Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Hear the Music of a Heartbeat

Yesterday afternoon I went for my semi-annual carotid stenosis. It's another reminder that there are just so many sunrises and so many Springs. At some point next week, though for his last time it turns out, I'll sit with my vascular surgeon, as he explains the next step in continuing to battle my heredity and lifestyle to just about a draw in making sure the arteries in my neck, when I'm tired I call them veins and he frowns at me and glares a little, don't get any more gunked up than they are (I don't imagine he'd appreciate my use of gunked up, but he's retiring in a couple of weeks, so now it's my turn to talk).

We, meaning me and some very clever person with a wonderfully complex machine from Siemens and warm gel to smear on my neck, measure I have no idea what. I listen to the sounds of my own blood rushing through my arteries (I do know the difference, you know) and hope it continues to sound like the ocean crashing onto the shore and watch the monitor for waveforms and splotches of color, sometimes dark blue and other times bright yellow and vivid red, knowing no matter how keen I am to know what the colors mean, I'm too afraid to ever ask.

In all these sessions with all the watching, waiting and conferring is the awareness that there's no medication I can take to reverse the process. (That's a joke, actually. After I had had four Transient Ischemic Attacks, I was so terrified the surgeon could have told me to drink my own bathwater and I'd have asked if I could use a straw. Fear of death is probably the most powerful reason to live there can ever be). I remember him carefully explaining that to me at our very first session back in, wow-seems like in another life-but there's always the "hope" of surgery, he said. I've seen enough surgery in the last four years to last me a lifetime (it has, so far), so hope is a word I use guardedly.

My surgeon doesn't know I know he's retiring. I only see him every six months which, in his line of work and with my health concerns, is okay with both of us. I looked forward to meeting him the first time, based on his name, as I secretly hoped he was the architect of TSOP, The Sound of Philadelphia and could give me the inside story on Gamble and Huff. Nope, a little closer to Stiller and Meara truth be told, but he does always have the pop music radio station on in his office. I'd hoped we'd collaborate a while longer, but you can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain forever.

Our local hospital has Diagnostic Medicine, and other out-patient services, tucked away across town in a renovated failed Ames Department Store near the interstate. Seated across from me was a young woman in what looked like hospital scrubs, holding a small child, a baby actually, of perhaps six months or so on her lap. He, not she, was the customer for whatever other imaging equipment now is sprawled across what once was the hardware and ready-to-wear departments. Adds new meaning to clean-up in aisle seven.

He was extremely well-behaved, as if I am an expert with my babies getting ready to celebrate a 28th as well as a 23rd birthday in the coming days, for one, and weeks, for the other. He stared at the world, bounded by the waiting room walls and ceiling with an eagerness and intensity I no longer remember but truly admire. It was a moment for rubber-necking, his, and reflection, mine. He, even if he lives to be one hundred, will never remember me, and I, should the same await me, shall never forget him. I see a man without a problem.
-bill kenny

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