Son’s heart surgery story in the Washington Post

My son’s heart surgery

Many of you know that my son’s heart surgery was this month. We were waiting for this surgery for quite a long time, and he is recovering well. I recently wrote an article about waiting for his heart surgery. It was published in The Washington Post. Here’s the beginning of his story. Click through to read the rest. Sending you all my love and thanks for reading my words.

The wait for my son’s heart surgery has been long, and agonizing

“What have you been up to?”

She asks it innocently enough, her hand resting on her shopping cart. My mind flies to the real answer, and it makes me want to go home. To be with my son. To process, mend and hold. To not be staring at her fingers tapping the handle of the cart. She has somewhere else she needs to go, and so do I. All I wanted was to pick up a gallon of milk, hummus and a loaf of bread.

My mind runs through the possible responses.

I could brush her off: “Not too much. Just grabbing lunch before I head back to work.”

I could disarm her: “Not too much. Taco rebellion.”

I could flip it back to her. “Not too much. You?”

But those answers don’t make their way to my mouth. They aren’t right. They aren’t the heart of it. And the heart is all that matters.

I’m too emotional lately, and I don’t have the tools for this. I shouldn’t be out in public, talking to people. I say stupid stuff. And people act weird around me.

Last April we began planning for my son’s surgery. We’d known it was coming — he was born with two holes in his heart. Now, five years later, his heart, once so small, had become enlarged. This meant more blood was making its way into his lungs, which could lead to heart palpitations, shortness of breath and even death.

We had been waiting, hoping random tissue would gather around the hole to form a barrier. It didn’t. We scheduled surgery for July.

But when we went in for one last appointment in June, it looked like some tissue was gathering around the hole. It looked like it would close on its own.

We held our breath and pushed back the surgery. We did exactly what we know how to do — we waited, and we played. There were lots of Legos, soccer balls and books. We invented new games and told crazy stories. We lived for the moment — riding the carousel and piling up sand at the beach. It was wild and it was good and everything seemed possible.

That’s the power of waiting. You don’t know what’s coming and you don’t know what you’ll leave behind, so you put it all on the table. You play every card in the deck. You finally understand all those stupid inspirational posters, and you don’t have to read New Age books about being present because there is nothing else — just that little boy with his dirty blond hair and his Legos and his smiles and his heart beating a little too hard.

Summer came and went. We shuffled through fall, sickness dogging our heels. We sat in the cardiologist’s office in January.

“We can’t wait any more.”


Chasing son before son's heart surgery

You can find out more about my son’s heart surgery in my column at