Heart Beat

I’ve always been a poster child for the Peter Pan complex. In fact, I wore out an LP of the Mary Martin score when I was a kid. I’ve always looked younger than my age (I’m 52, regularly guessed as early 40’s). I’ve sported a lifelong love of comic books, and my wife will be the first to tell you that the duty of watching Clone Wars and Batman cartoons with my 9yo is one that I readily accept, and probably would if we were childless, all the same.

So it was a blow to my sense of immortality when I was rushed to the hospital on the possibility that I’d had a heart attack Monday night. The actual diagnosis, as I suspected, was heartburn. Really bad heartburn, that had me doubled over for close to five minutes, throat constricted in a way that made it a little difficult to breathe. My wife called 911; the EMTs insisted that I get it checked out. Probably the worst part of it was seeing my boy on the front stoop watching them wheel me away on a stretcher.

So, between Monday night and this morning, when I went for (and passed) a full stress test, I’ve had five doctors tell me that the concern was well-justified and it was worth the disruption, discomfort and expense of treating a case of heartburn as if it were cardiac arrest. My take on it is this: my grandfather died of a heart attack at age 45. His daughter, my Mom, has had chronic heart trouble throughout her 70’s. For me, it’s not a question of if I’ll have heart problems; it’s one of when. I really hope that the when is, at a minimum, two decades away, preferably three. I eat well, don’t smoke, am generally healthy.

Ironically, the guitarist for one of my favorite bands actually had a heart attack Monday night and passed away yesterday at 53. Other people might consider all of this some kind of wake-up call. I guess I’m too pragmatic for all of that — I’ll consider it incentive to work more exercise into my routine, but I’ll stop short of writing a bucket list or finding religion. All the same, it’s sobering. I’ve got a lot of things that I still want to do before I go, like raise my son to adulthood and write that book I’ve always dreamed of writing. Here’s hopin’.

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