Spirit heals the Heart
A heart to save
Bella routinely pulled into a parking spot of her busy underground office building. As she turned off the ignition, an involuntary but a huge whoosh of breath escaped her. Hmm, that’s odd. I did not realize I was holding in this tight ball of energy during the drive. She paused and thought for a minute. Ah then it struck her, it is that time of the year when a niggling almost anxious feeling takes over almost like sitting in a chair and not being comfortable in it. She wants to jiggle it, get up, walk around it, shake it a little, somehow make it feel right, but still when she sat back down, it doesn’t quite feel right. She always goes over “Things are good. I am healthy, kids are healthy and Javier is healthy. So what is this?
Sitting in the garage, Bella thought back to one night after kids were in bed, she had walked into the library and casually glanced at something that struck a thought in her head. In the semi lit room, on the dark wood paneled wall, hanging are Javier’s marathon medals – all seven of them displayed as glistening laurels of his hard work, discipline, tenacity and sheer courage. Javier was well known for these traits within the closer circle of family and friends. But not many outside are aware of the stalwart resolve and determination he was born with. That’s just it. Some of us are born with it, and some fight to develop it in the face of mortality, yes mortality. This is Javier’s story.
Every year with October end approaching, Javier gets ready to run his annual marathon. It is at this time, Bella would get that uneasy feeling. They had been together for 10 years and 6 years had gone by to adjust and adapt to what unfolded back in their newly married life of 10 months in 2011. ‘I got this covered’ has been Javier’s mantra, but never before did Bella fully grasp the absolute conviction of his self-healing supposition. It was hard for her to share the fervor back then, almost feverish enthusiasm with which he responded to the life changing development.
In March 2011, Javier with no previous history of any medical ailment was diagnosed with arterial blockages of the heart. 90% of his RCA or Right Coronary Artery was blocked, also called “coronary artery disease”. That day in the procedure room of the Amity Hospital Center as Javier lay on the surgical bed after his coronary angiography still bleary from medications, Bella half-listened to the dour looking Cardiologist providing a mixed review of Javier's heart condition. “Purely genetics… your mother’s one and only heart attack. She didn’t make it…sorry…genes are unavoidable…but the prognosis is good...manageable”. Bella remembered a deafening roar around her that probably only I heard as I felt the room sway. It was all the blood in my body rushing to my ears.
Transfixed to the spot, Bella mentally shook herself and the Cardiologist slowly came back into view. She tuned back catching snippets of conversation between Javier and his doctor. She looked down and fleeting smile on his lips. “Why is he smiling?” She thought instantly! “Why are we still in this room?” The cold looking steel walls, noisily beeping medical equipment began to close in on her as she anxiously turned towards the door wishing for a way out of this icy claustrophobia. “I need to get out of here and take Javier with me!” her mind screeched like an overzealous macaw. In the midst of the mad runaway thoughts, she felt Javier’s hand cover her's, soothing and gentle. She looked down to meet his gaze, “I got this covered” he said evenly and calmly.
In her own blinding fearful response to the unknown, Bella had missed the part about the doctor congratulating Javier on something so incredible that it bordered on inconceivable! Apparently, Javier’s heart had performed a bypass on itself! A heart doing its own bypass! “How is that possible!?! she gaped in disbelief, still half focused. However, the doctor’s diagnosis was as simple and straightforward as a train carrying goods to a destination. If the rail road track has obstructions on the way, the driver switches to a secondary track making it possible for the train to bypass the obstructed spots on the original track. Imagine Javier’s heart as the train, the original track as his Right Coronary Artery (RCA) and the secondary track or tracks called Collaterals vessels used to carry the goods or oxygen. In Javier’s case, his heart did a natural bypass and self-generated itself on a second alternate route to supply oxygen rich blood to the affected areas of Javier’s heart muscle!
Here is the technical explanation on Collaterals vessels and their life saving impact. Blood to the heart muscle is provided by the left and right coronary arteries, which arise from the aorta and then branch into increasingly tinier vessels. Each coronary artery supplies blood to its own area of muscle. In humans, very small, hair like vessels (capillaries) are often the only interconnections between the coronary arteries and their service areas. Sometimes, however, larger vessels interconnect the supplied areas. These vessels are called “Collateral vessels” or “natural bypasses.” Only these collaterals, not the capillary network, are capable of delivering an adequate amount of blood to the heart muscle. The extent of these natural bypasses varies from person to person and depends on individual conditions, such as hereditary factors, the degree of physical activity, and the existence of constrictions in the main coronary arteries.
Upon return from the hospital, Bella and Javier began extensive medical research, wherever they found information, their doctors, friends, and family, anyone with any prior history or knowledge. They discovered Collateral vessels are present in everyone at least in microscopic form. These vessels normally do not develop or open. However, in Javier’s case they grew and enlarged to create a kind of ‘detour’ network around the blockages.
For Javier, how and why did this fail-over network of alternate blood supply kick into gear in the first place? That was the foremost burning question during the drive back from the hospital and several ensuing days. What triggers these Collaterals to sprout and spread like a fast growing forest cover over sun parched earth thirsting for moisture? Was it something in Javier’s cellular and genetic makeup that acted as catalyst to this unusual arterial connections?
The truth was Javier’s capillary network had turned into Collaterals potentially saving his life. When there is increasing traffic volume on a highway, it may make sense to make the highway into a larger freeway to allow a higher traffic volume. In short, the same happens to the coronary arteries: When blood flow is increased, the inner layer of vessel cells (endothelial cells) sense this necessity and start the process of enlarging from capillaries into genuine Collateral Vessels. In response to endurance exercise training (such as running, bicycling, swimming, and hiking), blood flow is increased, which leads to a conversion from capillaries into Collaterals. This is a very elegant treatment everybody can accomplish! It reduces the chances of the occurrence of angina pectoris, myocardial infarctions, and death. Beyond the interventional, surgical, and medical treatments against coronary artery disease, this Collateral training is a natural and valuable therapy that many affected with heart disease can apply by themselves, for themselves, if only they are aware of it. Collateral training results in a better blood supply of the heart and thus demonstrably fewer heart attacks, less severe loss of valuable heart muscle, better quality of life, and higher survival rates.
This explains and what Bella discovered saved Javier’s life. His strong propensity over the years to a very active lifestyle of athletics, tennis, marathons, swimming and regular High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercise and yoga coupled with a primarily plant based diet, allowed his Collaterals to grow and develop which limited the need for invasive cardiac surgery.
Javier further immersed himself into an even stricter regimen of plant based diet, strenuous heart pumping exercise, yoga, meditation and deep breathing. Bella learnt that while the benefits and ancient wisdom of Vedic traditions were sufficiently known in the modern world, little attention had been paid, in the scientific world or outside, to link the astonishing effects of Vedic practices such as Yogic breathing to that of human body healing itself. A radical pioneer and proponent of the Vedic and Yogic philosophy, Baba (Swami) Ramdev, emerged from a village of India to reverse the tide of modern scientific beliefs that prescription drugs and invasive medical treatments should be the last option for individuals plagued by chronic health and mental illnesses.
Thousands if not, millions converted into believers as Yogic philosophy and practice swept the country into a curative revolution. Bella started believing the day she saw her aunt who had once trouble moving, stand up and walk towards her for a big bear hug. She had been suffering from bone tuberculosis of the feet and hands becoming resigned to a life of pain and disability. The healing remedy of Yoga and yogic breathing (type of deep mindful breathing) and positive mental reinforcement, she asserted, had healed her.
Up until the point of discovery of Javier’s heart condition, Bella had not thought of her aunt’s recovery in a very long time. Ironically, bella's mother, the scientist, propelled her into thinking about mind body alignment that Yoga produces. She was fully aware of Javier’s propensity to Yoga practice for the last several years. She insisted that increasingly modern medical science is recognizing the (previously rebuffed) impact and power of Vedic meditation and practice on the human body. Many like Javier and her aunt would wager their heritage in support of the powerful faith that human body heals itself if the mind tells it to!
It had been over five years since that fateful day Bella drove Javier back from the hospital. He had looked up the stairs in the house with some disconcert “I hope I feel ok when I get up on top”. Five years later, he had earned seven marathon medals, getting ready to earn his eighth.
Bella felt doubt free and faith strong. Buddhism says ‘Faith is a conviction that something is”. Heb 11.1 in the Bible states “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Hindu faith is based on the premise that logic and reason are not conclusive methods of epistemic knowing. Spiritual practice is performed with the faith that knowledge beyond the mind and sense perception will be revealed to the practitioner.