Really, it's a little ungrateful. Even though the brain is doing most of the heavy lifting for the body, the heart gets the credit. The Egyptians believed the soul resides in the heart. So did Aristotle. After all, the heart is an exciting organ. Anyone who has ever seen one of those gruesome surgery shows know that the heart is the most vital of the vital organs, pumping and beating and flip-flopping like a fish. There will never be a song called "Total Eclipse of the Brain." The brain is the most undramatic of organs, a quivering mass of greyish pink goo, more like jello than a little engine. Everyone has experienced sensations of the heart, a rapid heart beat at the end of a hard work out, the rushing, swooping feeling of a heart in love. The only sensation most people get from their brain is a headache.
So what gives, heart? Everyone loves you, yet you're so quick to disappoint so many of us.
The first time I noticed something had gone wrong was while I was sitting in one of my favorite Chinese restaurants with my boyfriend James, waiting for our order. I started to feel...off. Suddenly, it all came on at once, a dip and then a rush to my head. For a split second I had time to contemplate what would happen if I passed out right there in the restaurant; how everyone would come running, how they'd offer to call an ambulance, how I'd sit up and say, "oh no, I'm fine. Just got a little lightheaded there." I didn't pass out. Instead, I was left feeling flushed and nauseated, so I excused myself to get some fresh air, severely alarming James in the process. When I returned from my short walk to the car and back, I sat and watched James finish his meal, feeling slightly guilty for having ruined what was to be a perfectly nice meal. (I had previously ruined a nice meal a few weeks earlier by spectacularly vomiting in a parking lot.) Something was off, I wasn't sure what, but the walking had made me feel better, whereas sitting was making me slightly queasy, so we drove home silently and then took a walk through the neighborhood. It was a pleasant evening, and we laid on our backs in the park, watching the birds go by. We briefly contemplated what caused some exhaust trails from airplanes to disappear almost immediately, while others stuck around for longer. Verdict: we still have no idea. A dog owner threw a ball near us, not realizing we were there, and we almost got wiped out by a golden retriever. All was well and we returned to my apartment.
At home, I puked up all the food I hadn't eaten. By midnight, my heart was racing again and would not quit. Even though I was laying in bed, I felt like I had just run a marathon. I made James feel my heart over and over, silently hoping that he would say, "No, you're crazy. Your heart feels perfectly normal." But he didn't and it wasn't, so I made the difficult decision to go to the emergency room. In the waiting room I whispered "I love you" to James, partially out of the morbid fear that if I didn't say it right then, I wouldn't get to say it ever. It was the first time I'd said the words out loud, but the fear of something being catastrophically wrong with me outweighed the fears of saying the "big three" words. He told me he loved me too, but we later essentially pretended these initial "i love you"s had never been said and had our own first "I love you"s later on, when not spoken under duress. Funny but true: the thing that made me realize I loved him simply because I did rather than because I was scared was seeing him win my little sister from Big Brothers/Big Sisters a giant stuffed pig at Worlds of Fun and then proceeding to cart it all the hell over the park.
But I digress. It is impossible to convey how boring it actually is to be run through tests for your heart without actually boring you in the process, so I won't try. Just trust me; it wasn't half as exciting as it could have been. There were definitely no George Clooneys running around throwing out awesome medical terminology. I had blood work done, was given some fluids, and an EKG was taken. Meanwhile, I was hooked up to a heart monitor and blood oxygen monitor, which was actually the most stressful part of the whole experience-watching my heart rate yo-yo up and down and wondering if a heart rate over 100 meant that the nurses were going to rush in and shock me into oblivion with those paddles. (I am exaggerating. A little.) My EKG was "normal." Normal, the glorious medical opposite of "abnormal." As for my blood test, my thyroid levels were normal and some other stuff was normal too, I forget exactly what because I was reveling in the glory of "normal." My potassium levels were a little low, but apparently not low enough to cause heart palpitations. "Eat a banana," the doctor told me. Other than that, the diagnosis was *shrug* and follow up with your primary care doctor.
So James and I went home at something like 3 a.m., tired and defeated. I would like, right now, to point out how great and supportive James was and continues to be, through all this nonsense. A lesser man would have definitely been headed for the hills by now. In the morning I did the only logical thing I could do: called in a half sick day at work to catch up on sleep, bought and ate two bananas, and found a primary care doctor through my insurance to set up an appointment.
In my boundless optimism, I expected the doctor to blame the palpitations on stress and some of the intestinal issues I'd recently been having. He did. Turns out he was (probably) wrong - what exactly is causing my problems is still unclear, but most likely resides in my heart itself. My disfunctional, ungrateful heart.
TO BE CONTINUED