The Tattletale Heart

The problem originated from an assumption, as many problems do.

The assumption became compounded by an ignorance of physical sensations. However, the implications of the problem induced by the assumption remains vague.

Yeah, I had a heart attack—a strangling of blood feeding heart muscle which induced an excruciating pain (the heart has feelings too). But this pain, like Iron Man crushing it with his fist, certainly did not feel life threatening. Had I been stabbed or shot or had a compound fracture and seen the evidence of the pain, I would have immediately thought, shit, get to the hospital, pronto.

But it wasn’t like that. Still isn’t. With an obvious wound your mind will rationalize the threat. With a heart attack, especially one like mine, center chest pain (no jaw or shooting pain down the arm), the threat seemed incidental. “It’ll pass,” I thought. Although it took four hours from start to stent, I never thought it was serious. I had my phone and took video from within the ambulance. I asked to photograph the catheter procedure but the surgical nurse said no pictures. I could breathe, talk, walk… It was just the crushing pain that I wanted to go away.

Only the words of the cardiologist, taken at face value—afterwards, communicated the intensity of injury. “Many people would have died from this.”

Ah, good to know.

The assumption? I’d assumed I was healthy.

The ignorance? I had no idea what a heart attack felt like.

Perhaps I sound flip, that I’m not taking this to heart (cough). I assure you I understand the fallout from this incident, mostly the impact on my family had the situation gone sideways. There was a moment, however, where all the Absurd Universe blather filtered into my psyche.

Laying face up, staring at the strange equipment, my right arm strapped down and the sensation of wires worming through my arteries, for just an instant I thought, if this is it—so be it. Not once did I experience fear.

Bravery? Hardly. Stupidity? Possibly. I’d rather equate my fortitude to the understanding I’ve gathered, here and elsewhere, regarding my interpretation of the Universe.


I’ve enjoyed reading the comments to this event. Thanks to those who voiced concern or commiseration. I suppose it’s strange to expose one’s life in such a way, “How I spent the Summer of 2020.” Just goes to show I’m a bit more human than I let on.




13 thoughts on “The Tattletale Heart

  1. Me, I’m terrified of dying. I was in a bad car accident a couple of years ago and ever since then I worry all the time. I can never get that feeling out of my head of everything going on just fine and then the next split second everything around me destroyed. Plus I’m an inveterate hypochondriac.

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    1. I was scared to go to sleep for awhile, got OCD about checking blood pressure every 10 minutes. I gave all that up. Yeah the BP might kill me but I can feel it if it gets weird. I could get run over by a soccer mom on the phone in a Target parking lot, struck by lightning, shot by a peaceful protester. So come to grips with being gone. I asked my cardiologist, the one who finally helped me, “Now what?” She said “Take your meds, live your life. Nobody gets out alive.” Pretty good advice.

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  2. Ah, the mortality flash. I had blood pressure that would kill an elephant, so I was told. Serious stroke territory. What? no plaque, open arteries? No heart damage, no stroke, just runaway blood pressure. I was scared shitless until I found a cardiologist who worked for a living instead of drinking, playing golf and throwing Alpha blockers at a much bigger problem. Analogous to the butter knife to a gunfight bit. I felt fragile for a year. In a weird way. Just like a blindside block knocked me out of my game. I for sure quit smoking. Cigarettes, anyway. I have a handful of pills I’d like to not take, but the option is exploding. Eleven years on it’s still not a cavalier moment in memory. I wasn’t so scared of dying for any reason other than Oh shit, I got stuff to do. Which is still undone, but that’s not why I’m still here. The cosmic conundrum, eh? WTF are we doing here?
    I say that as a welcome to the club of dudes in their mid-50s who suddenly found themselves flat on their back on a gurney going WTF? Remember being 17 and indestructible? Well, it’s done. But you can write…

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  3. I was going to email you today, but you pretty much just answered my questions with this post. It sounds to me like you’re handling this very wisely. You ruled out bravery as a suitable adjective for your response, but I’d like to similarly rule out stupidity. Understanding the impermanence of existence and the fragility of life to the point where fear is largely taken out of the equation is the very definition of wisdom. So if that’s what you call stupidity, here’s hoping I embody just a fraction of that stupidity.

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    1. I’ve tended to feel little sympathy for those folks I’ve heard take copious pills to stay alive. Having instantly turned into one of those, I’ll have to say, whatever, no big deal. I’ll do what I need to stick around — for the family and because I’d like to tell a few more stories.
      You realize that it’s our discussions that form the foundation of this belief system I’ve adopted. I’m certain we share this wisdom.

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