Wednesday, November 6, 2013

St. Jude and Aortic Valve Surgery

Some time ago a particularly vexsome person in my life gave me a St. Jude medallion. I remembered that St. Jude was the patron saint of desperate and hopeless causes, and thought they we giving it to me as a sort of backhanded slight. But I kept it. That's not a fair assessment of what happened. I never consciously made a point to keep it. It is more fair to say it remained with me. I worked in the service industry and moved from apartment to apartment, sometimes staying with friends. I moved a lot. And I never made any special effort to make sure the St. Jude medallion went with me. But it did. It always did. Whenever I opened my junk drawer it would be there. At times it seemed to travel. I wouldn't see it for months. Then I would open a drawer, or unpack a box with trinkets in it, and there it was.

I started to form an attachment to the medallion.

Ten years ago my brother bought a bar. A dive bar under a bridge that no one had ever heard of. A dive bar under a bridge next to the river. I was tapped to be General Manager of this bar. A hopeless cause in itself, speaking of St. Jude. We were literally underwater a lot of the time. One night I remember we were underwater and on fire at the same time when the river rose and the freezer caught on fire while were standing behind the bar in an inch of water. I started wearing the St. Jude because I felt like I needed all the help I could get. One busy Saturday night I looked down and St. Jude was gone. It had broken off the string I had it on and disappeared. I was saddened, but moved on.

A few weeks later we had to hire a plumber to dredge the entire bar because nothing would drain anymore. He brought in a machine that made a lot of noise and cleared out the pipes. And when he did out popped the St. Jude medallion. This time I was taking no chances. I put the St. Jude in the safest place I knew: a mojo bag one of the most powerful witches I know had prepared specially for me. It had sand from the seven seas, and a mixture of healing and protective charms and substances I was not made privy to. To this I added my own charms. And now I added the St. Jude.

Three weeks ago I had my aortic valve and a section of ascending aorta replaced. My preference was that the surgeon use biological substitutes, even though I knew this made me subject to repeating the surgery as little as a decade down the line. I just didn't want the daily hassle of taking Cumadin, a rather harsh drug originally developed as a rat poison. A lifelong commitment to regular blood testing and harsh drugs didn't appeal to me. The surgeon said he would take my wishes into consideration, but needed to see my heart before making a decision. He would use whatever he deemed the best option when he saw what was needed.

When I awoke I learned eventually he had chosen a combination of human tissue and a mechanical aortic valve. I was initially disappointed, but knew he had made the decision so I wouldn't have to repeat the surgery again in my lifetime. Blood testing, medication, and learning to regiment my diet was simply something I needed to get used to in exchange for a mechanical valve that would never wear out.

In my wallet I have a card with the name and model number of the heart valve that saved my life...


The St. Jude 27VAVGJ-515 mechanical aortic valve. 




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