POP! Goes my heart
The first time I felt it, I was getting ready for a school dance, and my heart skipped a beat.
Then, the sensation of missing a step.
Then, a heart rate of 190bpm.
Spoiler alert: I still went to the dance, and later ended up in hospital with a doctor eating cheese and crackers by my bed and listing medical jargon I didn't understand, before pushing an IV drug called adenosine (the cardiac version of "have you tried turning it off and back on again?").
I became better acquainted with my newly minted heart condition in a further series of mildly terrifying episodes that led to an onslaught of doctors appointments, daily blood thinners, careful monitoring and lifestyle changes. It turns out SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia- say it 5 times fast) is a fairly common condition, a problematic extra circuit (or several) in the heart that overrides the natural pacemaker. This sends your heart rate into a frenzy wherein you feel like you've run a marathon while standing perfectly still. Or like being given an unmerited fright by your worst nightmare while completely awake. Or missing a step and starting to fall while sitting on your couch watching Netflix.
This disconnect between activity and body means the way you think about the world around you changes. Your brain becomes akin to Google Maps at calculating kilometres to the nearest hospital. You look at everyday occurrences as potential catalysts for an episode- caffeine, alcohol, running.. even sex. I struggled not to refer to it as "minor" in the world of heart conditions.. but is there really such a thing as a "minor" heart condition?
Five years passed after the first episode, and I was on my way into an operating room to have the problematic electrical circuit cauterized. Under the fog of general anesthesia, I remember most of it- the thick, colourful cables that encircled the room, the gush of iodine across my pelvic bones, and the sleepy weight of really, really good meds. Three hours later, and it was done.
(PSA: I got the call for my cardiac ablation two weeks before my View Camera class final was due at NSCAD. The gear I had in tow for this weighed 16+lbs, and post operation I was strictly unable to lift more than 5lbs. So I tossed all previous concepts and decided to document those first weeks of recovery instead.)
My heart still convulses like it used to before an episode and I wait, expectantly, for the racing. I've faced a symptomatic recovery- meaning there is a possibility I could need to do this all over again, some day. In the interim, you can find me sipping coffee fearlessly in the middle of the woods.