A DEFECTIVE HEART
Jessica was born on a windy night at 10:30 p.m. in the fall of 1986. After her birth, the two doctors in attendance examined her and pronounced her to be a fine, normal baby. However, Jessica was not known to smile a lot during her infant years.
At the age of approximately twelve months, a community nurse placed a stethoscope on her chest and her eyes widened. She then stated that Jessica had a heart murmur, which appeared quite loud.
We rushed to our family doctor who confirmed that she indeed had a heart murmur. After a few visits to the cardiologist at the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, she was diagnosed with having a hole in the junction of the four chambers of the heart and a deformed mitral valve. Her electrocardiogram (ECG) also showed that she had a loose piece of tissue inside the heart.
The decision was made to operate on her as soon as possible. Our family was extremely upset at hearing this news. Her grandmother, Deaconess Chow, had only been called back to God a few months before.
Jessica was only one year old at the time. Her cardiologist was Dr. Marion Tipple, one of the top children’s cardiologists in Canada. She also teaches doctors who are studying to be future children’s cardiologists.
The surgeon was Dr. Ashworth. After the first surgery, the hole in the heart was patched with the loose tissue in her heart, but the attempt to repair the mitral valve was only partially successful. Another round of open-heart surgery was deemed necessary in the future.
Because of her heart problem, she often had very little energy and was very susceptible to even minor illnesses. A minor chest cold would leave her flat on her back, gasping for breath. Rushing her off to the emergency clinic was a regular occurrence, even in the middle of the night.
In 1988, Dr. Tipple decided the only thing to do was to perform the second surgery immediately; this time, to completely remove her mitral valve and replace it with either a pig’s valve or an artificial mitral valve.
Either way, because she was an infant, she would need many future heart operations as her heart and valve grows larger. Our family was totally devastated by this news. There was very little we could do but to follow the doctor’s recommendation and leave our little girl’s future in their hands.
Meanwhile, I had not kept up my faith for more than twenty years, and often went against my mother’s teachings about Christ. Having attained higher education, I reasoned that my mother’s talk of Christ was not the truth, and I often contradicted her and the Bible.
To make matters worse, British Columbia medical nurses went on strike the same year. Only medical cases that were deemed “life or death” situations were scheduled for surgery and all other surgeries were cancelled. The stress on our family was bearing down heavily.
AN UNSUCCESSFUL SURGERY
One afternoon, our telephone rang and the nurse on the other end told us to bring Jessica in right away, as there was an opening for her surgery the next day. Fearing that this may be the last time we’d see Jessica alive, I made sure everyone gave her a last hug before I took her to the hospital.
Even her grandfather hugged her and refused to let her go. Jessica was two and a half years old by this time. Jessica stayed overnight in the hospital to prepare for her for surgery. I stayed with her all night and cradled her in my arms until she went into surgery at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
The next morning Dr. Leblanc, an established and renowned heart surgeon, came into the hospital room and told me that he had studied Jessica’s case in detail the previous night. He said that he would be able to repair Jessica’s mitral valve without replacing it with an artificial valve. It brought some joy and relief to us, as there is no better substitute to your body than your own tissue.
After eight hours of surgery, we finally saw Jessica in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU); she was hooked up to half a dozen machines, and she had tubes inside and outside her body. She was asleep and motionless—weighing only nineteen pounds.
We expected her to be in the ICU for two or three days before she would be released to the general ward. On the third day, Jessica was still comatose but I could feel her grip on my finger. Even with her eyes shut her tears still flowed.
The ICU staff tried to wean her off the machines and drugs a number of times, but her heart couldn’t handle the strain. She was then hooked up to the machines again. This went on for five or six days.
Finally, on the seventh day, Dr. Leblanc had a meeting with two heart specialists, Dr. Tipple and Dr. Sandoz, and he told us that he would perform another open-heart surgery and put in an artificial valve.
However, he informed us that he would not be able to do it immediately, as he had an urgent surgery to perform the following day. He promised to conduct the surgery two days later.
I was very concerned about Jessica’s condition, as she had been in a comatose state and had not eaten for seven days. I asked the three doctors at the meeting if Jessica could survive another open-heart surgery; given the condition she was in.
For a couple of minutes the doctors looked silently at each other, waiting for someone else to answer my question. Finally, Dr. Tipple looked at me and told me that there was no other choice. Jessica could not continuously live on life-support systems.
So, with a heavy heart I signed the letter of consent to allow the surgeon to proceed. My wife and I let the hospital thinking that surely this time Jessica would not be as fortunate as before.
TURNING TO GOD
We didn’t talk much when we reached home. I told my wife to take down Jessica’s photo from the wall, as it saddened us to look at it. I had not been to church for over twenty years at this point, and hadn’t even prayed or talked to God during that time.
That afternoon I went into my bedroom, closed the door, and knelt down. I asked for forgiveness for being a lost son and prayed that I would not be a stranger in the face of God. I asked God to give Jessica back to me, and I asked Him not to punish my little girl for past things that I may have done wrong.
We had a solemn dinner that night, and none of us had an appetite to eat. Sometime after dinner, the telephone rang. I jumped with fear. What message would the telephone bring? Was Jessica still alive? Should I answer it?
Finally, I got to the phone and Dr. Leblanc told me that he was going to defer the surgery and place Jessica under observation. There appeared to be a sudden improvement in her condition and it seemed she was recovering rapidly.
It brought untold happiness to our hearts. We rushed to the hospital early the next morning and found Jessica awake and looking at us. We stroked her arms and forehead, and we thanked God for showing His forgiveness and mercy on us.
Within two days Jessica left the ICU and she was discharged from the hospital a week later. Before we left the hospital, Dr. Leblanc came to examine Jessica and I asked him what had happened.
He answered that he didn’t know why Jessica recovered so quickly, especially without medical help. However, he requested that we bring her into his office to see him whenever Jessica was scheduled to come to the hospital for her annual check-ups with Dr. Tipple.
Dr. Leblanc instructed us not to bother about making an appointment and to just come into his office at any time. Bear in mind that it is not easy to see a surgeon without an appointment.
Jessica’s health is progressing well. To this day, she continues to see Dr. Tipple for her annual check-ups, and she is very happy with Jessica’s progress. Jessica is now sixteen years old, and we pray that she will always be a regular and faithful member of the True Jesus Church, as she is today.
Our God is the God of mercy. For He works in mysterious ways and His power is over all things. Amen.