We just realised the other day that this week marks the 10th anniversary of John’s last aortic valve replacement surgery.  It’s also weird coz we’re going back tomorrow for his first round of tests since he was diagnosed with heart failure.


When he said it to me the other day I was so shocked 'cause I can remember the day so clearly, in some ways it feels like yesterday. I was about 16 weeks pregnant with Oscar, our first baby, we were living in our newly renovated home down in Wicklow and I was still working for the bank. So, we’ve seen a couple of changes since then!


John had gone in to hospital a couple of days before the surgery for some final tests. He was going to be taken down to theatre at about 7am so I took a taxi with my mum to the hospital at 5.30am. It was all very scary. John was signing papers and there were various people coming to him to tell him what they were going to do and what was going to happen. When it was time to go down I was told I could go with him so he said goodbye to his Dad and my Mum and off we went.



I’m not quite sure exactly where we went because we ended up in what looked to me like a corridor and there were a lot of people bustling about, we stopped and a very smiley and friendly nurse came to me and introduced herself – all I remember is that she told us that she’d take John from there, that she’d keep me posted throughout the day and that we should say our goodbyes. I’m actually getting emotional thinking back to that moment. John was lying on the trolley and I just remember not knowing what to say to him; we were holding hands and I was trying really hard not to cry, he was really nervous but he kept telling me he was absolutely fine.  My legs started to shake, I had never experienced that before, I was terrified and I thought I was going to fall.  So, I told him I loved him, that I’d be there when he woke up and that everything would be ok. I walked back to my mum and father in law and the tears just wouldn’t stop. 


There was never any question that it wouldn’t go to plan or that he wouldn’t survive it, we had discussed all of that with the consultant and he was really confident that John was strong enough to get through the surgery and make a full recovery but I was still absolutely terrified.


It was the day from hell!! I thought it would never end. But it did, my phone rang about 7 hours later and it was the surgeon, he was just out of theatre, he was happy with how it had gone, John was in recovery and would be sent to intensive care in a couple of hours and I’d be able to see him then.  I got to see him late that evening, I had never been in to ICU before and I can remember it being really intimidating – loads of machines and nurses and it was all really high tech with sliding doors and alarms and buzzers it was like being in a spaceship (I’ve never been in a spaceship either but you get the picture!!!)  He had his eyes closed when we went in and there seemed to be tubes everywhere but when I held his hand he slowly opened his eyes and he winked at me, I couldn’t believe it!!!! I was so happy!!!  I have never felt relief like it, I was immediately giddy and delighted with life again.   I was just so overjoyed that he was through it and that we could get on with getting him better.



The emotions that I felt that day and the days coming up to it I had never experienced before, the fear, the anxiety, the panic, the unknown; I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for him. He kept telling me he was fine.  He was SO excited that I was pregnant and that’s all he was focussing on. I can’t believe it was 10 years ago; what a decade it’s been! We’ve been through more than we could have ever imagined possible (but that’s for another day’s blog) but after all this time I’ve come to see it, and everything that came after it, as a gift. 


I will never take him for granted; I know how lucky we are with our kids and our family and our lives together. And there isn’t another person on Earth that I would rather share the challenges we’ve faced with. It’s funny that what seems like the worst possible time when you’re in it can turn out to be one of the best things that could have happened. It was the first time I realised that I was a lot stronger than I knew, I realised that nothing in this life is guaranteed, I learnt what really matters in life is the people that you share it with and I learnt that, on that front, I have hit gold.


I have the most amazing family and friends people who support me, make me laugh and let me cry. I think once we can accept life for what it is, once we can get rid of our ‘why me?’ attitude we can find something about ourselves that we never knew before and it’s usually something pretty flipping good! 

Máire Toomey is a mother of three from Dublin blogging about the impact of her husband's heart condition on the day to day lives of a family of 5.

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