The Broken Heart (Part 1)

This week I've got hearts on my mind. Or heart, to be more specific. It's just the one heart I'm thinking about: my Dad's, which is broken. Technically speaking, anyway.

Late last year, after suddenly having both arms go numb and feeling pain in his chest when going from a sitting to standing position, he had his heart checked and learned he has a Mitral Valve Prolapse. Basically, the valve carrying blood from his heart's left atrium to the left ventricle is damaged.

The good news is that doctors caught this issue early enough that he can get the valve repaired rather than replaced; the still-disconcerting news is that my Dad is having heart surgery.

This is shocking to me. If you know my Dad, you know that he is the Fountain of Youth poster man, in looks and in outlook. He is always full of energy, active, upbeat, outgoing...always looking to learn something new, improve himself, to gain a fresh perspective. At age fifty-seven, he looks like a youngish forty-five.

"Karl Konrad" and "heart surgery" just don't seem like concepts of a shared realm.

Dad and the boys, Alameda County Fair 2012
But this condition is congenital, meaning that all the good behaviors he displays, like exercising regularly and into above-and-beyond levels of challenge (YOU try cycling to the top of Mt. Diablo! (not that I have)) would not have had a chance at preventing its occurrence. This part was actually good news for my Dad. As long as nobody has told him to step away from the bacon, he's good.

But that's the thing with my Dad, see. It's all good. But I mean really...it's ALL good. Everything that comes his way: it's a challenge rather than a problem. It's an adventure. An opportunity. And he really means it. These are not euphemisms employed for the sake of others. Or if they are, he's really, really good at selling them. In the end, does it make a difference? The outcome is the same: he rolls with whatever life sends him like no other person I've known, with the exception of my Mom, and in the end he arrives at a better place than he was before the challenge/adventure/opportunity came his way.

Dadio and Mamala, Feb 2014
Together, my parents are a formidably forward-thinking and undeterred pair. They will always find the bright side and present a solid game face.

At the moment, I'm feeling a little confused on how to process the reality of what's going on. There's part of me that's thinking 'Heart surgery. y'all! This is some scary shit!!' And then the other part of me looks to my Dad and Mom's example and thinks 'this is a bump in the road...how fortunate that the problem was discovered now, when new and innovative, minimally invasive microscopic surgery is an option.'

And maybe what I've been missing is that there is room for both of these feelings. They don't have to be at odds with each other--as if I needed to choose between them. Yes, heart surgery is scary, AND there is cause to celebrate and think positively.

The other day I called my Dad to ask about his pre-op appointment. As he talked cheerfully and with gratitude about how thorough and informative the staff was during the hours-long orientation process, all I could think of was the 5am check-in time. I pictured a first wave of visitors there to wish him well...my Aunt Rose (Mom's best friend since 3rd grade and a super knowledgeable Nurse Practitioner--two levels of support!), my brother, my son, my boyfriend and me. 

Then I pictured all of us gone and my Mom remaining there. I thought of 38 years of marriage boiled down to this moment (don't they all, every marriage, eventually lead to one final moment? I've had this thought before and it's blown my mind).

We all know that, statistically speaking, my Dad's surgery will go smoothly and everything will turn out just fine. We all know the odds. And yet we also know that there are outlier cases and complications and there are moments one must seize upon. Not everybody has the chance to have words with his beloved in the minutes just before heart surgery (so many of these surgeries take place following an emergency). What will they say to each other in those moments? What is that going to feel like for each of them? It makes my own heart feel tender to think about it.

And I admit this has been one of the more difficult subjects for me to write about. It's not often that I have difficulty finding words. It's not often my family confronts a life event of this magnitude either, so I suppose it is fitting.

If you are reading this, I would like to ask that you keep my Dad in your thoughts and prayers (if you make them). I know that he has so much yet to contribute to this world...so many laughs to experience and inspire (love you, Dadio), so many things to teach me and all of us who know him.

I can't wait to see him take on a heaping, post-ride pile of something greasy on the other end of all of this.


  1. I make both thoughts and prayers, and so I will lift up both in peace and power. May your dad's heart be completely healed, and may all of yours be at rest. Love you!

  2. Oh Kisa ......, I can certainly empathize with you. Speaking from experience, my dad had quadruple by-pass surgery when I was 20. Wow, was I scared! I was so afraid that we were going to loose him but he did come through it and I believe your dad will too. While I know your dads procedure is different than my dads was, surgical procedures have come along way in 38 years. Trust me, it's okay to be scared. We all are sometimes but please remember there will be lots of prayer going out for him and your family on that day. Love to all of you, Aunt Danelle

  3. Hey Kisa mama, I'm sending prayers and thoughts of love and support. Your dad is such an open-minded inspiring and kind man! I think it is fortunate the issue was discovered prior to having anything major happen. I agree, he's got much more to do here, just needs to make a pit stop.

  4. Beautiful Blog, You made me cry and my heart is with you & your family. Your Dad (and mom as well) sound like amazing people and a perfect role model. I am sending a virtual hug your way and hope and pray that all went well


  5. Kisa, I love the way you describe your parents outlook on life &, their love. I've always felt I was positive and tried to make the best out of everything and after reading this will try harder. Thanks for posting this. Blessings to you and your family. xo!

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