We don’t have a shelf life


About a year ago my heart started having arrhythmia episodes that increased until they were going on for hours at a time every day.    Scary.   So I went to a GP.    Who laughed at me, mocked me for my fears.    When I said this is serious to me he replied “so is a pimple on a woman’s face”.   Well that was a waste of money.

I borrowed money to go to a specialist.   Got the most extraordinary run-around which ended up in the specialist calling me aggressive, saying I didn’t know how difficult his life was – and throwing me out!  And I paid him.   Bad move, Jennifer.

Didn’t have any resources left, so off I trotted to the State hospital where Christian Baarnard did the first successful heart transplant.  Also the place my father died.  The heart clinic is run by a Prof who overlooks trainee doctors.  The first guy I saw said it’s just arrhythmia, no big problem, happens to lots of people.  Prescribed accordingly.  Prof overrode his prescriptions, but still said nothing major, no need to worry.

As luck would have it, the sonar guy was wheeling his machine past me as everyone was going home, and I nabbed him.  He hooked me up and said the same thing “everything looks fine”.  Then suddenly he went quiet.  Uh-oh.  Prolapsed valve.

So, one GP, a cardio specialist, a newbie and a Prof all got it wrong.   Kind of scary, huh?  Prolapsed valve + arrhythmia = stroke candidate!  Oh whoopee.   However, Prof said it’s a minor prolapse, and all I have to do is take aspirin and beta blockers.  Ok.  Nothing major at all.  Relax Jennifer.   The next two visits are pretty routine, except that I have doctors who haven’t a clue.   Both times I hung around to nab the Prof, and both times he said they over-prescribed.

These last two months the beta blocker I’m taking isn’t controlling my heart any more.   That indicates to me a progression of some sort.   Kind of logical, I’d say.   I’m getting shortness of breath and a burning sensation in my chest.   Vertigo and sometimes a pain between my shoulder blades.   I try to reassure myself that these are individual things, and that though they can be symptoms of an impending stroke or heart attack, in my case it’s just stress and panic.   But isn’t stress the number one killer of your heart?   Better not go down that road.

Singularly difficult to calm myself down, but I more or less succeed and off I trot yesterday for my State hospital consultation.  Wondering whether it was even worth it to say what I was experiencing.   I sat in the corridor trying to decide which of the newbie doctors looked as if they knew what they were doing.   Then I realized how frantically I was trying to control my world, so I let go.   I said “I don’t know, I give up.   Just give me somebody who knows what they’re doing.”   Not quite sure who I was talking to.

A young black guy walked up to where the files were laid out.  “Jennifer Stewart?”  I looked up.  Bingo!  I got my man.  He had such a beautiful nature.  Very alive sense of humour combined with startling capacity for compassion.  A man for whom things were going right.   I basked in the light, warmth and success of his being.  This is what it looks like, this is what it feels like.  He said it’s hard for a doctor to figure out something after the fact, and that next time I have symptoms I must get to a doctor straightaway.

Well that opened the floodgates.    He stopped in his tracks.   He spoke to me about not losing faith.   He said “you can’t be positive all the time.   I know.   I’ve had bad times myself.   When you’re down, you have to be angry, scared, sorry for yourself, it’s not good to repress those things.   But come back to your faith, don’t lose it.   You don’t have a shelf life.   You will get through this”.

Whoo boy.

Well, there must be a solution.    Last night double the dose of beta blockers didn’t control my heart.   On the one hand the doc says this is progressive, and I need to control the arrhythmia otherwise I’m in danger of a stroke.   Yet when I say the medication that controlled everything 4 months ago isn’t controlling everything now, they give me no explanation for the burning sensation in my chest or shortness of breath or vertigo – don’t even discuss them with me – and then say you can come back in a year.

I feel sometimes as if I’m speaking to a brick wall.

Well I may be a lunatic but I’m not a complete fruitcake, I’m not making the symptoms up.    If they’re not telling me something about my heart, they’re telling me something about something – most likely about emotional needs.   I guess clarity will come.

But that beautiful young doctor was right about one thing.    You can’t lose your faith.

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