The Beat Goes On

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

The Beat Goes On

Your heart beats over 100,000 times a day. It pumps about one and a half gallons of blood every minute. Over the course of a day, that adds up to over 2,000 gallons. There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body, enough to go around the world twice.

The average heart rate of a woman is about eight beats per minute faster than a man’s heart. It is small, about the size of a fist. The right side of your heart pumps blood into your lungs. The left side of your heart pumps blood back through your body.

These are the facts about our heart that we simply take for granted. In fact, unless we find out at birth or at a doctor’s visit as we age that we have a defect or a hereditary heart condition, most of us go about our lives believing our heart is doing what it was created to do, thinking little about it. Unfortunately, though, the heart cannot always be trusted, and it takes a traumatic event to wake us up to the fact that something is indeed very wrong.

This is exactly what happened to Christie Firth. Firth was born in Rock Island, Illinois, and grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa, the daughter of Andrea and John Bain. She was very active in high school sports and activities and later got her bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing from St. Ambrose University. Firth worked at the Rock Island Arsenal for a couple of different contracting companies before finding a job opportunity to work overseas in Kuwait for Honeywell. While in Kuwait, she met her husband, Brian, who is from New Boston, Texas. After being laid off from Honeywell, the couple moved back to the United States and settled in Simms, Texas, and had two children, Natalie (10) and Westin (2).

On June 11, 2019, when Firth was just 29 years old, she was going about her day like any other, working at Red River Credit Union in Hooks, when she suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Officer Michael Wade, a Red River Army Depot police officer, was on patrol and was flagged down by Firth’s supervisor for an emergency medical situation. Officer Wade immediately called for assistance and heroically began performing CPR on Firth until paramedics arrived at the scene. Wade’s quick action and life-saving efforts undoubtedly saved Firth’s life.

As she was transported to the hospital unresponsive, the doctors put her into a medically induced coma so they could figure out what was happening. After many tests, Dr. Kevin Hayes and
Dr. Gregory White of CHRISTUS St. Michael discovered she had a birth defect that had never been detected. It was not hereditary and no other family members before her had experienced anything like it.

Instead of receiving fresh, oxygenated blood to her heart first, which is normal, her blood was entering her heart after circulating throughout her body. It had functioned incorrectly like this for her entire 29 years. The doctors immediately let her know she would require heart surgery to repair the defect. She was sent by medical plane to the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, for surgery. She was blessed to find her surgeon, Dr. Hani Najm, who performs this type of surgery regularly on children from all over the world who come to the Cleveland Clinic for his expertise. After surgery, Firth had to stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) instead of an adult ICU because most people with her condition do not live beyond their teens.

Firth’s recovery was difficult. It took months to get her medications correct. It was a balancing act and Firth ended up back in the hospital for a brief stay. When she was able to go back home, Firth found the most heartbreaking part of her recovery to be the fact that she had lifting restrictions and could not pick up her infant son. Her mom was a steady and constant source of support during that time. When the lifting restrictions were removed, her mom returned to her home in Iowa and Firth found herself completely on her own during the day while her husband was at work. However, Firth gratefully reflected, “My friends and family were a huge part of my healing process. My husband, Brian, was always here for me and did everything he could to keep everything going as normal as possible. My mom was actually able to come down and stay with us. She helped take care of me and also was taking care of our son Westin full time by herself. She was a huge help, and I wouldn’t have been able to recover like I did without her here. My best friends took turns watching our kids while I was in the hospital and having my surgery. I am very thankful to have amazing friends who literally dropped everything and helped my family without hesitation. Also, all the family and friends who came and supported and prayed for me meant a lot. Without all of my friends and family being there for me, it would have made the healing process a lot harder. They took a lot of stress away from me and allowed me to focus on just getting better!”

As the family settled into their new normal, Firth’s dad, John Bain, began sharing Firth’s story with others. He would often say, “God has a plan for us, but I am not smart enough to know what that is.” After hearing the story, many encouraged him that maybe part of God’s plan was for him to write a book, and Bain thought, “Well, why not?” So, in January 2020, Bain sat down at his laptop and began to write. By March 2020, Bain had 10,000 words written and began to research how to get a book published. One day, completely out of nowhere, Bain received an email from Christian Faith Publishing asking him to reply to a survey. He replied and two days later received a phone call from a representative of the publishing company. Bain shared Christie’s journey with the representative and she said she “had chills.” He’s not sure whether it was a Google algorithm that dropped that email into his Gmail account that day, but he says for sure he knows now that something greater was indeed at work.

Time went on and Bain continued to write. Finally, on August 10, 2020, Bain submitted his manuscript to Christian Faith Publishing. After a six-person review board read his book, Bain heard his book met all the criteria, and they were ready to move forward with publishing. “The process of writing a book takes a lot of time,” Bain shared. “I am fortunate I wrote mine in about eight months. Then there was another five months of editing, typesetting and cover design that took place with the publisher.” Christie’s Journey, The Beat Goes On, was published on January 11, 2021, and became available to the public worldwide the last week of February 2021. The book can be found at our very own Texarkana Public Library and several other libraries around the area. It is also available online at Amazon, WalMart, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and virtually anywhere books are sold.

Christie Firth with her father, John Bain

“The thoughts in my head constantly were of grief, sadness, terror and overwhelming gratitude,” Bain shared. “Writing every day for eight months and getting our family experience typed out was very therapeutic. I always said while I was going through this process that even if it did not become a book, that we would at least have this archived for our family, especially for my grandchildren, Natalie and Westin. It is also something that Christie and Andrea really did not want to discuss. They just wanted to move forward. Once I started asking more questions, they both opened up more and discussed it.” Bain recalled, “It was good for both of them as well and there were some things that happened that Christie hadn’t remembered. I now know that when people read our story, they can see how God lined up angels here on earth to help Christie. I also want to highlight God’s miraculous healing power and love. I tell people that we realize as a family that we are very fortunate and that things like this don’t always go like families pray for. I don’t have answers for that, but I must have faith that the Lord has a plan for us all. For that, I’m thankful!”

Other than Firth’s medications and her doctor visits once every six months, life is “pretty much back to normal,” she said. “Now I just want to stay as healthy as I can be and enjoy every moment that I am here on this earth with my family and friends. I am very blessed to have my heart back to normal after everything I have been through.” Firth continued, “I like to use my story to encourage others by letting them know how important it is to learn CPR. If CPR had not been started on me as soon as my co-workers saw me down, then I most likely wouldn’t be here to tell my story today. Also, God is with you every step of the way and He performs miracles all the time. You just have to keep the faith and know that God has a plan for you!”


 

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