One Heartbeat

Have you ever thought about the value of a heartbeat? How with one motion over and over your heart keeps your body functioning. How as your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and it does this daily for all the years of your life. If I do the math, my dad’s heart beat nearly 2,263,000,000 times. Then it stopped.

When I was little, I use to lay on his chest and listen to his slow and steady heart beat over and over. It would put me to sleep, I’m told. I’m also told, that his heart stopped Monday morning. That is essentially what took his life. Not the last heart beat, but the first moment it didn’t beat.

Thirteen years ago we nearly lost him to Legionnaires Disease. And while we spent 10 days in the shock trauma ICU, we were obsessed with a few of his stats, one being his heartbeat. It ranged from 20-50 beats per minute depending on how hard it was working to keep him alive along with the full life support he was on. I remember that 10-day experience like it was yesterday.

When I visited my dad daily in the ICU in San Antonio, I was drawn to his stats. Looking for anything that did NOT mirror the stats of October 2002. And while my dad had absolutely no understanding of how close to death he was back then, he knew it this time. His heart was not the strong heart it use to be. It didn’t beat consistently or strongly.

It’s strange watching your parent in such a fragile state. That, along with 2002, are images I will be unable to erase from my memory. Fear and regret filled his eyes. He was unable to talk because he had a ventilator assisting his breathing. He held my hand, but his grip was so weak. His heart rate was very slow, 40ish beats per minute. I think it was the accidental monitoring of his heart rate that caused me to know it would be the last time I would see him.

One heartbeat seems like such an invaluable part of our function. But when that heartbeat stops.

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