Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

Like you've never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor

"Your husband's heart is very damaged," said Dr. Hoffman. She stood next to our chairs in the trauma waiting room, still wearing a blue surgical gown. "His aorta was crushed by the steering wheel. And he's sustained a lot of other damage in his chest and pelvis. But, he's survived the surgery. There may be other complications later on, but for now he is stable."
My daughter and I were numb after eight hours spent in molded plastic chairs, eight hours of twisting our hands and praying. During the evening and early morning hours, friends and church members had stopped by to pray and wait with us. Now, at 2AM, it was just Bonnie and me and our minister.

"You can see him for a moment," said Dr. Hoffman. "Then you all need to go get some sleep. Don't set the alarm for work or school. Just sleep. We'll call you if anything happens."

Ron lay on the stretcher in the recovery room, still and gray, wires and tubes connected everywhere to his body. A screen above showed his heart beat in glowing green. I touched his right shoulder, one of the few places on his body without an electrode. "Stay with me," I whispered to him. "Tell your heart to keep beating."

And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you're never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
"Is he still alive?" asked the voice on the other end of the phone. "I just got the  message you left. Mom, tell me, is Dad still alive?"

Bonnie, Allen, and I had huddled together in my bed for a few hours, trying to sleep away some of the fears we were feeling. One of us would drift off for a few moments, but inevitably we would wake up and grab for each other. Thoughts ran through my head: What now? How would we get through this? Could I be strong enough for Ron, for our children?

Tears streamed down my face as I responded to my son, away at college. "Yes," I said. "Dad's still alive. When we left him at a couple hours ago, his heart was still beating."

Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again.

"The surgery on his pancreas was successful," said Dr. Harbison. "He'll be on a feeding tube for a while, and gradually we'll reintroduce solid foods. But his heart has become enlarged. It's not working at full capacity. He'll spend some time in the telemetry unit, but I think he is going to need a pace-maker. We'll watch him for a few days until he's stronger." 
I made notes on the pad I kept in my purse as he talked. Terms once foreign to me--pancreas, spleen, telemetry- were now part of my everyday vocabulary. "I'm assuming you will give him a diet to follow when he's released, things that are easy to digest and that will keep his blood sugar level. When can I see him?"

"In about half an hour," he said. "We've had some trouble bringing him out of the anesthesia."
"It always happens," I said.
He paused for a moment and checked Ron's chart. "I see this is his--fourth surgery in the last year? This must be hard on you."
"It is," I agreed. "But we're a strong family. The kids and I figure it out as we go along." I smiled as I put the notebook back in my purse. "As long as his heart keeps beating, we'll keep fighting."

Just let that word wash over you
It's alright now
Love's healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
'Cause your story's far from over
And your journey's just begun

"Your pulse is very weak. Mr. Cobourn, I think you're going into A-fib. Are you with me? Stay with me!" shouted the nurse.
I grabbed Ron's hand. "Come on, honey. Keep breathing." I turned to the nurse who was busily raising the bars
on the stretcher Ron laid on. "Shall we call 911?" I asked her. "Do we need the paddles? Is his pace maker working?"
"It will be quicker to run him across the street to Temple," she said. "I'll push. Go hold the elevator!" 
I picked up Ron's things and ran down the hallway of the medical building on Broad Street, determined to stop traffic if I had to in order to get Ron into the Emergency Room across the street. "I'll call them that we're on our way!" I said as I furiously pushed the button for the elevator. The nurse arrived, breathless with her exertion, and the doors slid open. I leaned over my groggy husband and whispered in his ear, "Tell your heart to keep beating. Tell it not to stop."
Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
"It's his heart" said the voice on my cell phone. "As you know, it's terribly scarred from so many surgeries and infections. And it's only working at 25% capacity. Dr. Araidne needs to do an ablation but since you have medical power of attorney..."
"I know," I said as I opened up my desk drawer and picked up my purse. My elementary  students were  out on the playground and the Reading lesson was on the board. 
"How soon can you be here?"
I checked the clock on the wall. " Maybe 30 minutes," I said. "I'm just up on Academy Road. I can get to Hahnemann pretty quickly."
"Okay. We'll let the surgeon know."
I grabbed my purse and locked the door. I would run by the office and tell the secretary I was leaving for the hospital; my reading students would have to stay in their classroom. Quickly, I strode over to the parking lot and got into my car. "Tell your heart to keep beating," I whispered to my husband. "Just a little while longer."
Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far

"We did everything we could," said the EMT. "There is nothing else we can do. His heart just..stopped. Between one beat and the next." He laid a hand on my arm. "I wish we could have done more."
I took a deep breath. "He's been through a lot. Too many hospitalizations. Too many surgeries. Nineteen years of too much for one man to deal with." I let the tears fall from my face. "He stayed as long as he could. He kept his heart beating for us."
The EMT bent to put the instruments back into his bag. "The medical examiner will be along later. But I think cause of death is obvious." He straightened up. "You took good care of him, Mrs. Cobourn. Never doubt that." He sighed. "Frankly, he shouldn't have lived this long. He did because he loved you."

'Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven's working
Everything for your good

"Dad's okay now," I said to my three children, huddled together on the deck out back while the EMT's finished up. "He's not in pain anymore. I promised him...I promised him we would all be okay. I promised him we would  move on with our lives. I promised him we would always remember him."

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
"Good-bye," I whispered as I leaned over the casket. "It will take some time, I know. But I want you to know I will be okay. Your love will always be part of me. My heart will beat for you."
Say goodbye to where you've been

And tell your heart to beat again

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