The human heart is an organ that has been the muse for artists of various forms. It is vividly described in prose, in verse, symbolically represented by painters and sculptors alike, and is the subject of many beautiful songs and films. As a biological organ, it serves the quintessential purpose of pumping oxygenated blood around our body – a primary driving force of our lives. We speak freely of heartaches, and heart breaks, of love and of pain, of feelings and emotions.
Ultimately, the human heart represents our very existence.
Though this is an e-zine that mostly caters to mothers, let’s not forget a father’s place in the family. As an only child, I’ve been very fortunate to develop individual relationships with both my mother and my father equally. In an earlier post, I wrote about my mum’s battle with cancer, and how she overcame it, and what she had to say about her tumultuous journey.
Today, I want to share with you a story about my favourite man in the world, and the battle that he is fighting as I write this. My father was diagnosed with a heart valve problem sometime last year, and eventually it was concluded that it would be wise for him to go for a heart valve replacement operation, and a bypass. I wasn’t around in Singapore at that time when this operation took place, but my dad has recounted many a times that it was one of the most difficult medical experiences of his life. Because of a birth defect that he was born with, he had to be operated under a scalpel. 10 days later, after being in the ICU for the first 2 days, he was released from the hospital, and so began his convalescence period.
His fighting spirit, which I’ve always admired him for, and his resilience to overcome this obstacle in his life allowed him to recuperate slowly, but surely, and by the time I saw him this year, had been back to work for several months, and taken up his daily routine of exercising.
What one forgets about heart problems, and with the nature of heart valve replacement surgeries, is that any other subsequent surgery or medical treatment that might result in some sort of bleeding, becomes very dangerous for a heart patient. This is primarily because of the consumption of anticoagulants (big word, I know, but one that I’ve become very familiar with over the past few months) that causes the thinning of blood.
A couple of weeks ago, my father went in for a simple arm operation. Two operations and 15 days later, the man is now confined to his bed, and has gone through more pain than I can ever possibly imagine, all because of the complications that his condition as a heart patient has left him with. There are some very interesting things I’ve learnt over the course of these 2 weeks. That physical pain is as debilitating as emotional pain. That it’s a defining moment in a daughter’s life when she becomes the parent to her father. That there is nothing more difficult to endure than seeing your favourite person in the world suffer, but you have to grit your teeth, and bear your pain, and his pain, because you need to be the stronger person. It has taught me that strength comes in many forms, and silence, is the biggest part of it.
Learning to care for your parent isn’t just about tending to their immediate, physical needs. It’s also about tending to their emotional needs, and dealing with the helplessness that one feels in not being able to do enough, not being able to alleviate another’s pain. It’s about being strong, and it’s about positive, even if both of these words aren’t really part of your daily dictionary.
These troubled times have only been made slightly bearable by the fact that my family has come together to fight this battle with us. There is no other way in which we could have made it even this far without the emotional safety net that my uncles and aunts have provided.
We underestimate the disasters that come about when hearts aren’t kept safe. We forget how important it is to ensure that not only should we protect the heart from physical dysfunctions like valve problems and thinning vessels, we need to make sure that we also protect it from emotional blows that can also be crippling. Both hearts, and fathers are important, and we need to treasure them as much as we can.
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