A few weeks ago,during a routine physical, I mentioned to my doctor, in an offhand sort of way, that sometimes my heart feels funny. She said, “What do you mean? Are you having palpitations?” I said, “I’m not sure. Sometimes it feels like every very few beats my heart pauses or hiccups, you know, like it goes off for a little coffee break, and then I feel a whoosh, like it came back and dropped the mug.”
She said, “Really? Let’s check it out. I’m going to set you up with a holter monitor test. It sounds like you are having PVC’s. Premature Ventricular Contractions. Don’t worry. They’re very common.”
Premature Ventricular Contractions? This is exactly the combination of words NOT to say to a hypochondriac. Don’t worry? Doesn’t she know there are 237,000 sites I will have to read to get up to speed on PVC’s? My vocabulary has now expanded to include the terms ectopic heartbeat, ventricular fibrillation, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia and something called “Marfan syndrome” which is a disorder of connective tissue, the tissue that strengthens the body’s structures, and I have a really bad feeling about it.
In the Cardiac Clinic at the hospital, Claudia, the technician, speedily pasted a bunch of gooey stickers on my chest, attached a set of multicoloured wires to the electrodes, and then hung a leather pouch around my neck. The stickers immediately started to feel itchy. The multicoloured wires poked out of the top and bottom of my t-shirt. Before I could change my mind about the whole exercise, or mention my concerns about Marfan Syndrome, Claudia coldly scooted me out of her cubicle with a warning that I must not get the pouch, the wires or the electrodes wet so NO to baths or showers. For 48 hours. This statement caused, no doubt, the first cardiac “event” on my monitor.
Minutes later I learned that 30 minutes in the hospital parking costs $7, causing the monitor to record another jagged spike.
Driving home, I reconsidered my schedule for the next two days. Appearing in public could be a mistake as the wires and bulgy pouch covering my torso might cause someone to mistake me for a suicide bomber. I could be one short 911 call away from a SWAT team surrounding me at Costco. I went straight home to hide.
On the way into the house, I bumped into my son. His eyes widened on sight of the electrodes and wires emerging from the top of my t-shirt, and he said, “Wow. I knew it. My Mom is a robot.” I ran upstairs to my closet to find my purple pashmina and wrapped it around me.
Since I wanted to try to make my heart do the pause-whoosh thing, the plan for the rest of the day was to consume plenty of stimulating nutrients, like coffee, wine and chocolate. And then go to the gym for a work out. In a large purple pashmina.
Of course, for the next 48 hours my heart acted my car when I take it to my mechanic about that intermittent grinding noise from the engine: a steady ticking, no sticking.
After two nights of pseudo sleep – you try sleeping in a tangled nest of wires after consuming twelve cups of coffee, six chocolate bars and a bottle of Shiraz in 48 hours – I ripped the mess off my chest and, tossing aside the pashmina, returned the monitor to the clinic. Hopefully, the results will be normal. Certainly my heart withstood some major monkeying around without so much as a murmur. In the meantime, if any other body part, like say, my butt, ever feels funny, I will think seriously hard about the possible consequences before alerting my doctor.