April 4, 1973. Four. Four.
For years, I wondered if perhaps I did have a twin. The duplicity is in the numbers, it’s in my birthdate and on my fourth birthday to the day – Four. Four. Nineteen seventy- seven, I waited patiently for the gurney which would wheel me into the operating room for my first open heart surgery.
And just four years before, on April 4, 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the first temporary artificial heart. Four is a big number when it comes to the heart, it seems. Four chambers yes. But, imagine two of them are reversed.
Let’s back up a bit. The second, fainter heartbeat the doctor heard was mine. It wasn’t a twin’s heart. Somehow, a small hole had developed; a murmur. If you’ve ever put your ear to a seashell and heard the rushing sea, or the thwomp, thwomp of something being dropped down a well – this is something akin to what my heartbeat sounds like.
By four-and-a-half, I could explain what the bump just above my pelvis was. And in four-year-old speak, it would come out something like “there’s a box down there. It looks kind of like my Daddy’s cigarette lighter. And there’s a cord,” I might add, pointing and drawing a line from the bump in my pelvis to my heart. “A cord going from it to my heart. The box makes sure my heart beats good.”