Four years ago this weekend, I went in for triple-bypass surgery to fix three clogged arteries. I wrote one final entry in my blog, “How I Pray To God” – which I wrote as though it were the last thing I might ever get to say – and then the doctors put me under.
The recovery from the triple-bypass was bad. Very bad. Life-changingly bad. I’ve not been officially diagnosed, but I do have some form of flashbacks and emotional trauma whenever someone goes through heart problems.
Last week, I went in for my four-year checkup – a radiation stress test on the treadmill.
Which I failed.
The stress test showed two arteries with partial blockage. Which… might or not be a problem. If I have a problem, the perfusion stress test is literally the most efficient tool at seeking it out – it’s 92% likely to pick up any serious issues.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a serious issue, the test has a 30% chance of delivering a false positive.
What’s happening next is that I have to go in for a catheterization where they run a tube up the artery in my leg to look directly at my heart. If it’s a false positive (as my doctor believes), then we laugh and say “Well, weren’t you lucky!” If not, they put in stents to wedge my arteries open, which is a minor procedure and can be done outpatient (but they prefer an overnight stay).
Worse, the doctor who does these catheterizations is on vacation for two weeks, and so I have to wait to make an appointment at his office to make a reservation at the hospital to do all this, which means probably a month minimum of stress and concern.
The doctor calls this “minor course corrections.” Clearly, he’s okay waiting two weeks to do anything; I’ve seen the pictures of my arteries and yeah, it looks really minor.
But it also has a feeling of inevitability. I’ve been exercising more, eating better, trying my best to keep myself healthy, and it’s still back. This feels very much like creeping death – my first blockage was largely the result of a genetic disorder that floods my system with small-particle cholesterol, and at the age of 47 I’m feeling very very mortal. I’m genuinely wondering if I’ll make it to 50, which is a shitty overreaction because this is probably fine, but damn, what happened to me during the bypass seriously fucked me up.
And I think of Hamilton:
*Why do you write like you’re running out of time?*
I am. I very much am. Even if I’m healthy, I am. I hear the clock tick with each heart beat, knowing that each one is no longer guaranteed. And I should be telling more friends directly, but honestly, I can barely bring myself to text about this, so if you’re hearing about this indirectly it’s not that I don’t love you it’s that, well, this is about the bets I can do right now.
And I think of that final post I made; the one where I thought I was going to die. It’s still a good post. If I do die, well, remember me for that.
In the meantime, I am most likely going to be fine, even if I have to get stents. “Course correction,” the doctor says. And it is.
Yet when you’re sitting in a darkened bedroom, trying to get to sleep, and all you can hear is the erratic rhythm of your heart, wondering whether each pulse will be your last – or whether you’ll wind back in the powerless hell of the ventilator – it’s hard to see the good in life.
The joy will come back. It generally does. But for right now, I’m going to curl up into a ball and recover as best I can.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.