March 26, 2008

The Devils in my Heart

"The Only Devils in this World are those running around inside our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought." -Mahatma Ghandi

Three weeks after having my heart attack, I was waiting in a small closet sized room in St. Paul's hospital wearing one of those hospital gowns that leave you feeling cold and vulnerable from the draft coming in the back of the gown. I was waiting for someone to tell me what happened next.

Just before seven in the morning I arrived and had been given an injection of a radioactive dye. This is so they could determine the extent of damage to my heart from the heart attack. I was told to go out to eat a small meal, and come back in about an hour or so.

After my return, I lay down on a table, while a great white machine hovered over my head. My body was transported back and forth under the machine, while it performed its medical magic like a shaman holding his hands over my body chanting and waving a smoking brush.

My next stop was waiting in a closet sized room prior to undergoing the actual stress test, which involves being hooked up with tiny electrodes and many wires attached on your chest. You are then asked to run on a treadmill, until your heartrate reaches what the technicians deem to be a satisfactory result.

Two nurses, a male nurse from South Asia, and a female nurse from Germany, bartered over who would do the honors of shaving my chest hairs to attach the electrodes. The female nurse won the bet. She entered the curtained room and asked me to drop my robe, so that she may shave parts of my chest.

Using a disposable Bic, she dry shaved a few patches and attached the sticky pads of the monitors. I told her that I was a bit nervous about taking the test since I had my heart attack only about three weeks prior.

She said, "You should not worry. This is why you had the heart attack. You have to learn to let go, and go with the flow. I can see you are too young to have had this heart attack. What you have had is a little temper tantrum in your heart. Now you must learn to not worry, to relax, and just go with the flow."

It is amazing how messages are sent to us, and surely, I was receiving one at that moment.

There were devils running round my heart, jumping up and down, having little life threatening temper tantrums, acting like the nihilistic spoiled inner child they were. Anything just to get a little attention. Except this time, the teenage wasteland, the punkrock deathwish had gone too far.

She ushered me out of the closet into the exercise room, and I began the treadmill test for another cardiac nurse. About 5 minutes into the exercise, I started to feel faint.

When asked if I wanted to stop the test, I said yes. What happened next I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Because I had not been able to physically finish the test, I was injected with a drug to artificially induce my heart to reach certain rates. Who doesn't love being injected with unknown drugs?

I'm joking, but at that moment, I did not have much of a choice. The thought that I could say no did not enter my lexicon.

What happened next was worse than having a heart attack, at least for me. I felt tightness in my chest,and the sensation of someone kicking me hard again and again in the stomach. At the same time, my head felt like it was about to explode. It was a Jack Bauer moment, and all I had in the way of relief was the ticking clock. Just three minutes and we will give you the antidote.

I was groaning and swearing and there was no going with the flow here. Just one minute and we will give you antidote. AAAAAAAH! JUST TWENTY SECONDS AND WE WILL GIVE YOU THE ANTIDOTE. IT WILL REACT VERY FAST, AND YOU WILL BE BACK TO NORMAL.

Except after the 20 seconds, I didn't feel normal. So then she said, you can take a break now. Go and have yourself a coffee, and I guarantee you will feel better.

Well, I had that coffee, and I followed it with a decidedly non-cardiac breakfast of chorizo sausage and eggs. I definitely went with that flow.

Ten days later I was given the good news by my cardiologist that I was lucky, as the tests showed that my heart had good flow, and I had suffered no significant damage from the acute myocardial infarction I had experienced in Atlanta.

The devils in my heart were not running my world that day. And the way to keep them from running, was to follow the advice of that small Germanic nurse, who told me to let go, and go with the flow.

Originally posted Sept 25 2007.

In the six months since I wrote this, I made a few changes. To the post, and in my life. My body has never been in such good shape and fitness in all my life. I do push ups and sit ups and work out 3-4 times a week. I am back working, and most importantly though, I am back playing. Not music yet. But soon. My love of writing has returned, and beauty of family and friends has helped to remind me daily of the possibilities.

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