Wednesday, August 5, 2009

a story about a pig

sit comfy...i have a story to tell.
many of you may already know this story, it took place in 2004, and it's called open heart surgery.
my wife, being the recipient of this operation, was only 24 years old and was a young mother of our then 11 month daughter. it begins when she called me while i was away at work and said "i'm going to go to the doctor today, i can't breathe well and i have been feeling pressure on the chest.." i, being completely ignorant said "okay", thinking it was nothing more than a bronchial matter. the next phone call i receive was "they detected a significant heart murmur and i need to come back tomorrow to run some tests.." - not a good sign. we found out within a weekends time that my wife's aortic valve had failed and it's one way valve was now operating like a busy restaurant kitchen door swinging anyway it wanted and allowing the blood flow to regurgitate back and forth...i guess only 30% of your oxygenated blood traveling to your body is a big no no. within a weeks time we were facing open heart surgery. yes, we were scared. yes were young. and yes it's called life.
and this is why i tell the story (perhaps again). during this fragile week of life changing events, my wife was given the choice of which type of valve replacement she would have. 2 options. 1) mechanical valve and 2) porcine (common name - pig) valve. the mechanical valve we were told would out live her, the major hang up though is that if she chose this valve then she would need to take blood thinners the rest of her life and therefore would not be able to have anymore kids. with the pig valve we were told it would simulate human flesh and therefore we could conduct our lives as normal - no meds and we could have the blessing of another child. the major downside to this option 2 is that eventually (7-20 yrs.) the pig flesh will deteriorate and we would face the open heart surgery again....without hesitation my wife chose the pig valve. and here i sat at her bedside, looking at her blue lips, an erratic pulse bursting from her neck, and her breathing popping and cutting like a cold car struggling to start...and i thought "you're going to put me through this AGAIN?" it was a price she was willing to pay. the humblest of sacrifices. literally giving of her life to create another. and i had no choice but to accept and support her decision.
it will be 5 years in Oct. since the operation. i have wanted something through these years to memorialize our journey - a visual reminder to honor this story.
i had wanted a painting of a pig to tell the story. to pay tribute to the animal that provided the valve for my wife to continue living, and furthermore bless us with our second child Ava. some attempts with various artists were made to commission a piece for this concept, but nothing ever gelled. and then i met Justin Wheatley...his work immediately struck me. the depth, the layers, the dots and lines and worlds of textures to be connected. i met him at a local art market and immediately acquired two of his smaller original pieces. we got to talking and i was thrilled to know he would accept the commission that i wanted for years! and it was perfect, no artist other than Justin could have given this story justice. the 35"x35" piece is now complete and in our hands!
It is entitled "to fill the measure"....(if i can explain the context of the piece and the title)...i believe god has put animals on the earth for their own individual destinies. that they were created by his hand just as we were and that they were commanded to fill the measure of their creation.
i believe the pig did in fact "fill the measure" of it's creation. that it blessed my life, my wife's life, and our children's lives...the pig literally gave it's life that we might live.

Justin...a heartfelt thank you - many times over.

to see more of Justin Wheatley's work visit his BLOG.


Kim Sue Ellen said...

Duston, when I clicked over here and saw the piece it brought tears to my eyes. Very powerful! I knew instantly what it was about. Thank you for sharing with us again such an amazing story. Your wife is the bomb!!!

duston todd said...

thanks Kim!
and yous the bomb too!

Beck said...

I've heard Kate's side of this story several times, but this piece of art combined with your retelling had me tearing up.

I hope your little family is well!

duston todd said...

geez...i didn't mean to do that to everybody...
much love!

Erin said...

Beautiful story. I knew Justin in high school. He is an amazing artist.

Kelly O. said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

One Love Photo said...

That is an amazingly brave and inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing. And the artwork is mom has congestion heart failure and I can't wait to share this story with her.

ps-I love how you commission art for your family, I need to do the same.

ClizBiz said...

Oh my! I just stumbled across your blog and found this unbelievable tribute. My mother just had aortic replacement surgery last Friday, September 11, using a pig. I'm so grateful to that little oinker and can totally understand why you were moved to commission art.

I'm so glad you and your family are doing well.

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Aceneth Warner said...

You have me crying over here. Kate has blessed my life and in same ways made me a better person. Thank you for sharing that story with us.