Emily Before her heart surgery
My youngest daughter Emily was 11 years old and had been home with a terrible cold for awhile. I was worried; something didn’t seem right. I took her to the Doctor three times, and they reassured me that it was just a long lingering cold.
Then on a Wednesday morning; I was standing in the kitchen, and Emily walked in after waking up. Her face was as white as the old frig she stood next to, her pulse was throbbing so hard I could count it by eye from across the room. She started to talk, but nothing she said made sense.
I only half remember reacting. I grabbed our coats, boots, car keys, and I half carried her to the car. We made it to Toronto Hospital for Sick Kids within minutes. They cleared room in the ER, and the top team descended on her. The situation was bad.
Emily had Endocarditis, a heart infection that had gone on untreated and unnoticed by her family doctor. Approximately half of her heart had already been destroyed. The entire operating room and its schedule were cleared, and they took her up to try and save what was left.
It was like dying ourselves while we waited hours during the surgery. My mind kept replaying the smallest details of things that Emily or Emily and I had ever done. I went outside in the bitter cold, stood on the hospital steps, crying, and out loud I pleaded with whatever power might hear me, please spare her.
I was mad and expressed my rage at the powers that be.
Then I talked to Emily as if she could somehow hear me. I told her very firmly that there was no damn way I was going to her funeral, and I knew she could do this. I told her to FIGHT.
It didn’t seem long after I went back inside to wait some more when suddenly the head cardiac surgeon appeared. I froze, it was too early, did something go wrong?
Solemnly he started speaking. He told us that the surgery had gone incredibly well! As well as it possibly could have! They had managed to remove all of the infected areas, patch and repair all of the holes and put in an artificial mechanical aorta. They also had prepared her to receive a pacemaker in a few weeks.
In the surgeon’s words, we couldn’t hope for a better outcome.
Screaming and crying on the steps of hospitals had worked!
The recovery was long, hard, and even brutal at times for Emily. But she hung in there taking each tiny step forward as a hero. She did receive her new pacemaker about two weeks later, and thankfully it was a minor procedure.
She was admitted to Sick Kids in the first week of November and made it home by Christmas Eve. An incredible Christmas gift.
Home care nurses had to visit twice a day for an additional six weeks to change her IV, administer antibiotics and change her dressings. By mid-February, Emily returned to school while still carrying a portable IV and antibiotic administrator.
Fast forward to 2015. Emily is now 15 years old and just finished grade 9 with impressive marks. She is a wonderfully regular teenager who loves doing ordinary teen stuff. Boyfriends, the internet, and now she’s learning to cook.
She will always have to take blood thinners because of the artificial aorta, get regular cardiac and pacemaker checkups. But they are a minor inconvenience.
Emily, 6 months after surgery at 12 years old
I know the whole ordeal did leave some scars both inside and out. Nothing that traumatic can happen without changing people. But I am very proud to see that despite having a scar that runs from her throat straight down the centre of her chest, Emily never hides it and never feels ashamed or embarrassed. She accepts that it’s just part of her life and moves on.
Emily is a “Warrior with heart.” a Fighter.
First published on surprisinglives.net June. 2015 re-posted and updated August. 2016