Thursday, May 28, 2020

My grandfather’s heart, the clogged arteries

Dahlia Abbas on a granddaughter’s anguish on finding out that her grandfather was diagnosed with clogged arteries and had to undergo a double heart-bypass surgery.

Dear readers,

They told me that my grandfather was sick. They said that his heart was sick. I needed time to process that. How could his heart be sick? A heart filled with joy, love, content and tenderness. A heart filled with adventure, knowledge, laughter and compassion. A heart filled with enthusiasm, hope and energy. A heart filled with charity, bravery, creativity, curiosity and defiance. All changed by one diagnosis.

I never knew how such a heart could be sick. I still don’t understand the anatomy, physiology or pathology of cardiac system. I couldn’t understand what they were trying to explain about less blood supply. Last time I laughed with him I felt it was working fine. I felt the laughter was reaching his heart.

Then I heard him and others around him talk about the surgery. I felt the heart I knew had changed a bit. He was now filled with despair, confusion and doubt. This same heart became a bit of stranger to me. This heart was filled with questions, thoughts, pain, sorrow, anticipation, negativity, fear of death. His heart was petrified, nervous and timid.

The more questions I asked and discussions I heard, the more scared I became. This actually made me think how our lives can change in a split second, whether we like it or not, and equipped me to deal with a new phase. I tried to hold on to the hope that he will eventually get better and we will see him again as cheerful as I knew him to be.

In the words of my little seven-year-old sister, “Heart operations are important, because if it stops beating, you are dead.” She already knew a thing or two about hearts. In the end, the surgery went well and the problem was fixed. Apparently the surgeon went in and restored the blood supply. He must have touched his heart.

The heart I knew. Did he see the love for us in there? The hopes and dreams that he has for us? His expectation that one of the three girls in his next generation would win a Noble Prize? I wonder if he touched the part made of gold, shining bright in there. I wonder if the surgeon touched my grandfathers’ philosophical thoughts.

In my daily conversations with my granddad, I feel the presence of the heart I grew up around who teases us, grills us, makes jokes, asks questions, offers unnecessary, witty and not funny (even though he thinks it is) comments – and is sometimes a bit ridiculous.

After the surgery was completed, my mother described his shortness of breath, scars and acute pain in his chest. I couldn’t help but shy away from forming a mental picture of him in pain. I saw the photos of him after his operation and saw wounds on his chest while he lay on the hospital bed. I will admit that it brought a few tears to my eyes.

But luckily, the next picture I saw was my grandfather with his oxygen mask on his head and him poking his tongue at me! Suddenly, the scenario looked brighter and I felt hearty. He started to become stronger every day after the surgery. I talked to him trying to find the old heart in there. I believed that he certainly must have parts of it left in there. I thought that the more I talked to him, the more familiar feelings and memories I could discover.

In my daily conversations with my granddad, I feel the presence of the heart I grew up around who teases us, grills us, makes jokes, asks questions, offers unnecessary, witty and not funny (even though he thinks it is) comments – and is sometimes a bit ridiculous.

If anyone would ask me to describe my grandfather in words, I would define him as an inspirational, lively, zestful, dynamic and energetic man. A man who loves to read, write, go for long walks, listen to old music, search everything on Google, loves to eat fruit, hates Italian cuisine, adore his granddaughters, makes pencil sketches of his family members exceptionally well, understands history and philosophy, is very skilled in maths and technology and the list can go on and on. He is a kind person, a good friend, a great listener, and a sensible advisor (well, most of the time).

Even though my grandfather is recovering slowly and steadily, a part of me will always know his heart has now a bit of fear and doubt. I will acknowledge and embrace this part and hope that it grows smaller and smaller everyday. I can’t wait to meet him, give him a tight, long hug. When I do, I will listen for the healthy heart beating and try to feel the older heart I know inside.


Dahlia Abbas is a student of class VI in Griffith NSW Australia. She is the school captain of the local branch of St. Patrick School. She can be reached at [email protected] In this piece she has written of her thoughts as her grandfather underwent life-saving surgery.


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