I had been attempting to entertain the accompanying nurses when the anesthesiologist stuck this gadget in my mouth, presumably to keep me quiet. Then he told me to take a deep breath and then to exhale which I did. He then repeated the command which I obeyed and I swiftly slipped into the land of nod, trusting my heart to my lovely cardiologist, Dr. Carol Lai. She would zap my ticker back into a normal rhythm and would take pictures of that same ticker. When I returned to wakefulness, she had disappeared but I saw an angel hovering over me in the person of a most tender loving care nurse. She helped me to dress which is something that has not happened since my mother rocked me in the cradle as a wee baby. It was Friday the 13th and all was well.

It had all begun on the 11th of April when I had visited my primary doctor for a routine checkup. Dr. Arnold seemed quite happy with my overall condition until he began to search for my heartbeat. He declared, to my surprise, that my ticker was beating too fast and out of rhythm. I told him that this happens when I see a beautiful woman. His reaction was to throw his hands up heavenward. So, he sent me to the cardiology department for an EKG and an electrocardiogram and to visit with the aforementioned, Dr. Carol Lai, a lovely young cardiologist. I don’t doubt that my heart fluttered when I met her. Of course, after all, I may be 78 but my heart is a young 28! There followed the promise of another encounter in cardiology….on Friday May 13. So it was written and so it would be done.

The week of May 8 was a momentous week for me. It began here in Kalaupapa with a visit by our good bishop, Larry Silva, accompanied by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. Then on Tuesday I participated with this same illustrious duo in a salute to St. Damien at Damien’s statue in front of the State Capitol. Many of our diocesan students sang and danced in honor of our great St. Damien. 

That evening Archbishop Pierre celebrated Mass in honor of St. Damien at the Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace where Damien had been ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1864. At the end of Mass, the cause for the canonization of Joseph Dutton got officially underway in a special ceremony.

It is good to be back on Kalaupapa soil after a pleasant week in Honolulu, including my day of adventure in the Straub Cardiology unit where my heartbeat had been restored to its normal cruise speed. Yesterday morning I had a video call from Dr. Lai who assured me that all went well in the procedure on the 13th. 

Dr. Lai can call me anytime she wishes. My ticker tells me that. So, the moral of this story is to talk to your heart doctor. After all it is the heart of the matter. 


Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.