My Open Heart Surgery, Nov 17 2006

Below, also see:
November 11, 2006

Hello all:

Yesterday I was at the Heart Institute, Civic Hospital in Ottawa where I had a cardiac catherization diagnostic procedure on me. The procedure is also known as an angiogram. The doctor told me that the test showed positively that my veins and arteries are clear and there is no need for any bypasses. However, there is a need to repair my main mitral valve.

As a result, I am now scheduled to have an open heart surgery on Wednesday morning November 17th. Dr. T. Mesana, chief cardiologist will be doing the honours. I am scheduled to stay at the hospital for five to seven days, after which I would need several months of rehabilitation.  This is a preventative measure that will be done now instead of waiting for some future time when an emergency might force me to have an operation. I have had no symptoms of any kind to show that I have heart problems; however, I have decided to act now because sonic tests in the past four years have shown that my mitral valve is gradually deteriorating.

All of this means that I will be somewhat out of commission for a while before I get back fully on my feet. I plan to reply to your emails after I return from the hospital. Please keep looking on my website ( where new materials are being added frequently. Kristina and I have just had a visitor from the Moscow State University, Alexandr Vashenko and I have done a story on him; my website partner Andy Conovaloff will no doubt place this item on the website later this week.

In the meantime, keep well and be happy.


November 25 update

It was exactly one week ago yesterday that I was the Ottawa Heart Institute and had my Mitral Valve repaired. On Wednesday, I was discharged from the Hospital and now am convalescing here in my home in Ottawa. I feel fine. Already, Kristina and I have gone for short walks outside. However, I have been told that it will take from two to four months to get my full strength back.

Open heart surgery is a major operation. The doctors cut you down the middle, repair the ailment in question, sew you up and send you for recovery. With patience and loving care, things should work out well.

As part of my experience with the heart operation, I have begun to work on an article which I hope to complete early next week. It will focus on how the patient faces a major operation and then works on its full recovery. I will place the article on my website and otherwise will send it to several newspapers for publication (Iskra, Dove, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Globe and Mail, Grand Forks Gazette, Castlegar News and Kamsack Times). After all, health is our No. One priority, is it not? This is a kind of anthropological and psychological look at how we as human beings prepare for surgery and the aftermath.

As my strength increases, I plan to reprint on my website the series of seminal articles on the zealots from were published in the 1950s in The Inquirer. I believe the analysis there is as fresh today as ever. For example, the influence of the anarchist Bodyansky on the Canadian zealots is well known and this fact is documented in The Inquirer.

First, however, I will probably translate the Peter N. Malov chapter on Doukhobors in the USA.

It is nice to be back home. Your well wishes were appreciated.

882 Walkley Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1V 6R5
Phone/fax: (613) 737-5778
December 15, 2006
©All rights reserved by the author.

Diary of my Open Heart Surgery

by Koozma J. Tarasoff
On November 17th, 2006 at 12:00 noon, I was wheeled into the surgical room of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. For the next 4 hours, my heart would be stopped, my chest sawed open, and Dr. Thierry Mesana, Chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery would perform another heart valve repair. His performance is legendary — having made over 600 open heart surgeries. I was hoping my experience would be one more of his successes.

How did I get there? Let me tell you the story of my open heart surgery, and the lessons I learned from this unforgettable experience. 

Confidence in my surgeon was an important part of my decision to go ahead with the operation. You see, I had no symptoms whatsoever, and even at 74 years of age, had never felt better. However, three years ago, my home doctor, Dr. Kenneth Orbeck, noticed a ‘murmur’ in my heart during one of my yearly checkups. He sent me to a cardiologist, Dr. Brendan Quinn, who eventually reported that the mitral valve was deteriorating from year to year, and should be repaired. After consulting with other doctors and the worldwide web, I finally decided to take the operation especially when I learned that ‘the best valve doctor in the country’ was available in Ottawa to do this. 

My wife and I met with Dr. Mesana who impressed us with his professional manner and approach. He explained to us the very favourable success rate of heart surgeries at the Heart Institute. He reassured us that there was no pressure to do the surgery: ‘If you don’t feel comfortable with your decision, please let us know and we will cancel the operation.’ 

With that confidence, I decided to go ahead with the surgery.

With the scheduled date staring at me, I was at the Ottawa Civic Hospital ready for the ordeal. I was prepped and waiting, but was bumped twice because of two unexpected heart transplants. I returned home disappointed, but anxious.  

Finally, my time had come. How did I prepare myself? As a patient I knew that I had a vital role to play in ensuring a successful operation and quick recovery.  I would like to share my own strategies with you, so that perhaps they can benefit you too. 

It might seem that, when you are lying on the stretcher, waiting for your surgery, you are helpless and at the mercy of your medical team. Not so. Even as I was wheeled into the surgical gallery, I captured the good thoughts of my relatives and friends on my fingers — stacking them several times as the count mounted. Good thoughts came by phone, by letter, by personal visits, and by email from places across Canada, USA, and as far away as Russia, Bulgaria, England and Barbados.

Something else I did was to really listen to and receive with joy the powerful healing words that came my way. ‘Love and gratitude to you’. ‘The world needs people like you with the outlook on life that you have.’ ‘My brother had a more major valve operation last winter and he has recovered totally. In fact, he walks more briskly and miles further than he ever did before.’ ‘You are healthy and come from good stock.’ And ‘Wishing you a speedy recovery.’ These positive thoughts and words for me are ‘resource states’ which we can use in time of crisis or need. A ‘resource state’ is one that is opposite to a negative or unresourceful state. I used this technique to anchor these loving thoughts to my fingers (even though the numbers far outnumbered the fingers on my hands). 

Prior to my surgery, I watched a very useful documentary film of the Heart Institute. The film informed me about the expertise and care provided by this wonderful high-tech healing facility in the City and the expected steps for recovery. The Heart Institute is Canada’s largest and the foremost cardiovascular health centre in North America dedicated to understanding, treating and preventing heart disease ( This gave me the confidence that I would be treated well. 

As I watched the film, I searched my mind and resources for other good thoughts that I could rely on. Here are several alternative healing supports that came to mind:
  1. For some people, religious prayers are important in dealing with pain and despair. For others, secular philosophical concepts can serve the same function. For me, my Doukhobor parents and grandparents pioneered the word ‘peace’ as a positive force in building society. The notion stems from the Spirit of Love, Truth, Beauty and God dwelling in each of us. As a powerful inspiration for me, this Spirit Within is a confirmation that each of us has an important role to play in assisting our healing.

  2. Recently I read Masaru Emoto’s New York Times Best Sellers: The Hidden Messages in Water (2004) and The True Power of Water: Healing and Discovering Ourselves (Beyond Words Publishing, 1995). An internationally renowned Japanese researcher, Emoto has visually captured the structure of water at the moment of freezing. Through high-speed photography, he has shown the direct consequences of destructive thoughts and the thoughts of love and appreciation on the formation of water crystals. The revelation that our thoughts can influence water has profound implications for our health and the well-being of the planet. An adult body is made up of over 80 percent water.

    Dr. Emoto explained how, by opening our hearts to the energy of appreciation and love that surrounds us, ‘a small drop of happiness will seep into your heart and spread throughout your body.’ As I looked for a positive resource state, I found a link to water. As I drank water and otherwise used it to wash myself, I gave thanks and gratitude to its healing effects

  3. Thoughts can give us comfort and hope. When I arrived at six o’clock in the morning at the final nursing station of the Civic Hospital, the nurse in charge said: ‘This is your bed. It is very special for you today.’ My wife Kristina added, ‘Today is a good day.’ These two resources were added to my fingers. Indeed, the bedside manner of the nurses is vital to the healing of the patient. In the bed beside me, I overheard a nurse talking to a 75-year-old man who has been in the hospital for 60 days and was about to be released to a rehabilitation centre outside of Ottawa.

    ‘You’re such a lovely man having raised such lovely daughters (who were at his bedside several times during the day) for looking after you.’

    By paying full attention, the nurse gave energy to the patient and no doubt added to his process of quick recovery. Her voice was calm, reassuring, warm and empathic. She was in tune with her patient.

Click on photos to enlarge:

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Healing hands. By Tamara Tarasoff (my daughter).   

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Grandpa Jumping Over the Moon. A sketch by 9-year-old Nicholas Pinkerton (my grandson).

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Princess Elena. A sketch by 5-year-old Elena Pinkerton (my granddaughter).

  1. While I was recovering on the third floor of the hospital, I received more messages of goodwill from relatives and friends. A bouquet of flowers with a ‘Get Well Soon’ card was a nice gesture from my friends. My daughter Tamara surprised me with another resource support. This was in the form of a drawing (above) by her 5-year-old daughter Elena entitled ‘To Dyeda (Grandpa). Love Elena!’ The image of friendly hearts and stars by ‘Princess Elena’ was a profound inspiration to me as I continued my recovery from a potentially life-threatening experience. 

  2. Three days later, Tamara made another surprise visit. This time with the whole family including Elena, her husband John and 9-year-old son Nicholas who brought me a sketch ‘Dyeda Jumping Over the Moon’ (above). How lovely! This image, like that of his sister Elena, was a visual representation of me with full healthy energy and spirit of the future. I felt like each item reflected a kind of positive vibration that I needed to recover my normal self.

  3. A school friend from Saskatoon kept phoning me a half-dozen times showering me with messages of friendship, love and get well wishes. It was a reminder of ‘the good old days’ of fun, health and joy — qualities that I need to awaken as I go about my rehabilitation towards full recovery.

  4. Finally, there is another helpful device that I have learned over the years that has helped me overcome a negative state. It is the magic principle of ‘reframe’. Literally this means putting a new frame around an old picture, looking at a concept through new glasses, or seeing a ‘negative’ behaviour or situation in a useful context.

    With the prospect of facing pain from surgery and being forced to take time to get back to normal, I placed a new frame around my situation. I said to myself, ‘How lucky I am now in having the prospect of adding more years to my life.’ At 74 years of age, that reframe is meaningful to me as it gave direction and comfort to my healing process. It transformed my negative thought patterns into positive ones.

    In all of this, my wife Kristina has been my ‘guardian angel’. She brought me to the hospital, stayed beside me as I was wheeled into the operating room, visited me regularly, and helped me at home in the process of recovery. Her love and affection were dearly appreciated and served as an integral part of healing.

For the patient, the hospital can be a scary place. Doctors, nurses, support staff, and technology virtually stare you in the face. You are continually told what to do, what pills to take, and are woken up frequently to get your vital records updated. Yet, deep in my heart, I know that like a good orchestra, we all need to work together in harmony to get the desired outcome.

Open heart surgery can be a health threatening experience. This was especially the case in the days of our parents and grandparents. Today, however, modern medicine has provided hope for patients. The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is a pioneer in this field since its founding in 1969. 

My thanks to all the doctors and nurses as well as to the Heart Institute itself for treating me professionally and providing wonderful personal care. All of this was without charge as part of Canada’s progressive health system. I am impressed by the right of citizens of our country to receive first class medical assistance without relying on ones ability to pay.

With all of those corporate and personal positive resources, vibrations and messages of love, beauty and goodness, I know that I will make it. I love you all! Thank you! Spasibo! Blagodaria! Danken sher! Merci! Muchas gracias!

— Koozma J. Tarasoff

Words of Healing

Here are some random healing words by my friends from around the globe.

‘Hi Koozma, thank you for sending me your story which will have such a positive outcome for you. I have another message you might use. “The thousands who don’t consciously know what is happening to you are united in spirit in sending you all the blessings of love, peace, happiness, and healing.”’ — F V, British Columbia

‘We are so happy to hear how well you are recuperating, Koozma. Thanks to both of you for sharing that lovely letter filled with such appreciation for all the loving and caring people who supported you through this procedure. It serves a good lesson to all of us. Of course, everyone who knows and appreciates you would have been sending positive, healing energy for your quick recovery – from Kristina right at your side to friends from childhood and those far away. In Barbados, R and I were thinking of you and only had one outcome in mind – your continuing wellness. We knew that your overall good health would also be an important factor in your healing. You did start off in the right direction – your positive attitude and gratitude….’ — R & P C, Barbados

‘Thank you so much for sharing your “heartfelt experience”! W and I were not aware, neither of your open heart surgery, nor of any problems that you were having. Of course, we wish to join all of your friends and relatives in wishing you a very speedy and complete recovery. Your special Diary provided such a wonderful and heartfelt account of your experience, filled with strength, gratitude, hope, love, peace, courage and sense of purpose.’ — W & V K, British Columbia

‘The world needs people like you with the outlook on life that you have. So hang in there, for at least another 25 years, and then we’ll see.’  — M & D, Alberta

‘We wish you a speedy and comfortable re-habilitation recovery. Pamper yourself a little – take time to read “that book” that you have been looking forward to enjoying, or whatever indulgence would suit you best. A friend once told me “God took a week to create the earth. Why do you feel you should do everything in one day?” Take care of yourself.’ — P & I C, Saskatchewan.

‘As to your heart valve treatment, you seem to be alright with it. I sincerely hope all goes well. My brother Peter had a more major valve operation last winter and has recovered totally. In fact he walks more briskly and miles further than he ever did before.’ — S P, Manitoba

‘Considering the enormity of the operation, I described it “as a piece of cake”. I had my mitral valve replaced with an artificial “space age” plastic one. You will be very weak, but they make you walk almost immediately after the operation….Considering that they split you down the middle and put you on a tire stretcher to separate your ribs it is like I said a “piece of cake”. Don’t worry about anything.’ — A & J E, British Columbia

‘Welcome back! I am glad to hear that your valve repair operation was successful and that you are now convalescing and slowly regaining your strength. It is a testament to your spirit that even as you recover; you seek to put your experience and insights to words, to find their deeper meaning, and to share them with the wider public. It is encouraging and inspiring to think in virtually any aspect of life, you can find its counterpoint in an inherently Doukhobor perspective. Heal well, my friend!’ — JK, Saskatchewan

‘My message/advice is to keep your teeth very clean all the time because there are  50 varieties of bacteria in your mouth which can infect you body, and may have infected your heart, as in the case of my late friend John Shubin. So don’t leave it up to your dentist. You do your own oral hygiene daily. Know where your deep pockets are and clean them several times a day.’ — A & T  C, Arizona

‘What an emotional journey you have encountered!! To write about that journey would require so much sensitivity and heartfelt spirit. Bravo to you. I am so glad you included the grandchildren’s art which shows so much hope, faith and LOVE. May God bless you always. Always our love and gratitude to you. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you recover from the hospital procedure and rehabilitate.’ — M P, Saskatchewan

‘I just read your powerful message and thank you and bless you for sending it to me. I was shocked to read about your open heart surgery and wondered why such a healthy person as you, both in mind and body would need heart surgery. When I read further, I was relieved to understand that the surgery was necessary for more of a genetic problem, rather than one more commonly caused by poor habits. I am relieved to know you are recovering and I agree wholeheartedly that our attitude governs our health.   ‘How fortunate you were surrounded by the loving energy of your family and friends and the energy sent to you from all parts of the world. Had I known, I would have sent messages as well.   ‘What I found so very interesting is the theory of negative thoughts affecting water, and the relationship to our bodies. That is so fascinating and I intend to order the book from the library.   ‘With continued good health and the benefit of extra energy, you will enjoy every day of this special gift of Life. I spoke only last evening with a friend of mine from Vancouver. She and I were co-workers at the Castlegar hospital at one time. She had to have a heart surgery five years ago, ending for her a very successful, but stressful career as a stock broker. She spoke of how she treasures each day, has time to really see nature in all it’s beauty rather than a fleeting glance. We all need to bless each day.’ — A & K B, Alberta

‘Both G and I were delighted to read of your recent ordeal. You handled it with intelligence and compassion. We send you the warmest regards and best wishes for your recovery.’ — L & G E, British Columbia

‘D and I are very glad that your heart surgery has passed successfully. Thanks for the detailed letter which has enriched our life experience.’  — D & S B, Ontario

‘….Delighted to know that you are making good progress and have written such a beautiful diary of your journey. It is a very useful reminder to all of us on how to face up to life both as a patient and a friend... .’  — B B, Ontario

‘Thank you for sharing your medical experience. It will give courage and comfort to others. I was not aware of your situation but am happy about the positive outcome.’ — A P, British Columbia

‘Koozma, I was shocked when I received this e-mail today as I had no idea that you had gone in for heart surgery last month! Had I known, you can be sure that my thoughts, prayers, and well wishes would have been there for you as well!  ‘I am very happy to hear that it was successful and that you are recovering well. There is no doubt that with your youth of spirit you will be with us for quite some time! A great article about the experience; I have taken the liberty of sharing it with my family back home, many of whom it seems have been in the hospital the past year or two for hip surgeries and other medical procedures…so they  have gotten to know first hand as well the power of positive thinking in the recovery process.’ — R D, Washington, DC

‘Am I out of the loop! This is the first I hear of your surgery. Sure glad you’re still with us and hopefully in better health!  J and I wish you a speedy recovery!’ — P & J, British Columbia

‘Thanks to B B I learned today about your open heart surgery and was able to read your wonderful Diary. I am sure you are glad to be alive. Just to breathe is a blessing!  ‘Your account was nostalgic since I had quintuple open heart bypass surgery in 1990 and could empathize with your feelings and procedures. I pray you will bounce back quickly renewed in heart and spirit.  ‘Please convey profound respect and affection to your dear wife Kristina. We know how important her care and concern was for you facing the surgery and is now in recovery.’ — G & G P, Hawaii

‘Thank you for sharing your adventure of the heart from the heart. You don’t miss a beat when it comes to exploring ways to experience peace, connection and harmony.’ — M Z, California

‘Congratulations on your successful heart surgery and thank you for sharing such inspirational insights into what for many are a very daunting ordeal. Stepping into the unknown consciously and trusting God and the hands that worked on you is a testament to the depth of your faith, not only in God and in others but also in yourself to be able to contribute towards the success of the surgery and the healing process. Keep up the healing affirmations and visualizations and you will have a smooth and uneventful recovery.’ — J K, Alberta

‘What a surprise! Thank you for informing me of your recent heart surgery. I am most pleased that it went well as that you are no doubt making a speedy recovery. Indeed these episodes can be very traumatic for most people! It seems that modern medicine has progressed over the past fifty years or so and the types of treatments they do are next to miracles! As a consequence we see more and more people making it to their 90s. I trust you will too!’  — V D, Alberta

‘Big thank you for your information. I know that many of us are relieved to know that you are progressing well after your operation. Many of us are crossing our fingers for your recovery after your open heart surgery.   ‘We are very grateful that our famous Doukhobor author is still having positive thoughts for years and you have the powerful healing with joy through your strong true Doukhobor faith. You are blessing with a “new” heart and you continue gladly writing books, stories and articles.’ — E T, Saskatchewan

‘Glad to hear the surgery went well. Keep on with the exercises but take it easy on Kristina. Be a good patient! And you’ll soon feel your best.’ — N and K, Ontario

‘I was delighted to learn of your successful operation.  My friends and I send warm well wishes for your rapid recovery.’ — A V, Moscow, Russia.

‘We wish you a speedy recovery, Koozma. It might well be a signal that you and perhaps all of us should slow down a little. A remarkable story you wrote on the preparatory procedures, operation and recovery, especially under the circumstances.’ — A & N J, British Columbia.

‘Dear Friend. May your healing journey bring you Peace in Mind, Love in Your Eyes and Live on your Tongue….Peace, Love and Friendship.’ — L & J L K, British Columbia.

‘ I really appreciate your Diary of My Open Heart Surgery which said so much about love and support and the good side of public medicine.’ — J M.  British Columbia.

'Your operation paper was fascinating and a little scary to read. How wonderful medical science is today.  'After I had my heart attack in 1985 I designed and built a rowing dory (like you will see on my web site) and was able to row my way to good health. After 9 months of rowing almost every day of the week for 5 or 6 hours my heart specialist told me that my treadmill tests showed that my heart was way above average for a man my age.' — W M, British Columbia.

‘I enjoyed reading your candid account of your experience, and was able to relate to parts of it, through mother’s numerous encounters with the medical system, most recently with her second angioplasty at VGH in Vancouver in December. She is recovering well, as she looks forward to her 80th milestone birthday later this year. Dad will be 86 in April and continues to inspire us with his vigour and youthful appearance.    ‘Our good Doukhobor genetic pool is undoubtedly an asset, but enlightened lifestyle habits, as in your case, undoubtedly contribute to good health and a speedy recovery from medical procedures.’ — J & M, British Columbia

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