The desire of his
Its midnight when the heart-lung
bypass machine in Operating Room 15 whirs to life, as the respirator
falls silent and a diseased heart is extracted from the patient. Jim
Long, the 49-year-old surgeon, knows there is no turning back
the life of his patient is hanging in the balance. With skillful precision
Long and other members of his surgical team transplant a donor heart
into the patient.
As the hours pass, Long orchestrates
the transfer of scalpels, scissors, hemostats, needle drivers and clamps.
When the last sutures are in place, the team peers intently over their
surgical masks. The moment theyve been waiting for has arrived.
The aortic cross-clamp is released and blood flows into the newly transplanted
heart. Almost instantly the heart contracts before taking a long pause,
then beats again and again.
|Jim and Bonnie Long
with their sons Mark, Paul and Daniel. "Balancing career and
family is the toughest challenge I face," says Long.
"No matter how many times I
have performed this operation I am inspired and humbled by this miracle
created by the Almighty," says Long, who graduated from Evangel
University and attends Salt Lake Christian Center (Assemblies of God)
in Salt Lake City, Utah, (Arvin Haynes, pastor). "To think that
I get to be a small part of it makes me say, Wow! "
With the transplant complete and
the patient recovering in the Intensive Care Unit, Long reflects on
the days accomplishments and says a prayer of gratitude before
slipping away for a brief rest his day started 22 hours earlier.
Less than four hours later he calls
his wife, Bonnie, to check in and then begins scrubbing for a coronary
artery bypass operation. Before he enters the operating room
as is his custom he pauses and asks God for wisdom and a steady
hand. "Every day is an opportunity to touch a life with the gifts
God has given me," he says. "I live with an awesome sense
of responsibility to use wisely the resources that have been placed
in my hands a lot depends on that."
Each year 250,000 people in the
United States die of heart failure. Long, a cardiothoracic surgeon,
has spent much of his adult life battling deadly heart disease. As director
of the Utah Artificial Heart Program in Salt Lake City, he leads a team
that is developing a revolutionary magnetically suspended, artificial
heart pump that could eventually save thousands of lives each year.
Heart surgery for advanced disease
can sometimes be a battle for life. Dealing with the loss of a patient,
says Long, is one of the most taxing aspects of his work. "It can
be emotionally challenging especially when I have poured my heart
and soul into someone I have come to relate to very personally,"
he says. "But seeking peace during those times, especially with
the loved ones, is part of the human and spiritual experience I wouldnt
miss. As I do that, I gain the strength to move on with courage to the
Though Long says he feels called
by God to be a surgeon which absorbs much of his time
he has not allowed his calling to consume his life. "Balancing
career and family is the toughest challenge I face," he admits.
"I have no doubt I have been called to a demanding career. But
the constant juggling of priorities that is required is guided by my
belief that my family is every bit as important as anything in my professional
Long, born in Pittsburgh, Pa., moved
to India when he was 8 with his missionary parents, Jim and Velma Long.
There he learned many valuable lessons that shaped who he is today.
"When I was a child our family had to make some significant sacrifices,"
he says. "My parents made sure I understood this because I participated
in those sacrifices. But I also shared in any measure of success my
parents and we as a family had, which allowed me to view the sacrifices
I made as doing my part."
Longs childhood experiences
have shaped the values of his family today. He and Bonnie, a registered
nurse and daughter of missionaries Mark and Huldah Buntain, have been
married for 26 years. They have three sons: Mark, 21, Daniel, 17, and
Paul, 14. "Our family is committed to each others success,"
he says. "My children know my successes are theirs just as their
successes are mine. Because of this we succeed as a family and share
the good times as well as bear challenges together."
To meet those challenges Jim and
Bonnie work to keep the family close. "There is no doubt that time
management is crucial for all of us," says Bonnie. "But we
have learned how to value what is important to each family member and
respect it. When one plays a sport or [acts] in a play we all attend
"Bonnie is the fabric that
holds us all together," Jim says. "My highest priority is
to make our relationship enjoyable and profitable because I know that
spills over onto the family. Her role as the family coordinator is as
important as anything I do. I could not maintain a challenging and time-consuming
career and meet my responsibilities to the family without her efforts."
Prayer and communication with one
another, says Long, are keys to their family. "Our time together
is limited, but we have learned to value that time and make it productive
He also recognizes the importance
of staying spiritually fit. During church services he takes notes on
his Palm Pilot so he can study Bible verses and his pastors sermons
throughout the week. He also utilizes audio teaching tapes in the car
and computer software and the Internet for biblical research at home.
"People who are at peace are
better prepared to serve people and influence the world around them,"
says Long. "My life would not be complete without spiritual, emotional
and intellectual fulfillment. The balance and insight that result from
those things allow me to be a better leader."
Part of that balance also comes
from working with the Assemblies of God and Mission of Mercy, offering
assistance once or twice a year at a large mission in Calcutta, India.
The multi-faceted mission incorporates churches, a school system, social
outreach programs, a hospital, clinics and a nursing school. "Our
primary focus is with the medical ministry," says Long. "We
really enjoy giving of our talents to this wonderful humanitarian cause
within an environment with great needs. Beyond that, this is a great
opportunity to provide for spiritual needs, as the love of Christ is
demonstrated through compassionate ministry to the whole man."
Though his life resembles that of
a doctor in a best-selling medical novel he races to save lives
in the middle of the night and stands humbly on the frontier of medical
science Long keeps it all in perspective. "High-tech medicine
can seem pretty glamorous, but it is no more important than touching
a life with a smile, a word of encouragement or the sharing of Gods
love," he says. "As Christians, we are all called to be ministers
of the love of Christ some through pulpits, some through professions
that can be considered glamorous or routine but all equally important
to the Kingdom."
Longs advice for dads on this
Fathers Day: "The greatest gifts parents can give their children
are the tools and self-confidence to lead successful lives balanced
by physical, intellectual, social and spiritual fulfillment. And they
should impart to their children that they, with the Lords help,
can accomplish great things."
is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.