New Math for an Old Heart

New Math for an Old Heart

I’m writing this sitting next to my ex-husband in the cardiovascular ICU at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. No, John and I don’t talk about getting back together, but this is still a love story.

This is John’s third open-heart surgery.

1998:  When John was nineteen, he had a strep infection that affected his aortic valve and they put a mechanical valve in. That valve was a real trooper. A true BFF.

Thirty-years later.

2019:  That BFF-valve got tired (42 million beats times 30 years). John needed a shiny new aortic valve that could go 30 more years. By the way, his mitral valve said, “Geez, you guys, I’m tired, I need a banana and a gel pack.” So, they benched him as well. *more on what happened to these two work horse valves at the end.

  1. A stich came loose on his new mitral valve and his surgeon said, “Hey guys, we need a do-over.”

Before I could stop myself I said, “A do-over is something that happens in a dodge ball game not the operating room with a most valuable player organ.”

The MD said, “Actually, you’re wrong about that. We’re doing it tomorrow. Are you coming?”

I said, “Yes.”

“Three times the charm,” he said and I gave him a look.

A lot of people want to know why John and I divorced, how we got past our differences and, why we aren’t getting married again.

You know me, I’d tell you anything you want to know; my estrogen levels, my guilty pleasures (TikTok) and/or if I floss enough (no).

But John is more private and I respect that.

Suffice to say we had true, irreconcilable differences. Years later we moved past our individual difficulties with each other. I don’t know how John did it but I looked as hard at myself as I looked at John, for the reasons we didn’t stay married.

So now that we’re the perfect couple (cough, cough) how come we don’t get married again?

It’s true that John and I are more than friends, we are family and whether we’re married or divorced doesn’t change that for either of us.

I don’t believe that if we were married I would have worried more, cried harder with the news that there would be a third surgery, supported him more at the bedside, laughed harder when his gown showed his butt to the surgeon. It’s not a legal certificate that forms the union. It’s the people.

You know how they say when a bone breaks it heals stronger? I think that’s John and me.

[Tweet “We are a broken bone that healed really well. So well that when his heart put its full weight on us we were able to write a very particular kind of love story. A life story, you might say.”]

We are a broken bone that healed really well. So well that when his heart put its full weight on us we were able to write a very particular kind of love story. A life story, you might say.

See what I did there? I gave you a two-fer within a three-times-the-charm moment. I hope you like this kind of life-love math. Because I’ve found that sometimes it takes new math to make an old heart work.

*And those old valves? The two tired valves are living out the rest of their lives in Baja California, by the sea, reliving the moments between the heartbeats.

The beautiful & Talented Samantha Hoffman always edits my essays.




  1. Barbara Elmore on May 29, 2021 at 2:08 pm

    You and John make a lovely love story, Ann. Best wishes to you both, especially to the stitch, and I hope third time IS the charm.

    • Ann Garvin on June 30, 2021 at 11:40 am

      We are a special kind of friendly love story, for sure. He seems really good this time. Yay for a new stitch.

  2. mlaiuppa on May 29, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    That is wonderful.

    Just a plug for those with pacemakers. You can donate them to a veterinary clinic. They need to be removed if a loved one is cremated. But they can live a second life and save a second life. Do some research to find a veterinary clinic that will take them. A dog can live a little longer with his bipeds through such a generous donation. Yeah, I had no idea that they do pacemakers for dogs but I guess I should have known. So many of the things we take for granted, like contact lenses, started their path towards helping humans by being tried on dogs first. Nice to return the favor to the nation within.

    • Ann Garvin on June 30, 2021 at 11:40 am

      Ahhhhh yes! They started with animals didn’t they. This is lovely.

  3. Joanne C. Anderson on April 4, 2024 at 9:42 pm

    Amazing story. Thank you. Says a lot about love in its many forms.

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