Updated: Oct 12, 2020
How Can We Support Loved Ones Going Through Open-Heart Surgery?
By Kirsten Garvin - Team Member and Staff Writer for The Cardiac Bear
In late 2019, 27-year-old Jason and his wife Emalee faced an impending medical crisis; Jason was going to need open heart surgery at Ohio State University's Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital. It was an intimidating journey, and they agreed to an interview to share thoughts on what that the process was like, how they supported each other, and how loved ones were able to support them.
Jason, can you express what it was like and how it felt being told that you were going to need open heart surgery?
Jason: "When the doctor that would be performing the surgery first came in and said I'd be needing open heart surgery my first thought was 'No...no, there is a way around it, I'm 27, something can be done..' I didn't say anything. I couldn't. I felt frozen in time. The doctor walked out. I started to cry. I didn't make noise. I didn't do anything. The tears just came rolling silently.
"The nurse asked if we had any questions or concerns about the procedure. I really wanted to personally know if there was a chance of waking up [during the surgery]? Is there a chance I'll be put under and be able to feel it all but not communicate that to the team? What is the survival and success rate of this particular surgery? She answered all the questions as the doctor walked back in to schedule it.
"Meanwhile, I'm still sitting there thinking about any way out of the surgery I could possibly find that would keep me alive and avoid the possibility of death from such an intense surgery. I told the doctor I'd like to wait until the new year so I could enjoy the holidays with family and friends (plus it was our first holidays as newlyweds) before having such a risky surgery.
"I'm paraphrasing, but the doctor pretty much said, 'Do you think that giving yourself the extra few months to get up the courage to have the surgery is really going to help? I've seen this before with many patients, but you wanna know the truth? You'll be just as terrified of the surgery as you are right now, in fact you might be more afraid because you gave yourself so much time and then you might not even want to do it. I don't think you realize just how serious this is...' He was 100% right, I could feel it. That moment right there is where it hit me like a ton of bricks...I'M REALLY HAVING OPEN HEART SURGERY."
What sorts of things did people in your circle do or say that were comforting or helpful to you, Jason?
Jason: "Honestly, I have a strong faith in God. My circle of friends are all Christians. One moment that sticks out to me the most is the morning of the surgery walking toward the door--and all along our hallway my wife had taped up papers on the wall. Each one with a different Bible verse--about about strength, courage, trusting in God, faith, etc. As I walked that long narrow hallway and read all those verses, I knew in my heart I was coming out of surgery here or in heaven, and either way my wife and God would be there every single step of the way. The morning of surgery I felt a peacefulness that I've felt before. Without my wife, my circle of friends, or God all by my side and at the hospital that morning, I don't know how I would have gotten through it. But it all started with my wife's Bible verses taped to the wall."