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"I'd like to believe that he prayed for me too".

I spent the last year of my life in a constant state of exhaustion. I would sleep through the night, wake up, start my classes for the day, do some work and by midday I'd crawl back into bed and sleep for a good 2-3 hours. This was my normal. A near constant cycle of sleeping, waking up, working and sleeping some more. It crushed my soul being constantly tired. No amount of caffeine, food, exercise, tv or other stimulants helped me. All I wanted was to sleep. It seemed as if sleeping took complete control of my life, and nothing seemed to make it better.

At the start of 2022, I moved back to university to finish my final year of my undergraduate degree with optimism and excitement. It wasn't until the workload hit that I realized the immense strain my body was taking. Deep down, I could sense something was wrong with my heart. Call it a gut feeling or intuition, but I just knew that the route of my tiredness was stemming from my heart and I knew I needed to see my cardiologist. Not being able to walk up a hill without needing to stop and catch my breath was exactly the push I needed to pick up the phone and speak to my cardiologist. And that's exactly what I did.

A week later, I sat in his office at Sunninghill hospital hearing the news I dreaded. My sister sat next to me as another set of ears to absorb information and of course as support, as we both listened to Dr Danksy explain what was going on. Now, I am by no means a medical professional. I have a very basic understanding of my condition and the previous 4 surgeries I needed to correct my birth defect. But on that day, listening to Dr Dansky speak, I heard nothing other than “something is wrong with the pressure in your heart, the valve is not okay, I want you to have an MRI of your heart, you'll have to have another opertation.” Now of course he explained everything in a way that was appropriate for me to comprehend.

But in that moment, my world stopped.

‘I didn't know who to call first. Should I cry or keep a brave face? Do I need to write a will? What about my degree? This is going to hurt like hell. What if I don't want another op? I need to call my therapist.’ This was my brain for the rest of the day.

Fast forward about two months, I sat in my hospital bed the night before my surgery tentatively waiting to see Dr Mamorare. I wondered what he would look like and if he would remember me. He operated on me twice before, in 2005 and 2010 respectively. I wondered what he would think of me when he saw me, if he would remember my face, my smile, my voice. I wondered if he would remember my heart and all its intricacies. How could he? He’s seen so many hearts far more complex than mine. When we walked through the door of the room in the ward, it was oddly comforting to see him. Like seeing an old friend. He was shorter than I remembered. Or perhaps I was taller? I seem to gravitate towards the latter. His voice was quiet and dignified, and passion for his craft dripped off of his sentences like honey off a spoon. He stood with me and explained the procedure to me. Thoroughly. Much like Dr Dansky, he explained it in a way that I could comprehend and repeat back to anyone who would listen. He answered all my questions confidently and in those moments of discussing the events of the following day, it was as if I became the sun, and he, the earth. One circulating so effortlessly around the other. It seemed as if for that time, nothing was of a bigger priority to him than me. He drew me a diagram of my heart and all its complications, told me I could phone him anytime through the night if I had any more questions or concerns, gracefully said his goodbyes, and left for the night.

A few weeks prior to the surgery I read an article on the Maboneng Heart and Lung institute page in an interview with Dr Mamorare. When asked if he had any pre-surgery rituals he responded “None, I just pray.” I've kept this sentence in my mind and close to my heart for so long. You see, I'm a pray-er. I pray for everything and everyone. I pray before tests and exams. I pray before students of mine write tests and exams. I pray for my family and friends and other people's family and friends. I never used to be but now, I hold tightly to prayer. The morning of my surgery before I was put to sleep, I asked my anesthetist and the sisters in the theater if I could pray. I prayed for Dr Mamorare. I'd like to believe that that morning he prayed for me too.

6 days later I left the hospital and began recovery at home. My shortest hospital stay. When I went back for a post op checkup the next week, I sat with Dr Mamorare in his office for a follow up. He sat in his blue surgical scrubs holding a cup of tea. We spoke openly about everything and what should be expected in the following weeks. We got to the end of the appointment and as I looked at this man opposite me, I couldn't help but think of the magnitude of the impact he has had on my life. Next year, I will graduate because of him. One day I'll get married because of him. I will have the opportunity to become a mom because of him. I get to fulfill my dream of helping others because of him. I get to teach because of him. I get to speak to people about my condition because of him. I get to raise awareness about CHD because of him. I get to spend time with my friends because of him. I can run because of him. I can live because of him.

When we said our goodbyes at the end of the appointment, I didn't know how to thank him. How can you really? I asked him if he would need to see me again and no but that I was more than welcome to come and visit. I told him that next year I will graduate and promised that I would visit him wearing my cap and gown to celebrate the occasion.

Even behind his mask I could see his smile.


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