The Head and the Heart: A Valentine of Sorts

This year Valentine's Day is particularly poignant because Booth's heart nearly killed him, and mine nearly broke in the process. Every day has become Valentine's Day since we found out that Booth had "Left Main Disease," a genetic heart disease that is also known as "The Silent Killer" and "The Widow-Maker." We were lucky we caught the 90% blockage in Booth's left main artery and we were lucky that the triple bypass surgery fixed the problem. Unfortunately there were surgical errors which nearly killed Booth, collapsing his right lung and causing him to lose over two liters of blood, which also led to thoracic surgery to remove a blood clot that was almost a liter in volume. The blood clot scarred his right lung and the surgery punctured it. Every day we worried that there might not be a next day. Every day our hearts ached with fear of the loss of the love we have.

Booth is healing and I am trying to heal in a different way. I have learned a lot about many things during this arduous journey- things about the nature of love and sacrifice. I have learned so many things about our bodies, science, medicine, pain, signs and symptoms of shock, when to call 911, who to call to be with you when you have to drive to the ER at 9pm and stay in the ICU until 2:30am realizing if it wasn't for the fire department, the man you love would be dead.

I have also learned a lot about the heart itself. 

When Booth's cardiologist, the wonderful Dr. Willems first came back after the angiogram to explain that Booth needed open heart surgery, he drew a heart. He drew it just like you would draw a Valentine, but then he drew the aorta coming from the lungs, and he drew the high pressure chambers of the left side which receive the fresh oxygenated blood brought from the aorta directly through the left main artery. He drew the lower pressure right chambers where the spent blood returns to circulate back through the lungs. He did such an efficient job of explaining these functions that we gained a new understanding of the heart as a pump, the arteries and veins as plumbing, and the cardio-surgeon as a plumber. A very high paid plumber. Booth's heart pre-surgery was only getting 10% of the freshly oxygenated blood it needed to supply his entire body. With the triple bypass, it is now happily pumping away to its hearts' delight.

This made me do some deep thinking about the heart. We talk about thinking with our hearts, not our heads when it comes to matters of love. Now I know that is just a figure of speech, a metaphor, but after this experience, I can't help but think of the heart as anything but a beautiful pump... a powerful, rhythmic, dumb muscle that does its job and keeps the incredible machine that is our body, going. And yes, our brains are a collection of cells and neurons firing, and a chemical balance that is beyond my comprehension. Our brains are not supposed to do the thinking in matters of love, yet they process it all using every sense that we have been given- some of it common, and some of it seemingly mysterious. When our brain chemistry goes awry, as is the case with my father's bipolar disease, we can be fooled into believing things and become delusional. I have realized that never in his entire life has my father told me, "I love you." He is incapable of that emotional connection. It was a painful realization, but my brain allowed me to process it and let it go. 

With Valentine's Day we are bombarded with so many heart images and references it is truly a heart attack. I'm feeling a little gun-shy about this. I'm feeling the fragility of life itself as I ponder freshly oxygenated blood traveling through our arteries and veins. I'm feeling the intense love for the man I've shared the past twenty-four years with, hoping there will be twenty-four more, at least. But I don't think I'm using my heart. Or my head. I think I'm using my soul. I know our souls are connected, his and mine, and after this experience, I feel that connection even stronger. 

So this Valentine's Day we will continue to do what we have been doing: sharing our love... heart, mind, body, soul, whatever you want to call it. There will be some chocolate, too. (I'll be making Flourless Chocolate Raspberry Cakes.) 

My wish for you, my friends is to keep your heart healthy, your brain strong and balanced, and love with all your soul.

Happy Valentine's Day.


  1. Beautiful post, Nina. Happy Valentine's Day to you and Booth.

    1. Thank you, Dana- and Happy Valentine's Day to you, too!

  2. Keep those hearts pumping! Visit that plumber at the slightest concern and treasure each other every day. thanks for the post

    1. Thanks Dana- and the same for you and Vicki! We are each other's gifts...

  3. Yes, beautiful. Thanks for opening your heart and sharing Nina.

  4. You are so welcome, dear Kjersten.


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