Gratitude is Healing Essay Contest Winner

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Bret Ralston, Cardiac Rehab Exercise Physiologist, wins first place for his essay submission

Bret Ralston, Cardiac Rehab Exercise Physiologist

November 6, 2017 – The Foundation held a Gratitude is Healing Essay Contest for employees through the month of October, and we received a number of great stories about how gratitude was a healing factor in their lives. The following essay is the 1st Place Prize winner:

How gratitude has been a healing force to me?

By Bret Ralston

In 1997, I was diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy, which was believed to be caused by an irregular heartbeat. At the time, I was 13 years old. The cardiologist pulled my mom aside after he had interpreted the echocardiogram. When my mom returned to the room, she looked very pale and shocked. I knew immediately something was really wrong. She mustered the courage to share with me what the cardiologist had told her. With tears filling her eyes, my mom explained that I was not going to live much longer, and my best hope was a heart transplant.

Nervousness, fear, and disappointment were all the emotions I felt when my mom informed me of the cardiologist’s prognosis. After a couple of long days at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana, the cardiology team decided to transfer me to the capable hands at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Life-flight sent me to Seattle, but before we left, I vividly remember the next experience. It was an experience of gratitude, and I will never forget it.

Bret Ralston with his wife, Mandi and their three children; Ezra (left), Max and Stella

My family and loved-ones gathered around me in the hospital room moments before my flight to Seattle. The love, care, and worry in the room were physically palpable. My great aunt, Jeannie, kneeled beside me and held my hand. She said, “I am going to say a prayer, is that okay?” I nodded and closed my eyes. The warmth over took me, and I heard the words my aunt was saying, but I honestly could not tell you what they were. I opened my eyes for a split second because I thought somebody turned the lights on or drew back the curtains.

As my mom and I descended into Seattle, my heart-rate had normalized. We followed up with an electrophysiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and more tests were performed. The cardiac ablation was performed, but the electrophysiologist could not reproduce my heart arrhythmia. There were no complications with the ablation, and I was then required to wear a Holter Monitor for a few days. I was discharged home to Montana with a very positive prognosis, but my lifestyle had to change: low sodium diet and limited physical activity.

My last year of high school, my cardiologist told me that if I have any future heart issues, they would not be related to the heart issue I had in 1997. I now have a wonderful wife, 3 beautiful children, I have the opportunity to provide healthcare to cardiac patients as an exercise physiologist in cardiac rehab. I am grateful to be alive, and every day I get to use this gratitude as a healing force in a career field I am very passionate about.