The doctors were confident that the surgery would be seamless. Their website boasts “a perfect record in heart bypass surgery,” but they were playing with my dad’s life. He had just had a heart attack in late February, barely a month before. With three out of four arteries blocked, we needed a miracle. So they cut my dad down the middle and fixed him. Then, the real battle began.
I was tremendously grateful the day that dad returned from the hospital, obliged that he had made it back to where he belonged, home. But he had over fifteen stitches on his chest and could barely cough without pushing the red, heart shaped pillow into his chest. I spent the next few months keeping track of my father’s nine medications, running to push the red pillow into his chest whenever a cough crept up, and periodically massaging his legs to prevent swelling. After all these years, the roles were reversed; I had to take care of my dad. When my mom returned to working the night shift, I made sure he had his pillow, medication, water, and especially a phone to call me if he needed anything. I spent long nights attempting to finish homework and balance classes. Sometimes I would sit by dad’s bedside and watch him sleep, his scarred chest rising and falling with short breaths.
Soon the visitors began pouring in. News travels fast around the community, and one observant nurse at the hospital was all it really took. The people responded, in phone calls and visits. I watched as a select few criticized my dad for living an unhealthy lifestyle, silently whispering behind his back and forcing him to relive his mistakes. “You can’t eat any of this stuff anymore,” quipped my Aunt Ruby as she munched on her hamburger. He kept quiet and plastered a smile to his face. I never understood how people could be so audacious and callous, unknowingly hurting my father. In the months of recovery, I watched as dad completely changed himself. Dad ate more vegetables, walked 3 miles at the park daily, and slowly accepted his new life after the surgery.
In the summer, I began experimenting with the treadmill in the basement. I pulled on my old blue sneakers, tied the laces with a taut double knot. Stepping on to the platform, I gripped the railing, breathed deeply, and chanted “I can do this.” I pushed the button, the treadmill roared to life, and it commanded me to run. The first mile was unbearable: legs on fire, lungs slowly bursting, and cold sweat forming at the nape of my neck. Finally after the last lap, I collapsed on the floor. I couldn’t do this. The pain was excruciating. But I came back, my dad’s perseverance fueling my determination. And over time one mile gradually slipped into two and then three. By September, I ran 3 miles every other day. When I needed a miracle, I didn’t just get my dad’s life back. . . I got mine too.