What Happens When You Need a Heart Massage?

I got my MD from Grey’s Anatomy Medical School…There, I’ve learned all sorts of medical stuff—like how to pull a leech out of a nose, how to perform emergency C-sections with a clipboard, how a rash can be a possible sign of cancer, and so, SO much more.

If you need me to scrub in, just let me know.

I can’t remember what class, er…episode it was that I learned about cardiac massage, but I remember thinking that having someone—in this day and technological age—make a person’s heart beat by their own two hands was pretty wild.

For you non-MDs, “Open-chest cardiac massage is usually done on an individual undergoing surgery whose chest is already open and whose heart stops beating effectively…The heart is compressed with one or both hands (preferably both) at a rate of 60 to 70 times a minute…Several individuals are needed to perform compressions in rotation to prevent hand fatigue.” (From MDGuidelines.com. Thank you, Internet.)




As often happens in my little brain, while it was just an episode of a doc drama, it got me thinking. Heart massage…having someone take over the beating of your heart when you are unable to. That’s a pretty amazing support system.

As a person of faith, I know that I have the Master Heart Massager on my case, ready to take over when I’m flat on my back. Always. But—just like the Grey’s patient—I’m probably not conscious of it when it’s happening. Thank God for that. (Yes, of course pun intended.)




Over the weekend, the church I attend presented a musical event that included the song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.” It was a nice performance, though it kind of missed the mark with me. The song is based on an unverifiable story about a surgeon praying and instructing his unconscious (and apparently currently dead) patient to “tell your heart to beat again.” Thankfully, the patient obliges. Otherwise, it would have been a real Debbie Downer Christmas message.

I connected with the message of hope and grace with lyrics like,

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again…

God as grace-giver? Amen.

Knowing that past challenges and scars might mire me in inertia, my Master Heart Massager may indeed need to encourage me to keep the beat and move forward—to have hope and “step into the light of grace.”

But the singer of the song says the message is that, “God has fixed your problems…but you have to come into agreement with God…”

God as problem-fixer, where if we still have problems we haven’t told our hearts to beat again (aka come into agreement with God)? Not so much. It seems weirdly paradoxical to have your heart fixed but be the one who can choose not to make it beat.

So…point for the message of hope and grace, but not for the message of God’s fixed everything and you just need to agree to it.




Ever grateful for the Master Heart Massager, it’s also nice to have an earthly team in place, too, no? To know that there are people who—when presented with an open heart—are  ready and willing to stick their hands in the bloody mess and keep the beat when we can’t?

Just long enough until our resiliency kicks back in?

Having people who are willing to step in and provide support at critical times really can mean the difference between life and death—sometimes literally, but certainly figuratively. To know that if things take a turn for the worse there are people who won’t scrub out on you but will only get closer to see how they can help is truly a life-sustaining gift.

While a whole team is great, if you have just one person ready to hold your heart and keep it beating when you need help, then that is a blessing to count over and again.

So…who’s on your heart massage team? And whose team are you on?

Unfortunately, these are questions no amount of Grey’s Anatomy episodes can answer for you. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Just remember—it starts with an open heart.


All photos are my own or used with permission.
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