When people say don’t worry.” That means you obviously have something to worry about. This social nicety is expressed by well meaning people to make a person feel better, but strangely the more you hear all will be well, the more a feeling of ultimate doom gnaws at your soul. Anxiety likes to make friends. We are well acquainted.
I had a replacement pacemaker installed a few weeks ago. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the old one. It functioned for years and I never paid any attention to its constant monitoring and beneficial adjustments to my heart rhythms. My doctor has always followed my health with great care. He takes time to explain things. He adjusts my meds and he freely answers all of my questions. He is never in a rush to usher me out of the examination room. Medicine as it used to be.
“Can I do without having a new pacemaker doc?” I asked. I was not afraid of the surgery. I simply did not want to go through the inconvenience and hospital stay.
“Of course. This isn’t really an emergency.”
The “isn’t really an emergency” part concerned me. If he had said you don’t need a new unit or there is nothing wrong with you or why are you in my office, I would have felt more at ease. The word really is the key. If it isn’t really an emergency, then why am I in your office with my knees knocking out a Tango beat and my palms sweating like a bad kid in the principal’s office? What happens if it gets to be an emergency? Then what?
“Well, we just don’t like your ejection fraction.” He offers.
I thought he said erection fraction.
“Doc, I’m sixty nine years old. I can tell you right now my erections are a fraction of what they used to be.”
“No, no, no Mr. Teel. Ejection fraction, not erection fraction. This is the amount of blood the heart pumps out. Your’s is too low. You’re going to have to see someone else about that other problem.” And, he started laughing.
Naturally, I had a consultation with my wife. “Don’t think twice. You are getting it. Period!” After giving careful consideration to my wife’s orders, I mean wise and thoughtful advice, I decided to get the new pacemaker. So I did. Nothing to it.
Right before I went into surgery I taped a note to my chest:
MAKE SURE IT IS WORKING BEFORE YOU WAKE ME UP
The nurses thought it was funny. They didn’t realize I was serious.
I went for my follow up with the cardiologist today. I like him and his partner. They laugh with me and have a sense of humor. Medical personnel who can step out of the antiseptic clinical mode and be human make me feel comfortable. I am not being treated by someone who considers me to be a specimen under the microscope rather that a person. So we joke.
After any cardiac surgery, post op follow up is a must. With a pacemaker the rate of assistance the unit provides to the heart can be adjusted. This is done through minute electrical charges traveling through leads implanted around the heart itself. You cannot feel this when it happens. The pacemaker is adjusted by running a cord over my neck and centering the main round device over the my chest. No big deal. When checking the pacemaker’s performance they jump up the heart rate dramatically then phase it downward to the optimum level of efficiency. When they boost it up high you feel it and your diaphragm starts to bounce wildly and uncontrollably. I didn’t know I could dance hip hop, but I can. I think Philip, my cardiac tech guy, enjoys doing this. He tells me, you might feel a little something. “Jeeze…”
I thought it would be funny to tape a note on me chest for the doctor to see when he came in to do the examination. It read,
“WHEN CAN I HAVE SEX, LIKE WITH OTHER PEOPLE?”
I opened my shirt for him and he took a close look at my note and smiled.
“Well, with yourself, now. With other people six weeks.”
“I knew it. I knew she was lying.” I shouted.
“What do you mean?”
“My danged wife said three years!”
When we both calmed down he asked me how I was feeling.
“Before the surgery, you told me I would feel better and have more energy. It may be the power of suggestion, but I do feel better.
“That’s right.” He said.
“But doc, why couldn’t you have just told me I’d be better looking and I’d be smarter?” I asked.
“We don’t do that until you come back after three months.” Smiling, he didn’t miss a beat.
“Yeah, but what if I’m not?”
“You didn’t read all those consents you signed right before we gave you that sedative, did you smart guy?”
My doctor slapped my funny little note in my permanent medical record and pasted it down with tape – there for all time. Now, I couldn’t change cardiologists if I wanted to because they would see that note and think I am strange. I am strange, but I don’t want some goofy nurse to look at it one day and strongly suggest immediate psychiatric intervention.