Heart Surgery- Part 1

The day was Thursday, July 25, 1963. If you have read my post entitled My Humble Beginnings, you know that I was born with a heart defect known as

Tetralogy of Fallot, which includes a ventricular septal defect…in other words, I had a hole in my heart between the two lower chambers, or ventricles. In 1963, open heart surgery was still a new procedure and performing it on babies was not even thought of yet. As I became a little older, the time came for the surgery to be performed and July 25 was chosen as the big day.

I didn’t know until just a couple of years ago, that Dr. Denton A. Cooley


not only performed this major surgery when I was 8 years old, he also performed the earlier surgery on me when I was around 3 years old… the Blalock-Taussig Shunt Procedure.


Wow… Dr. Cooley took care of me both times! The Lord really used him in a major way in my life and I had the joy and privilege of finally having the opportunity to thank him in person a couple of years ago.

Getting back to the story, I was to have the surgery in Texas Children’s Hospital. http://www.texaschildrens.org/

There are certain details that I remember very clearly, which I will share with you. I’m not sure when I was actually admitted into the hospital, but my Mom told me that, the night before the actual surgery, she was in my room, looking out of the hospital window and she could see the steeple of a church across the street. She prayed (Thank the Lord I had a praying mother!) and as she prayed, she actually used that opportunity to dedicate me to God.  I’m so glad that she did!

I don’t remember the surgery itself, but I do remember waking up in a big room in a bed under an oxygen tent. The tent covered the entire bed, so I was completely covered, in addition to having a nozzle over my nose and mouth to literally “feed” oxygen into my body and breathe for me until I was strong enough to breathe on my own.  Now, keep in mind that I am an 8-year-old girl who has just had surgery, is laying in a bed under a tent, can’t see what is going on around me, day in and day out, nothing to do, and I became a little bit bored.  So I decided, just out of curiosity, to come out from under the little nozzle that was feeding oxygen into my nose and see what would happen. The second that I came out from under that little nozzle, my entire body started to shake uncontrollably! Back under the nozzle I went! A few minutes later, I decided to try it again…same thing happened…back under the nozzle I went. I decided to try it a third time and…this time, I couldn’t find the nozzle!!! I had been doing this while my eyes were still closed, but I felt around for about 3-4 seconds and finally found the nozzle again. It was as if the Lord was saying to me, “OK, Darla, enough of that! You had better stay under the nozzle and just lay still and rest.”

Another adventure I had while under the tent was… Mom told me that there was a little boy in the bed next to me and I decided that I wanted to send him little notes. I told Mom what I wanted to say to him and she wrote it on a piece of paper and gave it to the little boy’s mother. The boy wrote a message back, by way of his mom, and this way, we could send messages back and forth via our moms and have something entertaining to do while we laid under the wonderful oxygen tents.

Mom also told me, years later that, before the surgery, my lips and nails were always blue, due to the poor circulation. In fact, I can remember, as a child, if I went in swimming or just got cold outside, my lips and nails would be almost navy blue. My lips looked like I had just eaten a grape popsickle! After the surgery while I was in recovery, Mom said that the first thing she noticed was how healthy and pink my nails and lips were! Yea!!!

I also found out, years later, that instead of giving me blood transfusions during the surgery, I was hooked up to a heart-lung machine, which recycled my own blood throughout my body during the operation.

To read more about my hospital heart adventure, it is continued on the next post! See you there…


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