an affair of the heart

angios

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.

On A Moderately Successful Poet

heart

ON A Moderately Successful Poet

Heart attack, heart attack
You’re dead.
There’ll be a cross behind your head.
Alack, alack
The crows will say.
The cows behind the fence will pray.
Last year’s stack
Of hay decays,
The graveyard grass bends with the breeze
When winter comes the rose will freeze.
The sun will wear away the days
Until no one knows that you are here.
New hands will lift the hotel’s beer
And falling leaves will be your praise.

A poem for myself brought on by the fact that hiking up McInnis Rise, the ridge on which I now live, left me breathless. Unusual for someone who, for years, climbed Mt. Finlayson every Wednesday afternoon no matter what the weather, who walked over Mt. Tolmie to the University and back.

I mentioned it as a curiosity when I was seeing my GP about something so trivial that I don’t remember what it was. Probably, a bashed and bloodied toenail.

You’ve got my attention, he said. Then he started asking me questions. I don’t like questions asked by doctors and I like it even less when I’m forced to say yes to them. In the morning do you cough up clear phlegm? Have you had a pain in your chest? A pain in your left arm? Etc. Yes, yes, yes. Unfortunately. Do you get short of breathe? Yes, I said, but that’s because I have a history of asthma.

“You need to have a stress test,” he said and arranged one.

Nonsense, I thought, I’m as fit as a horse, an older horse, mind you, a seventy-three year old horse. However, when I got an appointment for the stress tests, I said, “No coffee? You’ve got to be kidding. For an entire day and a morning? How about half a cup?” No. No. No. These people in the angio department aren’t into negotiating.

I went without coffee. I went to the hospital. I let them shoot me up with nuclear waste from Chernoble. I stood on that ramp and went walk, walk, walk. It didn’t work too well. Or, I didn’t work too well. Somebody sat on my chest. The second day we did it again. I didn’t make it to level three. A shot of Brennavin and I’d have been fine but they didn’t have any.

“I think,” the specialist said, “you may have a blockage here and here.” And he showed on a plastic model of a heart. “A CT scan of your heart will tell me what I need to know.”

“I was supposed to be in Gimli, Manitoba four weeks ago. I have a lot of work to do there.I’m writing a novel. I need to know when the pussy willows bloom.”

“A CT scan,” he said. “We’ll arrange it as soon as possible.”

I suggested they just rip out my heart and replace it with a polar bear heart. Grrrr. Unfortunately, polar bear hearts are in short supply.

After the CT scan, the specialist showed me that plastic heart again. Who makes these kinds of things? On Mondays we make hearts. On Tuesdays we make kidneys. On….

“Your artery is blocked 70% here. And this artery is blocked 50% here.” He pointed at two holes in the plastic heart. “We’ll arrange an angiogram.”

I don’t want to jump out of this plane. I don’t care if the engines are not working right. Just give them the gas. They’ll speed up.

Today, the phone rang. There’s been a cancellation. I’m to be at the hospital tomorrow at 9. Operation at 1:00. My daughter or my friends, Richard and Trish Baer, are to pick me up in the early evening or, maybe, the next morning.

I’m sure all will go well. The angiogram will probably be followed by an angioplasty. That’s where they inflate a balloon and squash the muck in the artery against the artery wall so more blood can flow into your heart. Personally, I’d have preferred a polar bear heart. Too bad they’re in such short supply.

(If you find yourself short of breath, have a pain, no matter how small in your chest, a pain in your left arm, have it checked out. Better before a heart attack than after.)