Healing of the heart

MANILA, Philippines—Today, Easter Sunday, Christians commemorate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If He did not rise from the cross, our faith would have died with Him. Christmas is merry for it marks our Lord’s human birth into this world. But Easter is glorious for it celebrates His conquest of death, sin and human frailties. In commemoration of this glorious day, let me tell you a story of faith.

Medical check-up. On Monday, March 11, 1996, my wife Leni asked me to accompany her for her regular check-up with Dr. Dante D. Morales. I used the opportunity to consult the well-known cardiologist about the dizzy spells, cold sweat, and chest pains I felt a few days before. After taking my electrocardiogram (ECG), he advised me to undergo the treadmill stress test on March 13.

On March 14, Dr. Morales said that the treadmill test “tended to show either that [my] heart muscles may be thick, or that [my] right coronary and left circumflex arteries may be blocked.” In medical terms, the test was “positive for myocardial ischemia due to 2-3.5 mm. ST depression in leads II, III, aVF, V5-V6 during Stage IV, returning to baseline after 2 minutes recovery phase.” He asked me to take a third test, the two-dimensional echo cardiogram (2-d echo).

In the meantime, he added, I should avoid fat and salt, stop my tennis, slow down on golf, and “to be sure [my] heartbeat is below 100 per minute all the time.” He also prescribed aspirin, 1 tablet daily [“aspirin lowers the risk of heart attack by 25 percent”]; Betaloc, 50 mg., tablet twice a day [“to lower blood pressure and heartbeat”]; Zocor, 10 mg., 1 tablet a day [“to lower cholesterol”]; Lexotan 1.5 mg., 1 tablet twice a day [“to slow down metabolism”]; and nitroglycerin (NTG), 1 tablet sublingual as needed [“to dilate the blood vessels, to be taken only during severe chest pain, a symptom of heart attack”].

Angiogram needed. After reviewing the 2-d echo result, Dr. Morales advised me to take a fourth test, the angiogram. “The ECG is equivalent to the Municipal Trial Court; the treadmill to the Regional Trial Court; the 2-d echo, to the Court of Appeals; and the angiogram, to the Supreme Court. Since we lost in the three lower courts of medicine, we should appeal to the highest court,” he mused. “The procedure will be conducted by one of the best in the field, Dr. Dy Bun Yok.” To calm my anxiety, he assured me that while angiogram is invasive, it is generally safe.

Dr. Morales had to leave for abroad on March 17, Sunday. Thus, the angiogram was postponed to April 13, 1996, when he would be back in the country. In the interim, my good friend Pat Garcia (now deceased), who was the Inquirer treasurer, asked me to see his cousin, Dr. Jorge Garcia, perhaps the best-known Filipino heart surgeon in the United States, who was then visiting the country. After looking at the treadmill stress test results, he opined that there was a “probable problem in the rear portion of [my] heart, probably coronary ischemia.”

Meantime, a Supreme Court colleague, Justice Ricardo J. Francisco (now deceased), requested me to ask Fr. Pascual H. Adorable, S.J. (now also deceased), to celebrate a private “Healing Mass” on March 22, 1996. Justice Francisco was suffering from several ailments basically of the heart and the kidneys.

During the Mass, I prayed ardently for Justice Francisco. I totally forgot about my scheduled angiogram; I only remembered my colleague’s plea for miracles. After the Mass, however, Fr. Adorable “prayed over” each of the justices and their spouses, including Leni and me.

Miracles do happen. I entered the Makati Medical Center at 7 p.m. on April 12, 1996. Having slept well that evening, I spent the following morning reading the Yale University’s “Heart Book” and the Texas Heart Institute’s “Heart Owner’s Handbook,” in anticipation of my possible heart bypass surgery.

At 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, I was wheeled to the angiography room. Three TV monitors around my bed monitored the procedure. The dye application on the arteries produced a hot sensation. As the dye quickly and evenly spread over my heart arteries, Dr. Morales exclaimed, “Your coronary arteries are all clear!” I did not expect a complete clearance. At the very least, I thought my blood vessels would be partially blocked.

When shown the tape of the angiogram a few days later, Dr. Garcia smiled and confirmed, “Your coronary arteries are all good. When you die, it will not be due to any heart problem!”

Medical buffs may have scientific reasons for what happened to me. To agnostics, the incident could be a mere confluence of unrelated events. But to a believer like me, the praying over and the healing Mass made all the difference for my stunning recovery. I firmly believe that the good Lord intervened and completely cured me. Up to now 13 years later, at age 72, my heart is still robust and my arteries, healthy.

During the healing Mass, I did not think of myself or of my own health problems. I prayed only for my friend, Carding Francisco. But the Lord remembered. He granted me more than I prayed for because He knew my needs more than I did.

There are several other miracles in my life, too numerous to narrate here – healings of family relationships, physical ailments and emotional traumas. I can write of so many prayers and favors granted in His own way, in His own time even when they seemed so remote and so hopeless. How true it is that “for man it may not be possible but for God nothing is impossible.”

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