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God made a way for me

Right after the Holy Week in 2016, I got admitted to a medical center for an urgent coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Earlier, I had an angiogram that revealed I had three major coronary arteries completely blocked. With only less than 20-percent cardiac function left and at my age (76), I was certainly a poor risk case. As a doctor myself, I knew it was like being sentenced to die.

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Despite the prodding of my children and the assurance of my cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon that I still had a good chance to live after the CABG, I had reservations whether I could really withstand such a delicate, major open-heart surgery.

It was a good thing my anesthesiologist reassured me, hours before the operation, that I had one of the best cardiothoracic teams around. It was also reassuring that I was prayed over by the hospital chaplain and a nun the night before my scheduled surgery. My “balae” and a couple of friends also offered prayers for me.

Yes, the prayers did a lot to raise my spirits, although at the back of my mind, I still wondered whether I could really make it. Which was why I called on each of my three children to bid goodbye and to tell them to take care of their bedridden mother (she had a cerebral stroke years before).

But, at the crucial moment, I just let go and let God. I prayed as I had never prayed before, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm a hundred times perhaps until I was intubated and placed under general anesthesia.

In the operating room, what was supposed to be a four-hour operation took all of eight hours because, contrary to the angiogram, I had not only three but seven arteries blocked!

The surgical team had to labor frantically to harvest veins from my left leg to be grafted beyond the severely blocked arteries of my heart. I can never thank enough my surgeon and his team who all patiently labored till 10 in the evening to finish the operation.

I woke up already in the recovery room. I was still attached to a ventilator and had all the tubings imaginable attached to my body. But it was just like waking up from a deep sleep.

The postsurgery pains were aptly remedied with analgesics. Again, I found myself reciting over and over the Lord’s Prayer and my favorite 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”). It was also a great blessing that all my children and their mates took time off from their work and took turns watching over me.

I must give credit to my eldest son, a dermatologist, who first noticed I was gasping for breath whenever I walked even short distances. He was the one who literally forced me to go through an ECG and 2D echo, which first revealed my coronary artery blocks.

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By the fourth postoperative day, I was already up and about, starting with my cardio rehab. The CT team was so happy with the outcome; they said they had not done such an extensive and delicate CABG bypass before. It was truly a miracle that I survived it, and in my heart I could only sing: “God made a way for me when there seemed to be no way…”

My great regret, though, was not being able to make it to the final conferment of the National Artist Award for my father, Lázaro Francisco, in Malacañang on April 14, 2016. The family had been waiting for that day since 2009 when he was proclaimed National Artist for Literature. I was supposed to represent him, but I guess there are things in this life that are not meant to be. And this is a small price to pay for God having given me a second lease on life.

* * *

Dr. Floriño A. Francisco, 79, is a Cabanatuan-based pediatrician, a freelance feature writer and the 2010 Topics (The Outstanding Physician in Community Service) awardee. He is a son of National Artist for Literature Lázaro Francisco.

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TAGS: Floriño A. Francisco, heart disease, High Blood, major open-heart surgery
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