Some nights, I just can’t sleep. I’ll lay awake late, staring at the insides of my eyes, waiting to drift away. I’ll have taken an Ambien. I’ll have had a cup of Kava tea. I’ll have taken a Melatonin. And I’ll have laid there, awake. eyes closed. Extra aware of everything around and inside me. Nights like these may have saved my life.
“Sometimes, it just beats funny. Feel that?” I asked The Patient Girlfriend one sleepless night before she became The Patient Wife. She felt it. “Does this happen a lot?” She asked. I shrugged. “It kind of always has.”
“Uh, you should get that looked at. Promise me you will.”
I went to the doctor, who upon hearing me reference my heart murmur that I’ve had since I was young, smacked me on the back of my head and asked why I didn’t come in sooner. I really had no answer.
After 4 weeks of halter monitors (which don’t work on cell phones so you need to shuffle to the payphone at Kwik Trip at 2 AM when the alarm is going off), scary tests, CT scans, echocardiograms, and blood draws, it came back that I had several problems with my heart.
“You have a bicuspid aortic valvethat presents moderate regurgitation along with sinus arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation.” My eyes crossed. My imperfect heart pounded. I had no idea what that meant. Was it bad? Would it kill me? How long do I have?
Apparently, the valve in my aorta is supposed to have three little leaflets that fit together to keep blood from flowing back into my heart. My heart only has two, so the blood leaks back in and the valve is very weak. In addition, it skips beats and then makes up for it by beating extra. Then, sometimes, it’ll go INSANE and beat around 200-220 times in a minute. Then it quits and everything is normal.
One day, I’ll have surgery to get a new valve put in. They might go in through an artery in my groin, but they also might open my chest. I will be lying on a table, chest open like saloon doors, heart LITERALLY in someone else’s hands. It blows my mind. Sometimes, it’s too much to think about.
To be honest, I make an effort NOT to think about it. I watch my salt intake, I watch my diet, I exercise. I don’t grunt when I lift. Other than that, I don’t think about it. I don’t think about the lifetime of blood clot risks after my surgery. I don’t think about what would happen to my lovely Patient Wife if I died. I don’t think about it every time there’s a pain in my chest or a slight tingle in my left arm. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to move. It would be impossible to get out of bed and move because I would be FROZEN in fear.
Every day, I make a CHOICE to not be afraid. I make a CHOICE to ignore the fact that my valve could fail and I could die with little warning. I choose not to let the fear control me because if it did, I would be a shriveled nothing. If I let the fear in, I would do nothing that makes life worth living. I would simply waste away, which is an even worse fate.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if I can choke out this fear and choose to be where I am, so can you. Choose to be where you want to be. Choose to go and do in SPITE of your fear, and don’t let your fear choose for you. Because even if you’re afraid, it won’t change a damn thing.