Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now, Baby

This will be posted the day after election day, but I am writing this before the votes have been counted. I have tried to be active in the election. I have voted, but I have also spent election day doing voter protection work. I am concerned about the results, but a personal matter is weighing on me. Today, November 4, I am off to the hospital.

I was getting short of breath. This was hardly surprising. I am old. (I prefer the tautology, “I am not as young as I once was.”) I am overweight. (I prefer, “I am not as thin as I ought to be.”) I am not as active as I pretend to myself. (I know that the seventeen steps—yes, I have counted them—from my bed to the toilet, no matter how urgently traversed three or four times during the night, does not count as aerobic exercise.)

However, this seemed more than the usual shortness of breath. (I had told the elegant Elspeth that it was no surprise I had been more out of breath recently because I had been around her more often. Instead of the flirtation I had hoped for—a brief, indulgent flirtation is the most I can hope for these days—she merely looked down and fiddled with her phone.) On the fourth doctor’s visit—three in person and one by teleconference via Skype after I failed to link up three other ways—my cardiologist (you are of a certain age and condition when you refer to your personal cardiologist) diagnosed a heart flutter. (I told the beautiful Beulah that it was no wonder that my heart was fluttering because I was running into her more often. She did not even look up from her phone.)

The doctor, trying to be reassuring, said this was “repairable,” as if I should be pleased to be lumped in with a slowly leaking tire or a mishung picture. He talked about medicines. A new one or two to take and increased doses of one already part of the regimen. (He tells me that I cannot count taking a slew of pills as aerobic exercise. Perhaps I need a new doctor.) And then I heard him say that he would send me to someone else in a few weeks who would “shock the heart.” Say what?! He said this close to Halloween, but he was not speaking metaphorically. A ghoul dripping fake blood would not leap out from behind a curtain with a curdling scream. Oh no, he was being literal. He said that something more modern is now used, but it is akin to the old doctor or Frankenstein movies where paddles are placed on the chest, someone yells, “Clear!” the body is zapped and jerks about, and everyone waits expectantly to see if the heart beats on its own. Except in my case, the heart is already beating, just “fluttering,” and the goal is to reset the heart rate to its more usual 64 beats per minute instead of its present elevated state. I have rebooted a computer and a cable box many times. Now the goal is for the medical team to reboot my heart. That is today.

I am assured that I will be in a “deep sleep” for the procedure, but when (if?) I wake with its successful completion, I plan to tap dance and sing “Putting on the Ritz.” Maybe I will finally be able to carry a tune as well as Peter Boyle.