Because heart disease can be pretty dreary stuff, I am trying to begin each blog section with the upbeat side of the patient experience as a reminder of the totality of our lives—our truly lucky lives—because if we are alive, no matter how complicated that life may be, we have possibility.
No one understands this better than my fellow heart transplant “graduates.” So, I think I found us a love song: MY HEART IS OPEN by Maroon 5—featuring Gwen Stefani. The first time I heard it, all I could think of was my beloved, anonymous donor. MY HEART IS OPEN has become “our” little anthem. First, Adam Levine (as ardent lover/donor heart) expresses desire to breathe again, to live again by being accepted. Gwen Stefani’s reply represents all of us who have experienced failing, broken hearts yet who are also reluctant to part with our history, our original life force.
That cross-roads was a terrifying moment for me, but at the same time I knew that life and love were only possible if I said YES.
Now, those of you who know me well will find it pretty funny that I even know who Gwen Stefani is, let alone that I am nuts about her. My niece Clara (10) can be fully credited because she introduced me to The Voice. When I was struggling with heart transplant adjustments, watching The Voice made me wild with hope and happiness. All this talent in the world! All this beautiful music! And Coach Gwen’s big, red-lipsticked smile and kind, insightful advice for developing performers simply grabbed my new, fragile little heart forever.
Just today, while grocery shopping, I found myself sneaking peaks at gossip magazines for any news of my pal Gwen’s romance with Blake what’s-his-name. Such is my love, that if this pop goddess made me happy during dark times, then I am very keen on her happiness, too.
In MY HEART IS OPEN, Gwen’s final YES, YES, YES makes me weep with the enormity of not only the heart failure patient’s decision to have her old heart cut out of her body and replaced by a stranger’s, but also of that generous stranger’s decision to give his own heart so that someone else may live, though he cannot.
By the end of this love song, Gwen’s YES is a tentative YES (listen to her exquisite phrasing), even a scared YES, but it is resounding. YES is the key to so much of life, no matter what your story. People often ask me how I have gotten through almost 20 years of cardiac disasters. If I were to distill it all down to one word, I think that YES may be the simple answer. YES is the heart-opener. When you keep your heart open, despite trepidation, you are more likely to find a way through. At least that’s what has worked for me in life, even if YES has also included a few bonks on the nose. xox Deborah