I’m blessed beyond belief to have one of the greatest role models in the world continually guiding me by the principles and intentions that she lives by. That unique individual is my Mom, Grace Varghese. She is the most intentional God-fearing and loving person who I know.
My Mom is the eldest child in her family. She grew in Kerala, India in environment of near poverty. A few of her siblings didn’t make it past childbirth and a younger brother in his early teens took his life, challenging moments for sure. She was also bed-ridden for a year with rheumatic fever and that may have led her eventually to have a heart transplant later in life. She may have also had a genetic deposition for a condition called Cardiomyopathy, that I once had. Chapters could be written on the hardships she experienced through all those years in India.
She eventually became a pioneer as a Registered Nurse on her journey into Canada and to New York where where my sister and I were born. Thanks to her and my father and their commitment to family, they paved the way for thousands of others to make the journey here.
During my childhood, my Mom experienced fainting spells and hospitalized for extended periods of time. Eventually in the late 1980s she was properly diagnosed with dilated idiopathic Cardiomyopathy. This form of Cardiomyopathy is the enlargement of the heart’s left ventricle causing the heart to pump with difficulty. In 1996, her heart went into severe failure and she was put on the transplant list at Mount Sinai Hospital. Around this same period, as she lay in the hospital, I also experienced heart palpitations. I met with my mother’s doctor and after looking closer, he saw that I too had the same Cardiomyopathy. I’ll talk about my own journey beating Cardiomyopathy in another post.
She laid in bed for three months at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. Those were some of the most grueling months for our entire family. We were praying for her constantly. Thankfully my Mom had a successful heart transplant on December 3, 1996. She was there to see me graduate Engineering school several months later and watch as my sister, Jessie, took the Hippocratic Oath to become a physician.
Her transplant was exactly 29 years after the first ever heart transplant was conducted on December 3rd, 1967 in Capetown, South Africa by conducted by Dr. Christian Barnard. That 1st patient was 53-year-old Mr. Louis Washkansky who received the first human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.
Louis Washkansky only lived for 18 days, succumbing in the end to pneumonia. One of the books on our bookshelf that we had to understand the magnitude of this momentous achievement is titled Every Second Counts: The Extraordinary Race to Transplant the First Human Heart.
The title of that book inspired this Rules for Success post. I’m present that for each of us every moment counts. Growing up there was often an uncertainty how long my Mom would live. Even to this day, there are times I go to visit her, where there is concern that she isn’t there anymore. Every moment with her is a gift.
She is one of the reason why I met my wife Sherley some 9 years ago. Bringing things back full circle, Sherley now sees patients in that same building and on the same floor that Cardiology used to be on. Mount Sinai Cardiology has now moved to its own building and my Mom has a yearly checkup there. See video below for more context.
All those MOMents in life add up in this word of possibility to a lot of MOMentum. By the grace of God, we are all grateful to God that my MOM made it and continues to serve a greater good every day.
The current living transplant survivor aka thriver is at 30 years. My Mom is currently a heart transplant survivor of 25 years and we pray for another 10 more. Every moment with your loved ones counts. Honor all the moments this holiday season because they are a gift. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to ask her transplant Dr. Alan Gass what the reason was why she has outlived most other transplant survivors. His answer was it’s her intentionality to live and her faith in a greater God. It helps that she lives an active and healthy life, walking often 3 miles a day. She also has a strong sense of community and belonging with our large family loving on her constantly.