Good Until Jan. 2029

Your going away gift from the cardiac ward

The cardiac ward's going away gift

It’s my 4th re-birthday tomorrow… Happy re-birthday to me!!

Tomorrow, my quadruple bypass turns four. (Old enough for pre-school.)

Four years ago today I was watching cable TV in a backless gown at Northwestern hospital trying not to think about the gruesome things a highly trained team of total strangers was going to do to me bright and early the next morning. I was trying not to imagine them stripping me naked, poking me with needles, inserting tubes into my lungs and other unmentionable places. I was doing my best not to fantasize about them slicing my skin, sawing my bones, and stopping my heart so they could sew veins from my legs onto it. And I had to keep telling myself to quit thinking about dying.

I was trying NOT to think of those things. But it wasn’t working, exactly; I have an active imagination.

The day before my bypass was a Sunday but the head of cardiology came by anyway to say “hey.” Flanked by two minions who didn’t speak, she explained how there was nothing for me to worry about. They do bypasses all the time; surgeries like this are routine nowadays. And they can last as long as 20 years! She put extra emphasis on “20 years” like that was a really long time. Like anything past next week, Thursday I should consider a bonus. I should be happy their astronomically expensive medical procedure could buy me any amount of extra time.

Yeah, her bedside manner needed some serious work.

Me? I’m doing the math… 51 years old plus 20 more equals whoa, wait a second! Suddenly, I feel finite… I was hoping for another number, a number somewhere closer to forever. Forever o’clock. January forever-teenth, two thousand four ever!

I was mortal right then, when she said that. I had an expiration date.

Four years later, I still think about her words of “encouragement.” I think about how my heart might look. I imagine it in my chest with tubes and hoses jutting out like some kind of contraption. Any little pain I get, every twinge, makes me stop and run down a self-diagnostic checklist in my head. Is that a—? No, couldn’t be. Couldn’t be the same chest pain I had before… Could it? Every night before I go to bed, I knock on the wooden headboard; give myself a boost of luck so I make it through the night.

But hey, other than that, I’m doing just fine… The traditional 4th year anniversary gift is fruit, they say. Maybe I’ll surprise myself with one of those edible arrangements.

16 years and counting!

Filed under: Health

Tags: aging, bypass, health, heart surgery, hospitals

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