Saturday, February 02, 2008

2nd february 2008
for some weeks now, I've been uncomfortably aware of the beating of my heart.
I feel it on and off during the day and night: at the smallest level of exertion or emoional excitement there it is, beating in my chest.
I suppose I could perceive this as the reminder of a friend; but after all that has happened, although I know it is doing all I can to keep me alive, it can feel sometimes like the reminder of the presence of a stranger.
Perhaps an enemy.
Certainly a reminder of my death.
I have been feeling so afraid.
It has felt like a warning; a red light, perhaps, or an empty fuel gage.
Certainly a strong demand to stop. To simplify. To reflect.
And I guess that is what I have been trying to do.
I have had myself signed off one job (the professor at the university) and have only gently engaged with the other (the playwright) when the words have come to me.
Last wednesday I had an appointment with the cardiologist at the hospital.
His name is Dr. Bloomfield: I first encountered him when I was first admitted, and I like and trust him.
He had two students with him, and used the opportunity very skillfully.
He had me explain my symptoms now, and my symptoms then. Also when I was admitted for atrial flutter.
As I reflect on this some days later, I understand that one effect of this was to help me become aware of how different these experiences were. And are.
In itself this was a reassurance.
The ECG was normal, but i don't understand them well.
And he could listen, and the students could listen, to the beating of my heart, and he could tell me he could hear nothing.
He took my blood pressure: and that, too, is normal.
And when I asked him why, then, have I been experiencing these symptoms, he took me down to have a scan.
The students were there, too, and the operator explained it to them in detail.
The pictures on these machines are astonishingly clear, and their sensitivity is extraordinary.
Her explanation, and the sight of the images, helped me understand, too: to look inside the chambers of my own heart and understand what it was I saw.
There is nothing wrong.
The fact that I could see helped me fully understand and believe this.
One of the most frightening parts of the earlier experience was to be there, in the same room, and looking at the same machine, and see the jet of blood leaking from my heart valve and spurting back like a sinister fountain.
I thought afterwards I need never look at another horror movie again. I have already seen the most frightening thing I could imagine.
And this new sight: of the normal functioning heart, with the repair also visible and functioning perfectly, calmed my fears.
And the kind doctor could explain this: but also respect my experience and my desire to understand.

But since then, of course, I need to take on board that it is my own mind that is creating these symptoms.
Because they have not stopped.
And they have not stopped for a reason.
The warning, I suspect, is still as serious: the message to stop. To simplify. To rest.
To try to take care.

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