an affair of the heart


Up at six a. m. yesterday. Into a taxi at 7:30. Off to Jubilee hospital. Jubilee has recently expanded. Got lost on the way to medical imaging. Got lost again on the way to the blood lab. Good thing the’ve got volunteer guides or I’d still be wandering the halls like the Ancient Mariner, a white band on me wrist instead of an albatross around my neck. They didn’t trust me to find my own way to the heart lab. A nice lady said, Walk this way.” But she and I weren‘t built the same way. No matter how I try I can’ make my jello roll.

A nurse scooped me up and said put on this blue gown. You ever tried to put on a hospital gown and tie it up at the back? However, there is little chance, at my age, that anyone’s heart will be filled with lust by what the gown reveals. Unfortunately.

I passed the time re-reading Indridason’s The Draining Lake. I has my right arm shaved. Interesting, given how hairy I am. In school, the science teacher used me as proof that man descended from monkeys. So that’s what my arm looks like under all that hair.

We need to put in an iv the nurse said. My veins went into hiding. She looked. I looked. She shaved my left arm to get rid of the forest. Little voices said, No veins here. Just a few muscles.”
“I’ll find those cowards,” I said and I started clenching and unclenching my fist. p. Nope, no veins here,” they chorused.
A nurse came and slapped sticky patches in places I’ve never had sticky patches before. Quick EKG. She gave me a thumbs up.

The IV nurse came back. She slapped my arm with her fingers. My veins squirmed deeper.

My friends all lied to me. You’ll be sedated. You’ll be partially sedated.” “I like morphine,” I said. “Nope,” the nurse said, ”all they do is freeze your wrist with the same stuff your dentist uses.”

It may have had something to do with me clinging to the ceiling light fixture but she said “If you get back into bed, I’ll give an Ativan. She popped one into my mouth. I was hoping for an entire jar.

She brought another hot sheet for my cowardly veins.
I kept reading The Draining Lake. It always makes me feel better reading about how depressed and unhappy Erlender is.

A fellow with great hair came and said, “I’m going to take for a ride.” He looked Italian.

In the operating room, there were a number of people. My veins were still hiding. The op nurse wasn’t fooling around. She said, “I’m going to have to poke you a number of times.” A vein appeared.

The doctors looked serious and told me about all the horrible things that could go wrong during an angiogram. “Now,” I thought, “why now, with me in a hospital gown that’s open at the back?” I could hardly make a break for it.

I waited for a bottle of whiskey like in the western movies before they dig a slug out. Nope. I waited for a cloth loaded with chloroform. Nope. The just froze my wrist. I yelped a bit as the first tube was put into my vein. There were a bank of monitors. I didn’t have Erlender to feel superior to so I watched this probe wandering around my heart. “That’s my heart,” I thought, “the heart of high school romances, the heart passionately mooning over some hot babe, the heart that felt broken and betrayed, that leapt with joy, that frequently got me into trouble?” I wasn’t impressed.

When they’d finished taking pictures, we had a meeting. I’d expected to have an angioplasty, you know, blow up a balloon and press the muck against the artery walls. If that wouldn’t work, I figured I’d need a stent. I know lots of people with stents. It’s become quit fashionable to have a stent. People share stent stories at dinner parties. Nope. No angioplasty. No stent. Three bypasses coming up.

I’m two months behind when I wanted to be in the Interlake to do my research for my current novel. Three bypasses. People who have had bypasses say everything is great. They golf, mud wrestle, jump out of airplanes. All I want to do is thrash around in the marsh with Dennis and Jim Anderson. Talk to your doctors they said, and think about it, like I’ve got a choice.

When my daughter picked me up (isn’t it great to have a daughter who, when the going gets rough, turns up and carts you away?), I said, “I’ll talk to my doctors but one artery is 90% plugged, another is in serious condition and nothing can be done with it.”

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“Dead men don’t write novels,” I said and I thought about the skeleton in Lake Kleifarvatn.

7 thoughts on “an affair of the heart

  1. They let you out of the hospital so that is a GOOD thing, it means the partial blockages are down low on the heart so if they do block & you have a heart attack there will be only a little damage is the idea!!! I had my Angiogram 3 years ago & my Double bypass June 14th 2010. There is no pain except for the chest incision & men don’t have the weight of breasts so from what I have been told the chest incision is minor to them, but most men have more trouble with the leg where they take the artery so you’ll get your leg shaved also. You will feel so much better after your surgery & have more energy. I don’t as I had a Heart Attack & I have a lot of scar tissue left over plus my COPD is a problem.
    Most Hospitals have programs for people Pre & Post surgery from Cardiac conditions & they are excellent. The nurse coordinators were fantastic, without them I don’t know where I would have been. One of the biggest problems is depression & your emotions get out of whack & from what I can see most Men don’t know how to deal with it. Asking for help is a sign of strength!!!! I wish you great surgeon & the best health care team & look forward to your next book!!!!

    • Thanks Karen. That’s great. Hmm, I never thought of breasts as being a disadvantage but I guess they can be.
      I didn’t know that about the being let out of the hospital. I’ll do my best not to be depressed. I keep telling myself
      I’ll eventually make it to Gimli.

      • I don’t know about the letting you out of hospital either, it’s probably easier if they keep you in & it’s not your decision. What are they giving you for a time???Take it from me,the breasts are a weight issue a man doesn’t have to deal with cause they pull on the incision!!! Yes you will get to Gimli, in better shape than your in now!!!! Get in there & get it done,before you have damage.

        • I was so shocked by the suggestion of bypass surgery that I didn’t know how to respond. I’d been told to expect that an angioplasty or a stent might do the job. At least I think that’s what I heard. One artery blocked 70%, another
          blocked 50% but with a warning that CT scans are not definitive and it would take an angiogram to see what the
          real situation was. How long did you need someone to be with you before you could look after yourself?

          • I went in for a stress test on June 7th & they hauled me off the bike about 45 seconds in & admitted me, had the angio & then into Bypass. I was so stunned I couldn’t even think about it. & after I was stunned that I was now a statistic & was being invited to Chronic Disease programs because you see it happens to OTHER people!!!
            I was by myself probably 4 days after I was home for the day which was necessary as Eric had to go in for work but I would say probably a good 2 months. I did come home on Oxygen & was on it 24/7 for the first 2 months & I slept in my Lazy boy for 6 weeks as laying down was O.K. but having to get up was to painful on my chest.
            I’m having my hip replaced on June 14,2013 Yes,next month & it will be the 3rd anniversary of my Bypass.I was so ready to get out of the hospital on June 19th & had big plans when I got home but after the 2 hour drive,I was weak as a kitten & crawled into my Lazy boy & slept in the air of my own house & it was very good.

  2. Hey Bill, a moving and funny blog. Do I have your OK to forward it to the Facts and Arguments page of the Globe and Mail? Reason I offer is this ramble fits there, and because you are otherwise occupied mooning over your heart and reading Indridison.

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