I am a triple bypass heart survivor.
There is a heart on the side of the Columbia hospital.
It is blood red and a big as a billboard.
I am glad that it is not shaped like a valentine but is imperfect like mine.

My world spun completely out of control on a routine Sunday drive to purchase a copy of The New York Times. I thought the sudden dizziness would disappear, but it didn’t. All I could hear was my own rapid pounding heartbeat- dlup, dlup, dlup– as I entered the hospital.

As a result of my heart experience and my subsequent 21 days in ICU, including 9 days in a coma, I knew that my heart required much more healing and so I established this blog, All Heart Matters.

Shortly after I started writing about my experience, I was drawn into other stories written by doctors, nurses and patients still reeling from their own experiences or witness to illness.

Everyone agrees that social networking allows both the health professional and the patient to better connect with one another. After communicating with Dr. Kevin Pho, one of the most popular doctors engaged in the use of blogs, I learned about some of the pressing privacy issues surrounding the use of this technology. On my blog, I began to solicit stories from those individuals who wish to share their unique story via the World Wide Web. I agree with Dr. Abigail Zuger, a regular contributor to The New York Times Health section, “ I know one thing for sure: there’s no story out there that is not a great story. Every single one contains pathos, courage, comedy and surprise to power it right to the top of the charts.”

And so my blog attempts at least three or four times a week to identify those literary medical bloggers writing their Chekhov-like stories, firmly rooted in the individual’s ability to make sense of illness, to address healing, and to find a moral compass in their new life. I have received numerous stories and poems from people like Frank Israel, who is fearful about undergoing a heart operation for an ICD implant. Oscar Houck, a screenwriter, poet, and substitute teacher writes a compelling poem about his second chance after experiencing a heart attack. Jane Butkin Wagner shares in her story, “Tomorrow” a window on her feelings of losses, some of them premonitions and others all to real like her mother’s massive stroke.

Patients, especially heart patients, demand to know the uncertainties, mysteries, and progress of their heart. No doubt many of these stories in my blog, reinforce Dr. Arthur Frank’s three defined types of illness storytelling: restitution or recovery, chaos narrative and the quest narrative. He writes in his book, Letting Stories Breathe that “ for all you lose, you have an opportunity to gain closer relationships, more poignant appreciations, and clarified values. You are embarking on a dangerous opportunity. Do no curse your fate; count your possibilities.”

James Borton, founder of All Heart Matters

James Borton teaches writing at the University of South Carolina Sumter. He’s a devoted grandfather to Eli and an avid sailor. He’s currently at work on a book, Heart Chronicles, and research on literary medical weblogs.


Ellen · July 15, 2011 at 11:18 am

We all need more of these wonderful, informative stories.
Thank you

Marjory Wentworth · July 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

What a great title – All Heart Matters. I particularly admire the idea of gathering all these stories into one place. I look forward to reading James Borton’s blog. What a brillliant idea!
Marjory Wentworth, SC Poet Laureate

saratbaker · July 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I especially appreciate the Arthur Frank quote. It is easy, when one is ill, to feel isolated. By gathering together these stories, patients can feel less alone with their illnesses, and can read of how others find their way to the gratitude Frank speaks of.

Sara Baker

Centre for Medical Humanities · August 1, 2011 at 8:42 am

See also this article “The art of healing gets the last word,” by David Lauderdale: http://www.islandpacket.com/2011/07/30/1742954/the-art-of-healing-gets-the-last.html#storylink=misearch#ixzz1TlTtGxLj

ischemic heart disease · May 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems
as though you relied on the video to make your point.
You definitely know what youre talking about, why throw
away your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when
you could be giving us something informative to read?

William Phillips, MD, MPH · June 6, 2014 at 6:32 am

Check out:
The Heart of the Matter
A family physician reflects on his own experience with open-heart surgery and the process of care in a top-flight academic medical center.

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