Personal

My Broken Heart

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I was born in 1938. I’m in pretty good health, considering my age. But one of the valves in my heart has a leak. It must be repaired. On April 8, I am having open heart surgery. The surgeon will break open my breastbone to reach my heart, then wire it back together. He assures me I will be fine, but fatigued, when it’s over.

I have tried to take it in stride, but it’s hard not to find it scary. Terrifying, actually.

To cheer me up, I keep thinking of hokey old songs that use the word “heart” in them. There are so many of them. Dozens. Scores. Hundreds. I’ve been singing Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart,” and “My heart cries for you, sighs for you, dies for you, please come back to me,” “Peg of My Heart,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “You’re Breaking My Heart Cause You’re Leaving, you’ve fallen for somebody new,” Doris Day’s “Once I had a Secret Love, that lived within the heart of me,” “ Hoagy Carmichael’s “Heart and Soul, I fell in love with you,” Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart,” Patsy Cline’s “Heartaches,” another version of a different “Heartaches,” The Charms, “Hearts Made of Stone,” Billy Eckstine’s “My Foolish Heart,” The Four Aces, “Heart of My Hearts,” Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” and many more. “Heart of My Heart” is the one I keep singing to myself; it’s a barbershop quartet song. The Elvis Presley song is adorable, Elvis like you have never seen him before.

It’s a habit in my natal family to try to turn bad news into humor.

My heart is not amused.

When the nurse-practitioner called to review procedures, she asked me what kind of animal valve I wanted in my heart. Without hesitation, I said I wanted the valve of a Longhorn steer. My heart really does belong to Texas.

One of the first people I turned to for advice about a surgeon was Checker Finn’s wife, Renu Virmani, who is a world-renowned cardiologist. She assured me that the surgeon recommended by my cardiologist was the best in New York City. The more I inquired, the better I felt about the person I chose. When I met him, he relieved my anxieties. At least some of them.

The blog will continue while I am hospitalized. I have written some in advance. Some of of my good friends agreed to write special contributions for me in my absence (most are original and never been previously published). And I expect to jump in to comment and maybe even post a few things as soon as the anesthesia wears off.

So please think of me on April 8. I will be grateful for your thoughts, prayers, and good wishes.

I’m not going away. I will be back with a stronger heart and a passion for justice. And maybe the heart valve of a lion or a tiger or a Longhorn.

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