In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18, NASB)
There was no doubt what her diagnosis was. The echocardiographic images clearly demonstrated a very hypertrophied right ventricle with a large ventricular septal defect. The findings at catheterization confirmed severe obstruction of blood flow to her lungs, oxygen saturation of 68 percent in the aorta, and a hematocrit of 66 percent. The operation, called repair of tetralogy of Fallot, was scheduled for the next morning.
I glanced over her history and physical: “29-year-old-lady, Spanish speaking only…” and co-signed the consult. I intended to use my limited Spanish vocabulary to explain the operation and its complications. My busy schedule would not allow for the long wait to get an interpreter. I hurried into room4705 and introduced myself to Mrs. Ramirez, I assured her we would take good care of her and was about to have a prayer with her when she uttered a long sentence in Spanish. I could understand only the first word, “doctor,” and the last, “mi hijo.” Then I sat by her bed and called for an interpreter.
Mrs. Ramirez was not afraid of dying, nor was she concerned about the risks of surgery. She had experienced much adversity—the latest just a month ago. For the first time in her life, she left her town in Mexico to come to California to say goodbye to her husband, a migrant worker who was killed accidentally.
Throughout her adult life, she was told that having a full-term pregnancy was not only an impossibility, but also that she would be risking her own life. She had challenged the odds and was blessed with a healthy baby, who was now 7 years old and all she had! She was led to believe that her congenital heart disease was incurable; and , therefore, she learned to “live” with its limitations: constant fatigue and shortness of breath. Her cyanotic and fainting spells had become so frequent that she found herself doing more squatting and less walking. Hence, her question to me that day was, “Doctor, will I be able to walk with my son?” There was a dry eye in the room as all present experienced the depth of love behind that simple question!
Two weeks later, Mrs. Ramirez came for her first postoperative check-up. She was exceedingly grateful and most excited that she had the energy to walk with her son without having a squat or feel short of breath. And, pointing to her now warm and pink fingers, she said her son was no longer afraid to hold her previously cold and purple clubbed hands. “Gracias a Dios” were my last words to her, as she walked out of the office.
Yes, “thank you,” God, for the blessing you sent my way through Mrs. Ramirez. Help me slow down, lest I miss out on such a wonderful experience with my next patient. And “thank you,” Mrs. Ramirez, for the valuable lessons you taught me in perseverance, love, courage, and faith. I no longer take for granted the walks my family enjoys on Sunday mornings. Moreover, I feel especially blessed when my 7-year-old son holds my hand.
– Anees J. Razzouk, LLUSM class of 1982