Bruised But Not Broken

To the concerned, I am bruised but not broken. My heart is ok, but you should see the veins on my left arm. Yesterday’s trip to the ER was humbling but yielded a potentially positive outcome.

It started with a sip of soda; some went down my windpipe and caused me to cough forcefully. This is a bad thing — with me, coughs almost always end in hiccups (after smoking for 9 years, I can’t cough anymore – I have to hack). So, the hiccups inevitably began and I could not silence them soon enough. The unfortunate chain of events ended in tachycardia: the sudden, sustained doubling of my heartrate.

I’ve had this before, too many times. Went to the ER for it on one extremely long case. Usually lasts five to thirty seconds until my heart finally settles down. But yesterday morning, after I tried all my doctor-recommended tricks to end it, I knew it was going to last, so I called to my roomate to take me to the ER.

All the signs, cars, stop lights, people, activity – you notice the absurdity of it all when you’re sitting in a passenger seat and your vehicle is going in slow motion, your pulse is 180bpm and your heart feels like it wants to die. You feel completely unimportant; the world goes on regardless of your emergent health.

Tachycardia is not fatal; there’s a 1% to 3% chance of death from cardiac arrest. It feels like it’s eminent, though; the heart is on a freewheeling feedback where it still pumps blood but does so incredibly inefficiently. When your pulse returns to normal, you almost can’t feel it anymore, but you’re still alive. It’s otherworldly to not feel your own pulse, but you’re glad it’s settled down. You can relax.

I went to the ER hoping that they could get the ECG leads on me before it settled; sadly, my heart once again returned to normal before I could see a triage nurse. For a proper diagnosis, they need to see it happening. I considered trying to induce it, a potentially dangerous proposition, but it’d be the best place to try that kind of thing.

The doctor on staff mentioned that it might be a condition known as WPW, or Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome; the cardiologist on call suggested it, and the staff doctor seemed to agree. Basically, the heart has a nerve bundle between the upper and lower chambers which is responsible for transmitting the heartbeat impulse between halves while in the process delaying the beat of the lower chambers.

People with WPW also have a rogue nerve elsewhere between the halves that causes the impulse to be sent too soon and on rare occasion will cause a circular impulse loop, resulting in tachycardia. WPW is treatable with medication and in most cases (I’m assuming) curable with a procedure called radio-frequency ablation where heart surgeons run a catheter to the site of the rogue nerve and burn it with radio energy.

This errant nerve is formed at gestation but its effects are generally not seen until the person is between 11 and 40 years of age. I’ve had this problem for at least since 25. I had always associated it with smoking or too much caffiene; although that exacerbates the situation, it is not the cause.

The ER doctor recommended I see the cardiologist for a follow-up. Gave me his pager and office numbers. Since I have new insurance, I need to check with my provider to ensure I can see this specialist without referral from my primary physician. Politics and money first, health second. As much as I hate using the phone, I will start making some calls tomorrow morning. Even if the ER trip was a wash, this important lead makes it worth the effort.


I understand, through some information that has been provided to me, that my former company felt some pain for the first few weeks after I left. Before my departure, I made it very clear that I was open and available for advice, consultation, perhaps even onsite setup and training, for whoever remained to do my former job. That offer was not taken up because, and these are the words quoted to me, “we don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing we need his help.”

I’m not one to enjoy another’s pain, let alone gloat about it. But this prideful cockiness gives me great liberty to smile. I like that company; I miss that company and those I worked with. It was a laid-back affair laden with the personalities and drama that could only exist in a small shop environment. And it is because of that environment that I have to take a light heart about it and laugh. My presence made a big footprint on the soil of that company, and my absence left a painful, gaping maw. I have the satisfaction that I, for once, was able to make that effect.

Now. My current job; let’s just say that unless I learn what the hell I’m doing, do a great job, and ascend the ranks, I will not leave that great of an impression on the company. There are 15,000 or so employees, and I am but a contractor trainee in a testing lab. There are certain parties who may seek the satisfaction of knowing that I am going through trouble, stress, turmoil; they may have a glimmer of it, my treat, because my new job is hard. Damn hard. After years of growing dull, issuing motions to my body in gross movements, turning off my mind while I droned out the repetitive work with music, I am having a damnable time of trying to wake up my mind again, turning on my memory, juggling little bits of facts, events, people. You may have your satisfaction.

It’s a drain on me, this trying to keep up. I have filled pages upon pages in my journal about my internal struggles and storms. All the shit I’ve held hidden below the waterline for years is rising to the surface in murky curls of fetid water. And it startles me; smacks my face and laughs as I drop a few balls while trying to do my juggling act, trying to perform. Makes me want to scream, makes me want to run. But the urge to collapse and do nothing takes hold and pulls me back to zero where I do nothing extreme. A zombie. A real, live zombie.

You may have your satisfaction.

This has been a lonely journey, these thirty-five years, these past 4 years, these recent 2 months. Within the withering crop of people I consider friends, there are the usual few who know of my situation, but there are none who are in my closest circle. My weight is my own to bear, and it is my fault. That is my feeling; my fault for shutting them out. I suppose when I am ready I will reach out again; maybe this is my reaching out. Until then, I likely won’t be talking much.

So. To you, the people I most likely know who read my words anonymously, this is my state. Thanks for the concern. And for the satisfaction: you’re welcome.