My Heart is a Teenager
This melodramatic little bastard needs some real discipline in his life
I was supposed to have heart surgery last Friday.
Even though I’m nearly 33 years old, my heart is finally entering his dramatic teenager phase. Like many rebellious adolescents, he has taken up playing the drums (adding unneeded extra beats) to annoy his parent (me, single dad). This is fixed with a procedure known as an ablation, where they burn away the malfunctioning part of the heart to force it into the correct rhythm. An option that is still unavailable for regular, full-sized teenagers.
My particular problem is likely inherited genetically. Finding it is a culmination of years worth of medical investigating. CT scans, MRIs, echocardiograms, Bardy heart monitors, overnight sleep tests, home sleep monitoring, CPAP machines, countless doctors appointments, and one irritated health insurance plan (fuck ‘em).
After undergoing all these tests, my electrocardiologist casually asked me if I was tired and irritable all the time? He had no right to sum up my entire personality and existence quite so eloquently….but yes I am sir.
All those sleep issues, he assured me, were because of this. I was having PVCs, aka premature ventricular contractions, where the bottom of my heart was beating out of sync with the upper portion. All because my heart couldn’t just handle puberty like everyone else.
This was a revelation. Finally, an epiphany that made everything crystal clear. The answer to all the riddles. Having surgery would provide the climax of the story, a solution to a long-elusive problem. I could actually feel…better?
Not if my capricious ticker had anything to say about it!
In the days leading up to the procedure, I was understandably scared. I mean, this is HEART SURGERY. Still though, it’s a more minor one. Veteran heart surgery patients (my dad) scoff and act like an ablation is nothing. Like a glass of spilt milk, not worth crying over (do people still spill milk? why did they cry? i never cared when i spilled milk. should it be almond or oat milk? does anyone even remember this phrase?)
In an ablation, they don't even cut your chest open. Instead, they insert a long spaghetti noodle type of tube into your leg that goes all the way to the heart and gets the job done. On one hand, we gotta be impressed with medical science. On the other, what the actual fuck? How can that possibly work?? Who came up with this idea??? How do you control the other end???? What if the noodle droops for just a second and you miss the right spot????? What if someone accidentally put Ragu on the noodle and now it doesn’t work but you put it in my leg and it's too late now so I end up with pasta sauce on my heart?????? That can’t be healthy.
On the actual morning of the procedure, despite all the build-up and questioning, I was surprisingly calm. With my IV already inserted, ECG electrodes attached, and the nurse going to town shaving my upper legs to prep for noodle insertion, it just felt like everything was going smoothly. I had even written a song that I sang for the nurses and they loved it. They made me sing it again when other nurses came back in from prepping other patients. Nobody recorded it there, but I’ll sing it for you now to help set the mood.
It’s a cover of “Stereo Hearts” by Gym Class Heroes. As if you’d have trouble figuring that out from my melodically perfect singing. You’ve heard worse on karaoke night. Trust me, it’s MUCH better here with the backdrop music than when I was singing it with no accompaniment while lying in a hospital bed after not being able to drink fluids for the previous eight hours.
The point is, I was the center of attention in the prep room. Just how I like it. Things were lining up and I was in my element, even if I was doing a performance just minutes before a major medical procedure. Everything felt fine. Hopeful, even. I suddenly knew the procedure would work. I was finally going to have energy again. Imagine the possibilities. Maybe I could even get disciplined and be a more consistent writer with all my new energy. (yeah, right)
Re-enter my uncooperative teenage heart.
You see, in order to find the correct spot to burn while operating, the heart needs to actively be malfunctioning and adding extra beats. As I sat in the prep area, mine was not. It had chosen instead to storm up to its room, slamming the door shut and yelling about how it hated me.
I tried inducing the irregular beats by freaking myself out, as they tend to happen more while stressed. All that calming stuff was bullshit - I needed to be worried! I thought about dying during the procedure, being a failure as a writer and in life in general, and having a funeral where nobody would attend. I walked around the room, jogged in place, and did jumping jacks. Anything to coax my heart into being the little shit I knew he could.
For over an hour I attempted anything I could think of. A rotating cast of nurses watched me. I had zero irregular beats. When I was wearing a heart rate monitor I would have almost 9,000 PVCs every day. Now, when I needed them the most, absolutely none. Because OF COURSE NOT.
Finally, they called it. There were other patients the doctor needed to start surgery on. He came and spoke to me and said that this happens fairly often and we would revisit options in a few weeks. Naturally, just minutes after he left, my heart had one, solitary PVC. The teenage equivalent of coming downstairs for a bowl of Frosted Flakes, banging the cupboard doors shut, and giving me the finger while storming back to his room. The ungrateful little shit. Doesn’t appreciate all the exercise I’ve done to strengthen him. All the salads I’ve eaten. Damn kid doesn’t know how good he’s got it around here. Why I oughta….
One bad beat isn’t nearly enough to map out where the problem is coming from so the noodle can do its job. I was going home with nothing more than some half-shaved legs and my despondency. Like most problems in my life, the PVCs would remain. Here I was finally - FINALLY - about to solve a major problem and naturally, the universe, god, Zeus, the aliens, or whatever is in charge put up a giant road block, stop sign, closed for business, do not pass go, definitely don’t collect $200.
I don’t know what will happen from here. More mentally well-adjusted people than me would say I need to radically accept what happened. It’s outside my control. I did everything I could and sometimes things just don’t work out. Let it be. Let go of the outcome and just focus on the next steps in the journey. Things happen for a reason so yada yada yada…
I hate that advice and think it sucks. I finally took control and was on the verge of getting my life and energy back, and now I’m just supposed to pretend like I wasn’t THIS close? What kind of bullshit deal is that? I may have no choice but to accept it but I sure as hell ain’t going to like it. I distinctly DO NOT appreciate the bumps in the road. Why do we even need bumps in the road when they’ve gotten so good at pouring concrete smoothly?
Even as my instinct is to rail at the unfairness and shittiness of it all, a small part of me knows the advice would be helpful. This whole acceptance thing is probably the smarter strategy. At the very least, it would calm me down. I’m not ready to be calm though. I’m ready to feel upset and irritated and angry and annoyed and just plain done with it all.
Maybe I’m more similar to my defiant teenage heart than I ever realized.
3 Funny Things
1 - Funniest Reality TV Moments
This video clip comes courtesy of a Twitter thread asking for best reality TV show moments. I have no clue what show it’s from but this girl trying to impress a date by cooking chicken in the microwave is something else. The way she looks around like “who could have done this” was…*chef’s kiss*
2 - Productive Procrastination
Oh, hey, look, it’s an exact carbon copy of me only female and with glasses. I simultaneously feel seen and attacked. All of my work habits have been distilled into this 15 second video.
3 - Too Many Guys
This is a throwback. I probably first saw this when I was about 10 years old. In the wild early days of the internet, before Youtube even existed and stupid funny videos like this would be on places like Newgrounds. The chorus of this song has been imprinted on my brain ever since. I still randomly sing it to people. Most of them look at me like I’ve lost my mind. But if you’re one of the few in the know, the real ones who remember, this is for you.
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