Barely a month after returning from their annual pilgrimage to the Spring Buying Fairs in Europe, my parents were off again, this time for a month in the United States, where my sister was scheduled for much-needed heart valve surgery.
As a child, my younger sister tired easily, and was diagnosed with asthma. She was naturally athletic, but couldn't train rigorously in any one sport long enough to participate in national competitions. She got top grades in P.E. classes and was always asked to join varsity teams, but never got to fulfil all of their training requirements.
About a decade ago, her husband noticed that her heartbeat sounded irregular. It turns out she's had a heart condition probably all her life, called mitral valve prolapse. Apparently it's not an uncommon condition, but most cases are mild enough to be left alone. Hers was moderate to severe, with considerable regurgitation of blood in her heart that caused her to tire easily and get short of breath.
This condition can be hereditary, in this case inherited from our paternal grandfather. He had valve repair surgery years ago at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a renowned heart centre. So my sister headed over there too.
On hearing the possible option of replacement with a mechanical valve if repair couldn't' be done, she shelved the operation in favour of having children first. The blood thinners required for life after a valve replacement would mean she couldn't get pregnant. She had two girls in 11 months, but then didn't get pregnant again.
This year, her doctor noticed a marked deterioration in her heart condition, making immediate surgery a necessity. As soon as school ended for the girls, they flew off to Cleveland with my parents, for a month.
This morning the surgery finally took place, after the doctors had changed the schedule several times. Two valves were damaged - one was repaired, and the other replaced with a natural valve which would not require blood thinners, but which will in turn require replacement every 10 - 15 years. The valve they used was porcine.
A long-time fan of Grey's Anatomy, I never thought my knowledge of random medical facts would come in useful, until now. My sister currently recovers in the ICU, and we continue praying for her complete and quick recovery.