A Mother’s Heart

A Mother’s Heart
By: Michael Kahan

I woke up at 8:00am on Thursday, June 28th just as I normally do every Thursday. I had a normal day ahead of me, filled with class in the morning and work in the evening. Nothing was different, nothing was out of the ordinary, and I didn’t have a care in the world. This was all about to change. At 10:00am that morning I received a call from my mother, she sounded nervous and scared on the phone and I was able to pick up her change in tone. I asked what the matter was and she replied by saying, “Michael, I am having open heart surgery in 4 days and I need my son’s with me.” I was shocked as soon as I heard those words leave my mother’s mouth. There I was, a 22 year old senior in college, finishing my major in Human Physiology at the University of Oregon, having just been accepted into medical school, watching my world come down around me. My mother and I have always been best friends. She never missed a sporting event of mine from elementary school all the way to college. My twin brother Kevin and I ran the 400m for the Ducks in our sophomore year. Without my mom neither of us would have been able to attend Oregon as out of state students. My mother paid for us to attend college out of state and she did so as a single parent. To say the least, my mother is my hero. To hear this news was debilitating, I was scared and unsure of what this meant for my mom and my family.

My mother has always lived a healthy life, she watches what she eats and rarely indulges in alcohol and yet she needed an aortic root replacement to treat a severely dilated aortic aneurysm. My mother’s brother, Roger passed away from an aortic dissection several years before this and there have been heart problems on my mothers side of the family which trace back to my great grandfather. However, the surgery went according to plan and shortly thereafter my mother was back on her feet walking around the hospital floor. Now that was an amazing sight to see!

This was my first experience with heart health. During my undergraduate study I learned about the heart and gained a basic understanding of its anatomy and many functions. However, prior to my mother’s surgery, the heart was just another organ, filled with vessels, blood, and muscle. The heart to me was nothing special. Not anymore, after watching my mother go through such a massive procedure the heart became much more than an image in an anatomy atlas. In my mind the heart began to represent my mother. Since then I have began to appreciate that the heart is one of the most vital pieces which makes up the intricate puzzle that is the human body. I needed to learn more.

In August of 2012 I started my medical school career at Western University of Health Sciences in Lebanon Oregon. In four short years I will be graduating and applying for a residency as an osteopathic physician. My mother couldn’t be more proud of me, I know that, but what she doesn’t know is that I want to become a cardiologist. I want to spend my career as a physician helping others with their heart problems.

After my mother’s surgery I used my new found interest in heart health to start researching different diets, symptoms, and procedures. I was amazed at the overwhelming amount of information regarding heart health. As I began to sift through the many articles I realized that heart health has come an extremely long way since the 2000’s. Coumadin (a proscription strength blood thinner) is no longer needed for patients who undergo aortic valve replacements. Furthermore, we have witnessed the creation of the “heart healthy” diet, which stresses whole grains, vegetables, and low fat. Now, I am sure there will be many more advances in heart health and cardiology during my career. My only hope is that I can be a part of them, not for myself, but for my mother and her heart, both of which I will never forget.