A Broken Heart

2D Echocardiogram– $220.00

Hospital Consult– $110.00

Select Coronary Angiograph and Cardiac Cath Imaging– $10,000.00 (give or take)


The list, a fading hospital bill from over 15 years ago, goes on and on. I had never seen the bill until today, when my dad handed it to me while cleaning out some old files, but there are many things that I do remember.

I remember the snow, then the fever. I remember being taken to my family physician, barely able to stand on the scale. I remember being transferred to a big hospital. I remember the first night in the pediatric ICU, where they heaped icepacks that chilled me to the bone and refused to take them off, despite my complaints.

Then there was the cold stethoscope held by a different hand each time. There were the injections, the constant in and out of people, the worried face of my mother, the presents, the cold rolling ball of the echocardiogram probe, the sticky electrodes from EKGs. It was a daily routine of procedures, tests, consults, and of course, the sickness. I was four-years-old at the time, and even now, I still remember.

What I didn’t remember was one phrase I told my mom; I didn’t learn about it until probably a year ago. About five days in to my ten day ICU stay, I had said to my mom,”I don’t want to live anymore.” Weighty words for a four-year-old, and something that broke my mom’s heart.

But regardless of my young opinions, I did live. On day ten, the fever went down. I ate my first bit of solid food in over a week, a cereal with a frog on the front of the package (Honey Smacks—had to look this up while writing this). I also remember that I actually didn’t like the cereal, but it didn’t matter. I was too hungry to care.

On day eleven, I was discharged, returning back to a semblance of normal life…

Over the years, this patchy childhood memory was filled with new bits of information. I learned that I had Kawasaki’s Disease, a rare disease of unknown etiology, possibly fatal if left untreated (It also turned out to be a perfect textbook case, which made me quite an attraction among the medical students, residents, and fellows). And unfortunately, I didn’t come out unscathed; the ordeal left me with three coronary artery aneurysms, one of which has never healed.

Even to this day, I still have a “broken heart,” but the ordeal has only empowered me to live my life, achieve my dreams. I had wanted to become a doctor even before I became ill, but my experience didn’t scare me away; instead, it emboldened me.

I have no illusions about what I’m getting myself into. Medicine is an imperfect profession that strives for perfection. Its practitioners are held to a golden standard of idealism that is impossible to uphold. It seeks to cure, but often falls short. It seeks to heal, but memories and scars never fade away.

I know all of this. I’ve experienced it firsthand. But regardless, I still believe.

For if we don’t believe—in an idea, a dream, a goal—then what are we living for?