miracle. The last thing I wanted to think about was surgery, so I did my best to put it out of my mind. I had great hope that God would hear our prayers and heal me.
In January of this year, Harry reminded me that the doctors at Mayo Clinic had told us that we needed to go there every year for testing. Because of the harsh Minnesota winters, we decided to wait until spring to do the testing.
It turns out that God started laying the groundwork for my surgery 26 years ago (1984) when Harry taught CCD classes at St. Sharbel Catholic Church in Peoria. One of his students was a 13 year old boy named Dan Couri. Prior to contacting Mayo Clinic, we heard that Dan had graduated from medical school and was accepted into the fellowship program for the cardiology department at Mayo Clinic. Dan was the first person Harry talked to in December of 2008 when he called to schedule my initial testing. I had been diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), and since Dan (coincidentally?) worked in the HCM section of the cardiology department, he was personally involved in my initial testing which took place in January, 2009.
In March of this year, Harry called Dr. Couri and asked him what we needed to do to schedule the follow-up testing. Dr. Couri asked about my condition and when Harry told him that my symptoms had gotten worse, he asked Harry why we were going to waste our time with testing when we already knew what the outcome would be – a recommendation of surgery. Dr. Couri then got very firm and aggressive with Harry, which was completely out of character for him. He said, “Harry, you know she needs the surgery now. She needed it a year ago. You need to get her up here and get it done.” When Harry got home he told me what Dr. Couri said. My response was, “I appreciate his concern, but tell him that I am NOT having open-heart surgery.”
I wanted my miracle. I wanted to be healed. I wanted a magic pill that would make it all go away. I did not have time in my life for surgery and I felt as though I was being backed into a corner by my husband and my doctor. (Harry was putting a lot of pressure on me to get the surgery done because Dr. Couri was going to be finished with the fellowship program at Mayo Clinic on the last of day of June.)
My mom called the next day and asked me if we had scheduled the testing at Mayo. I told her that one of my doctors told Harry that he was leaving Mayo Clinic at the end of June and he wanted me to have the surgery done so he could be there for us if we needed anything. Without missing a beat, my mom said, “You need to just do it.” I couldn’t believe it. Now my own mother was agreeing with them. Didn’t they realize I had a busy summer planned? I’m the mother of seven children, and at that time I had two grandchildren and two more due to be born in late April and early June. I wanted to help out with the new babies, plus continue to do all of the things that mothers do during the summer months. I knew deep-down though that I was not getting better. I was slowing down and could not do all of the things that I wanted to do.
I finally decided to call Dr. Couri and after talking to him, I decided to preliminarily schedule the surgery. I was still hoping for a miracle and was planning on cancelling the surgery if God answered my prayers. I made sure the surgery was scheduled to take place after the births of my grandchildren and after the birthday of my youngest daughter, so the only date available for surgery was June 16, with pre-surgery testing to take place on June 14. I did not want to be there during that week, because our 30th wedding anniversary was going to be on June 15, but that was the only time we could do the testing and surgery while Dr. Couri was still working at Mayo Clinic.
After I scheduled the surgery, any time Harry and I told someone about the upcoming surgery, the reaction was always the same – stunned disbelief. Everyone we told promised to pray for me. Most people hugged me, some cried (which made me cry), but every single person promised to pray. I was on an emotional roller coaster. I would talk about it, have a meltdown, compose myself, and then talk about it all over again. This happened daily. Harry regretted setting the date for mid-June because he saw the emotional toll it was taking on me.
As the days passed, my fears grew and my thoughts took over with all of the “what if” scenarios. I didn’t sleep well and the exhaustion was making me slow down even more. I finally called and spoke to a woman who had started a national organization for people with HCM and we discussed what would happen during and after the surgery. She reinforced what the doctors were saying and told me that the surgery would improve the quality of my life.
The worst part of my conversation with her was when she told me that five of her family members (including her father and her sister) had died from “sudden cardiac death” because of HCM. She emphasized the importance of having all of my blood relatives screened for HCM. She said that my children had a 50-50 chance of inheriting the condition from me. That was the slap into reality that I needed to hear. My children? I’m a mother! I’ve been teaching and setting an example for my children ever since they were born. What example was I setting for them now? Fear or courage? What decisions were they going to have to make throughout their lifetimes that would require them to choose between fear and courage?
Yes, I needed to pray for my miracle, but I also needed to pray for trust and courage. I needed to do that for my family. My life changed that day. I was determined to be a woman who was going to trust and believe that God would lead me wherever He wanted me to go. I kept repeating to myself: “THY WILL BE DONE.” Those words never meant so much to me as they did at that time.
When the wait was finally over, I had to kiss my children and grandchildren goodbye and begin the trip to Minnesota. As I kissed each one of my children, I wondered if I had done enough to show them how much I really loved them and how much they really meant to me. Then I held my four week old grandson, David, and my tears started flowing uncontrollably. I didn’t want to go. Although my children were well provided for, I still felt as though I was leaving them motherless. I kept reminding myself that they would be protected because everyone was praying for me and my family.
On the day of the surgery, Harry took me to St. Mary’s Hospital. As we waited in the waiting room, I looked at my handsome husband of 30 years and thought of how grateful I was to have him at my side. He was optimistic and strong and yet tenderhearted enough to hold my hand, even though he had been on the same emotional roller coaster that I was on. I kissed him goodbye and off I went to surgery. An hour later, I was still in a surgical waiting room, so I asked the nurse if there was a phone I could use to let Harry know that I was doing alright. I called Harry’s cell phone and when he answered I said, “LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!” We laughed and were able to say goodbye again.
Everything went smoothly with the surgery. Our prayers were answered. I felt the presence of God every step of the way because of all the prayers that had been offered on my behalf.
It’s been 5 weeks since my surgery and even though I’m not yet able to drive (because of weakness in my arms and pain in my chest, back and neck when I turn my head), I’m making good progress. Not a day goes by without me hearing someone say, “I’m still praying for you.”
I want to tell you how deeply touched I have been by your love and emotional support. I know that your prayers and kind actions have been what have kept me and my family uplifted and able to get through this experience. I offered up my sufferings for all those who prayed for me and I pray that I will be able to encourage and pray for anyone who needs my help in the future. My heart is now able to function without any obstructions and I am free to fully give love to all of those around me.
I am truly grateful to you for your kind thoughts, words, and heartfelt prayers. God’s greatness continues to shine through all of the members of our Christian community. Please know that I will always remember and cherish what you did for me and my family.