Before Heart Surgery

Next week a surgeon will remove my aortic heart valve and sew in a new one. It’s a brutal thing, this fact that someone will carve into my chest and carve out a piece of my heart. But it’s necessary to fix the plumbing. My heart pumps blood into my arteries through a valve that is then supposed to close to keep the blood from flowing back into the pump. But the valve leaks, half of what’s pumped out spills back in, the heart works harder to make up the deficit, and I take another nap.



The body is all about circulation—of blood, air, chemicals, even electricity. (Because of the leaky valve, the electric pulses through my heart can act up.) We don’t picture circulation very readily—the diagrams are tedious. But circulation, cycles, circles are the shape of continuity at all levels of nature. And sometimes it takes only a small glitch–a leak, an obstruction, an intrusion—to bring circulation almost to a halt.

Some days during the last few weeks I’ve felt very nervous about the surgery, other days not much. I’m not sure why. I expected that as it came closer, I would become more anxious, but that’s not happening. There are so many strands that wax and wane in anyone’s state of mind—including, in my case now, confidence about the procedure; anxiety about the assault; feeling physically run-down some days from the meds as well as the leaky valve; the steady pleasure of spouse, family, friends; this blog. Many strands.

So it’s not just the blood that is circulating and the electrical impulses that are flowing. My moods and their strands flow as well, even when they leak backward and things seem better and then worse.