Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

I'll admit it — my jaw dropped at what I saw last week.

I'd heard about it. A friend or two have actually experienced it.

But until Friday, I don't think I fully realized just how far modern medicine has come.

Some of you might remember that I had my heart replumbed six months or so ago. That was pretty amazing to me, but I did spend more than a week in the hospital — and another month lazily convalescing.

According to my cardiologist, the replumbing job was successful, but my heart is such a mess, it wasn't enough. So, she said, we should put a defibrillator in my chest. (Why do they always say "we" when you're the one they're cutting on?)

Have you ever experienced a paddle defibrillation? I have. It is no fun. And they wanted to put something in me that would do the same thing when it thought my heart required it.

Sounds like the beginning of a science fiction horror novel to me.

But I was convinced — after a little research and a brief (Of course you're going to do it) conversation with the wife — that it should be done. This is after I got this description of the procedure.

"We thread wires through one of your veins to your heart. We'll screw two of them into the heart, and wrap a third one all the way around the heart.

"For the device, we make a pocket in the upper chest. A little incision. No problem."

Thanks, doc.

So I got checked into the Kaiser surgery wing around 8 a.m. last Friday. The procedure (it's always a procedure and not a surgery) was scheduled for 10:15.

We were on Kaiser time, so I rolled into the surgical suite around noon. The next thing I remember, I woke up in the recovery room around 3 p.m. The plan was to keep me overnight for observation.

Since we were on Kaiser time, there was no room available for awhile. So I got to move to the secondary post-op section of the big room.

And here's where I watched one of the new miracles of modern medicine.

Two guys, both around my age, where in beds across the walkway from me. I clearly couldn't avoid hearing their conversations with family members, nurses, doctors and physical therapists.

Both had had hip replacement surgery that day. I inadvertently saw one guy's incision — more than a foot long, maybe two.

And one after the other, I watched both men get up and walk. The same day as their surgery.

Now you need to know that the command to cripples to get up and walk is a primary miracle in the Bible. Christ did it, and the apostles did it, too. Miraculous healing.

These gentlemen were not crippled, and the miracle was in the advances medical treatment has made over the years. But I suspect that as these two guys were wheeled out to the family car to go home, it felt like a miracle to them.

Oh, my little miracle? Almost exactly 24 hours after I rolled into the surgery room, I walked out of the hospital. I didn't miss a day of work. I can already feel a little more energy — something the doc promised because those wires are making my heart beat more efficiently.

Turns out the defibrillator also is a pacemaker. And a heart monitor. Every night before I go to bed, I wave this sleek device over my chest, then watch while the unit sends that day's heart activity (or device activity, I'm not sure) to heart monitor central, wherever that is.

That's a miracle of modern medical technology. And somehow, some way, it's helping to keep me moving.

So, Kaiser time or not, I'm deeply grateful to Dr. Olsen and all the other professionals involved. I think I've had my quota of miracles now.

God bless you all.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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