“I don’t want to live like this,” I said. And repeated. Listeners would nod, and say nothing. I understood. I’ve nodded when there was nothing I could do, no referrals, suggestions, ideas. As the Main Line Health Center, http://www.mainlinehealth.org/oth/Page.asp?PageID=OTH005747, and many other websites tell us, there is no cure for heart failure. The healthy can sympathize, but it’s difficult to know exactly what someone else is feeling and living with unless you too have felt it. Even spending 24 hours in a wheelchair gives you only a sample. At the end of the experience, you can get up and walk.
Some of the hearers said I didn’t have a choice about living with a heart that doesn’t know how it will find enough energy for one more beat. Wrong. We all have a choice. Whether we would or could exercise it is another matter.
At 3 a.m., when there’s not much else going on—at least not around my house—I can lie in bed and think about how it would be not to be here. I wouldn’t see the moon when it reaches full roundness and spills glorious white down over the trees and fields. Lilacs would hang their perfume on the air, season would yield to season, and I would not know. My bike would rust in the shed, but the bike will rust in the shed anyway if I cannot find a way to breathe while pedaling.
But I wouldn’t have to worry how much longer it would be before I could not care for Greta. The advance arrangement I made for her care, just in case, would have become effective. I wouldn’t have to ask myself how much longer before all I could manage of my day would be to struggle the few steps from the kitchen to the family room, collapse in front of the TV set and watch people on television announce they’re having an affair with their husbands’ best friends.
We had retrieved Greta from the kennel after the cardiac catheterization, which revealed no blockage that would account for heart failure. I went home. Each morning, I put Greta’s leash on her and drove her down to the park, where she could run and romp and play with her beloved squeaky toy. On one cold morning, I followed the dog up the slope that leads from the pond along a driveway to the woods. Or tried to. There was not enough air. I bent over, gasping. Greta stopped and looked back, staring at me. At last, more air came and I could straighten. My dog turned, and we went on. Was she as scared as I was?
On my next visit for a pacemaker check, the doctor was having a rough time with a new patient tracking system that kept physicians glued to the computer screen rather than to their patients. When he was able to wrestle the system into submission, I asked, “Could I benefit from a biventricular pacemaker?”
I had read about biventricular pacemakers on the Internet, http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/services/tests/procedures/biventricular_pm.aspx because one of the things you can do at 3 a.m. is to decide to research and give it your best fight. I love my guy and my dog, the full moon and the smell of woods in fall. I love my children and grandchildren. What’s an overnight at University of Maryland Medical Center with a dinner of cold lasagna and tepid coffee, and IVs irritating your arms, if there’s a chance to be there when the moon turns full?
The doctor paused at my question. “That’s a good question,” he said.
Within a few days, I was scheduled for a biventricular pacemaker on Feb. 14.
“Valentine’s Day. That’s a good day for them to work on your heart,” Mike said.
Greta looked faintly worried.
To Be Continued
©2012 by Donna Engle