Valentine's Day

I remember in elementary school in the 1970’s exchanging Valentine’s cards with classmates. I remember the night before writing on each card. I also remember my little heart rate picking up the pace when the card was for a girl in my class, I had a crush on. I never wrote I love you, but maybe said something like, “You are a special friend.”

I remember in my 3rd grade classroom on Valentine’s Day when a girl named Delores passed me a note that said, “Do you love me?” with a box for yes and a box for no. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so under the boxes I wrote back, “I like you.” My heartfelt plan backfired when I saw her read the note and then saying too loudly to her friend in the desk next to her, “He likes me! He likes me!”

As I got older, Valentine’s Day took on new meaning as I dated some wonderful young ladies in high school. Many years later, at the age of 27, my girlfriend, Jodi Gilkerson, treated me to a Valentine’s date on a dock on Lake Taneycomo, where she we told each other for the first time, “I love you.” Thirty years later, the words’ meaning has only grown deeper and richer.

The symbol for Valentine’s Day is the heart. Tomorrow I have heart surgery to hopefully correct a problem I was born with called Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome. With WPW, when my heart developed inside my mother, an extra electrical pathway was formed off the main pathway, an unwelcome bypass, if you will. In the past few years as my heart has grown larger, from time to time after physical or emotional stress, electrical impulses from my heart would divert to the bypass pathway that didn’t know how to regulate my heart rate, called an SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia).

On January 29th I had my most severe SVT, causing me to pass out while driving my truck on highway 13 near the Reeds Spring Junction. My truck narrowly missed four other vehicles and traveled while still in cruise control 900 feet into a wooded area. Authorities said I killed 18 cedar trees on my journey into the wild. I woke up, yelled out to God, and immediately thought to hit my brakes. Thankfully, my truck didn’t roll, though it was totaled from the battle with the trees. Paramedics on the scene said my heart rate was 220 and rushed me to the ER.

The procedure I am expecting to get tomorrow is an ablation of the extra pathway, which will prevent impulses from being diverted in the future. So, this Valentine’s Day held an ironic and special place in my heart, knowing that my own heart should be healed tomorrow so I can enjoy many more Valentine’s with my bride, my son’s…and all other family and friends who mean so much to me.

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