I wonder if all people with congenital heart defects feel this way: like dread is home. I sink back into a familiar dread everytime I get an Echocardiogram, and consider how long I have before my eternal muscles exhaust. My heart came with "a hole the size of Cleveland" and was kindly patched by the doctors of Yale New Haven.
The operation I had was cutting edge stuff for the early 80s., and no one was sure how it would work longterm. Every time I went to the doctor as a child, there was a real possibility I would have to have another angioplasty. The number moves when I talk to my mother, from six to thirteen, in my infancy. And then two between first and third grade. They can’t put you under for an angioplasty, they play a movie for me. I still get nauseous in the third act of The Little Mermaid. The Big Concern was that I would need a heart
transplant: no one knew, only time would tell.
I got a "clean bill of health" after passing a stress test so I could swim in high school. My patched heart, which still has a little syncopation in its beat, was a keeper after all.
After college when I had no money or insurance, I skipped seeing a cardiologist for over a decade. It was one of many dumb and self-destructive behaviors. It wasn’t until I started getting serious about having my daughter (and was covered by WGA medical policy) that I faced regular EKGs again.
Not long after she was born, I had chest pains and went to an ER. They held me for hours, taking test after test and not telling me the results, finally insisting to talk to my cardiologist. I didn't know her number, but she told me later that without context my heart activity is very alarming to doctors. If you don’t know my medical history, what is normal for me looks like a condition that kills normal people in three months.
I've got an appointment today. I don't skip them anymore.