Miracle Moments Miracle Moments In Work Life
This Is Faith  

HE DECADE OF THE 60S WAS ALMOST OVER. It had been one of enormous growth in technologies. By 1969, there were less than 100 hospitals in the entire U.S. providing open-heart surgery. In keeping with its tradition of service to the community, CHRISTUS St. Mary Hospital in Port Arthur, Texas, was one of those hospitals.

After many months of training, practice sessions, critique meetings and education, all the pieces were in place for our first open-heart surgery patient by August 1969. His name was Manuel Cardenas and he was a brick mason. Only in his 50s at the time, Mr. Cardenas was no longer able to work and surgery had become necessary.

PullquoteAs a 16-year-old student at the time, there were many aspects of the surgery that impressed me—the equipment, the media “hype,” and the security surrounding the event. But the one thing that touched me most was Mr. Cardenas’ faith. This was the single most tangible exhibit of quiet confidence and pure faith that I had ever seen… then or now. Until recently, heart surgery was unimaginable. Survival at that time was questionable. Mortality rates were very high. There had been so few surgeries performed around the country and the world that statistics from large patient populations did not exist. We really did not know exactly what to expect during and after the procedure. All of this was explained to Mr. Cardenas, and knowing all of these facts, he was literally placing his life in our hands.

This is faith… faith in the physicians and staff at CHRISTUS St. Mary, but moreover, the kind of faith in God that I had never witnessed before. Mr. Cardenas sincerely felt that if the surgery resulted in his death, others would benefit by what was learned from the experience. He had real faith, the likes of which is rarely seen in today’s world.

The surgery to replace Mr. Cardenas’ aortic valve was successful. He continued to work as a brick mason for 13 more years, and played a huge part in the development of the hospital’s open-heart program, which led the way for others to be helped. But more than that, Mr. Cardenas showed what it means to live the faith and he should be remembered for that.

Craig Cooksey
Diagnostic Services
CHRISTUS St. Mary Hospital
Port Arthur, Texas