This week, I got the results of some heart tests I underwent. The thing is, I underwent them three years ago.
It had occurred to me in the past that I’d never received any results for these tests, but I simply assumed no news was good news. It turns out no news was lost news.
Well, that could have ended badly.
For a while there, weird things had been happening with my heart. Instead of going bum-ba-bum my heart would suddenly go bum-ba-bloop-OLÉ! This would trigger anxiety, or maybe it was anxiety that triggered my heart. Either way, one day I felt quite certain I was dying so I thought I’d get it checked. It’s amazing how quickly anything involving your heart will get you through the door, even if you do say, “It’s like my heart is making bubbles.”
By the time I was strapped into a heart monitor, though, months had passed, and by then I had made some lifestyle changes that essentially eliminated the problem. Yes, I healed myself. Who needs a doctor in Quebec! Oh wait: there are no doctors in Quebec.
So I didn’t feel particularly worried about not getting the test results because I knew that during the 18-plus hours I was wired into the monitor, my heart hadn’t gone aOOOga-aOOOga!, not even once. And in the end, the reported declared that I was “within the limits of normal,” which is the most any of us can hope for.
Nonetheless, learning that the results had been sitting unopened on some desk for three years was somewhat unsettling. What if something had been wrong? What if the report had read, “While we heard no evidence of arrhythmia, we did hear pan flutes, which suggests the patient may have satyrs”?
But just as unsettling was having my heart laid out before me on paper – my life reduced to pure mechanics, not some fluid, living entity but something that could be tabulated and analyzed. The report turned me into baseball stats.
Over a period of 18 hours and 43 minutes, my heart beat 83,203 times. During that time, there were 12 supraventricular beats. I don’t know what’s meant by supraventricular beats but if I ever release a hip hop album that’s going to be the title.
My overall heartbeat was 74 beats per minute. That’s average. That’s so average it’s boring. When it comes to your heart, boring is good. You don’t want bells and whistles in your heart. Or in your stomach either, so keep those small objects away from children.
My lowest heart rate was 49. This occurred at 4:25 a.m., and considering I was sleeping with wires glued to my chest, I’d say that’s fairly impressive, though I suspect that if I was hairy up front my rate would never have gone below 82.
My heart peaked four hours later at 133 beats. What was happening that Thursday morning to get my heart so excited? Was someone yelling at me at work? Was I yelling at someone? Had my morning coffee just kicked in? Was there dancing that morning? Was one of my co-workers laying down some sick supraventricular beats? Or was I back at the hospital having those suction cups ripped off my nipples? Timing-wise, this last possibility is actually feasible.
But my heartbeat box score didn’t tell the whole tale. What else, I wondered, got my heart going that day? Did I stick my foot in a rubber boot and feel something and scream like a girl, even though it turned out to be not a dead mouse but a ping pong ball? I can’t recall.
Did I hover around my 74 average most of the 18 hours? Was I really that calm three years ago? In my journal, I could find only the following entry two days prior: “A fun game to play is to watch little kids playing baseball and imagining they’re actually stoned.” So I think it’s safe to say I was in a healthy head space.
Did my heart jump that day? Did it skip a beat? Did it sing? Soar? Break? Ache? Whisper? Was it like a wheel? Did it want what it wants?
As fascinating as it was, my heart report was limited. It couldn’t tell me much beyond the mechanics of my day. It could inform me that my heart beat 83,203 but it couldn’t reveal how many beats I have left. It couldn’t tell me much about my soul.
Or maybe that’s in a separate report. Maybe it’s sitting on someone’s desk too. I hope it’s good news…