As quickly as it had begun, my new found love for soccer and the uneventful life I had come to enjoy came to an abrupt end without anyone being able to do anything about it. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) known as Tetralogy of Fallot. The doctors that gathered around me daily during the first few months after diagnosis explained that it was a combination of four cardiac problems that consisted of a hole in the ventricular septum, a narrowed passage between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery, a thickened right side of the heart and a displaced aorta. It all made no sense to me at that time as I had barely managed to pass in the sciences. All I knew was that I was sick and closer to the hands of death than ever.
The doctors said it was a miracle that I had still been alive after 18 years of living with a malfunctioning heart without even an incomplete surgery or a catheter procedure. Most cases get diagnosed few months after conception or immediately after birth. They were of the opinion that it was possible I hadn’t shown any sign of illness up till that day at soccer tryouts where I passed out. They made it known to us that it was risky performing a surgery as they had never done it with anyone older than five. But still, my parents requested that the surgery be performed. I was more than happy that it had gone well, considering the fact that I didn’t have another relapse until exactly a year after while playing in a game out of town.
I noticed a bluish colouring on my skin that morning as we got dressed for the game. I had overlooked it, thinking it to be a reaction of some sort. Fifteen minutes into the game, I realised how wrong I had been when I felt so dizzy and had collapsed midway across the field.
I was assigned to Doctor Bryan and had to see him on a daily basis for checkups, although I thought it unnecessary as we were already informed there was nothing that could be done. Surgery couldn’t be performed twice and even though it could, it wasn’t an assurance of my wellbeing. We were also informed that in rare cases like mine, twenty years of age was the highest one could attain before the heart finally gave up. I accepted my fate and waited patiently for the wearing out of my heart. The doctors instructed I stopped going for practice to avoid putting strain on an already strained heart.
Images of death cunningly sneaked their way into my feeble mind until I succumbed to their queer rhythm. It was like I was in a dark tunnel with no glimpse of light. I would stay up in my room catching up with the movies I hadn’t seen yet so as not to miss anything when I was gone. I even packed up some of my clothes into a bag for charity and arranged my normally scattered room so as not to give my parents any more heartaches when it was time to throw my stuff away.
I showed Doctor Bryan the skin and bones that had started appearing around my fingernails. He sighed deeply, stating that it was part of the symptoms of my gradually dying heart. I smiled at him, knowing it was all I could do to show how grateful he was for trying his best even when the end had already come.
“Do you want to know the truth?” He asked during one of my numerous checkups.
“Apart from the one I already know? Sure, you can spill.”
“Medical wise, you have only less than a year more to live,” He started. “But I want to introduce you to someone who doesn’t give a damn about what medical practitioners might have said, someone who is ready to give you hope for eternity, someone who can heal you.”
I scoffed as he spoke, already knowing what was going to come next. I was raised as a free thinker and I thought religion to be a waste of mentality and ability.
“It’s over! You know it and I know it. There is no other way. No magic is going to occur. You have no right at all to get my hopes high and leave me to watch it fall at the end of the day. I’m sorry for yelling, but I think I’m okay with death.”
There was nothing else to live for anyway. Soccer was gone and my parents had lost hope too.
Doctor Bryan didn’t stop. He talked about God each time I went in for my checkup and I thought death was going to come faster from my hearing too much. I told him countless number of times to stop but it was like forcing a nail into a metal wall.
I asked for a change of doctor but no one was willing to attend to a ticking bomb. After a while, I shut him out and focused on the boring white paint of his office each time I visited.
I couldn’t do it for too long, though. I began to get fascinated with the stories of faith and miracles. He made me see that I actually wasn’t ready to let soccer or my parents go. I just did not want to build any hopes for myself. We started praying together and my desire to stay alive grew. It was so hard hanging on to a thread I had never known in my entire life but it was the only hope I had and the only push that kept me going. I returned my packed clothes into my wardrobe and started sending smiles to my parents who were shocked to see me starting small conversations with them. They had even begged me to stop increasing the casualties when I began making friends with our neighbors. I feared the thread would snap into two because I held on too tight.
My heart failed me on the night before my 20th birthday and I had thought that was the end. I vaguely remembered my parents praying for the peaceful rest of my soul and the feel of Doctor Bryan’s hands on mine, praying for a miracle to occur.
I’m 21 now and I’m still hoping for a tomorrow. The doctors can still hear a faint murmur in my heart, but I feel all is going to be fine.