The Gift of Abundant Life

In one of the comic episodes from Don Quixote, the peasant and goatherd Sancho Panza unbelievably becomes the governor of an island much to the amazement of his wife who can only exclaim,” ’My mother used to say: ’He who would see much must live long’. I say this because, if I live longer, I hope to see more.’ ”

I have been thinking about this proverb recently for several reasons. First, I have lived long. Second, I think I have seen much—not because I have traveled everywhere or all over the world—but because I have traveled all the seven ages of man from the infant in his mother’s arms to the whining school boy going unwillingly to school to the luster of youth to the comfort of middle age to the gray hairs of age and almost (not yet) second childhood “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

I thought I had seen much, and I have witnessed a number of miracles in my own life, prayers answered and dreams come true. I thought I had seen my portion of some of the best life has to offer and could say “my cup runneth over.” I thought that now I had seen enough to make a full, complete life. But, because I have lived longer than three score and ten, I saw more. I was privileged to be alive to participate in the miraculous birth of twin grandsons and was once again born in wonder.

The news of another grandchild coming into the family was of course joyful news. However, after a few months, doctors discovered that this pregnancy was going to be the birth of identical twin boys—a great surprise! Every regular visit to the obstetrician showed that the babies were growing normally, gaining weight, and having no complications.

However, after seven months the twins began to suffer what the medical world calls TTTS—Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. The fluid was not circulating evenly between the twins, creating an imbalance in which one twin’s heart was undergoing stress from over nourishment and the other twin was suffering anemia from undernourishment. The doctors concluded the situation was so critical that a Caesarian-section surgery was advised to remove immediately the twins at two pounds and twenty-eight week gestation.

When my son Mark and daughter-in-law Niki arrived at a hospital In San Diego, California, for the scheduled surgery, there was no vacancy—one of the few times in three years that hospital did not have an available room—another surprise that proved providential! As Niki was directed to another nearby hospital, different doctors re-evaluated the condition of the twins and suggested another procedure, one that a majority of the other experts in the field did not advise. The majority insisted that the twins be prematurely removed immediately for the best chances of survival.

Dr. Mariam Tarsa, the chief doctor in charge of the case at the new hospital, however, recommended a little-known  laser surgery by a renowned expert in the field, Dr. Chmait, who happened to practice in Southern California—a third amazing surprise! When notified if he would review the case and determine if laser-surgery were advisable to open or separate some of the blood vessels that were causing the TTTS, he agreed to expedite the case. Although the medical textbooks do not advise this procedure after 26 weeks, he had already successively performed this type of surgery several times this late in the pregnancy weeks and was willing to take the risk.

He explained that the recipient twin was in stage 4 of the 5 stages that lead to heart failure in the womb.  With this hydropic heart condition, if the babies were prematurely delivered at 2 pounds, they would have had only a ten percent chance of survival. On September 19, he successively performed the surgery that allowed the equal flow and distribution of the fluid so both babies were receiving their proper nourishment. After five additional weeks in utero, the hearts healed naturally and recovered.

The twins were born on November 3 by natural childbirth close to 4 pounds each. The twin who suffered heart stress was of concern to the physicians who hoped he would heal without intervention or heart repair. After several examinations he offered the joyful news that there was no heart damage. The baby is perfectly healthy.

I thought I had seen much or enough for a lifetime. But there is always more. The love of God does not end or ever stop giving. Just when you think you have received your share of blessings, there is another surprise that leaves us in awe, makes us fall in love with life all over again, and brings the purest forms of happiness we never could have imagined.  We are all in a state of amazement and gratitude for this gift of superabundant life which the Lord of miracles and surprises makes us contemplate in awe and admiration.            

Mitchell Kalpakgian, Ph.D. has completed fifty years of teaching beginning as a teaching assistant at the University of Kansas, continuing as a professor of English at Simpson College in Iowa for thirty-one years, and recently teaching part-time at various schools and college in New Hampshire. As well as contributing to a number of publications, he has published seven books: The Marvelous in Fielding’s Novels, The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature, The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, An Armenian Family Reunion (a collection of short stories), Modern Manners: The Poetry of Conduct and The Virtue of Civility, and The Virtues We Need Again. He has designed homeschooling literature courses for Seton Home School, and he also teaches online courses for Queen of Heaven Academy and part-time for Northeast Catholic College.
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