Of late, I have been ruminating on the nature of the human heart. More about the reason in a minute. One of the things I think about is the way in which humans are generally binary—most of us are born with two of everything: two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, two lungs, two kidneys, etc. When we get to some parts of us, we are born with one—one brain, one heart, one liver. These one of a kind parts of our bodies are, understandably, mostly indispensable.
For centuries, humans thought of the heart as the center of human life—kind of a brain, seat of wisdom and knowledge and moral judgment, as well as of all life. Understandably, when you consider how indispensable the heart is. Oh, I know other organs are indispensable—your brain, for example. But there is something about how we view the heart that is just...well...different.
So, why this rumination? Well, as I have previously written, I had experienced over the past several years bouts of atrial fibrillation. That essentially occurs when the heart begins to put out conflicting signals as to when to beat. The heart functions on its own electrical system—the S-A node setting the pace, and the A-V node bridging the atria and the ventricles. In atrial fibrillation, another area sends out a rogue signal to beat, somewhere in the atrium, so the atrium beats, and then the S-A node sends out its signal, so the heart beats again. Chaos—yup, that’s what it is. A good description of what it feels like is a fish out of water flopping around on the deck.
And that’s what I have experienced. The immediate correction is to shock the heart back into regular rhythm—which I have had done several times. The first time the “cure” lasted for a year and a half. Then the interval shortened to a year, then less, and finally to several weeks. So it was time to consider another option, if there were one.
Well, TA DA, there was one. It’s called cardiac ablation. I’ll let you go here to see what that entails. It is not a simple procedure. The doctor advised my husband and me it could take 4 to 5 hours. Mine took a bit over 6 hours—so, I am told. I don’t recall any of that, of course.
Before I went into the hospital, I told very few people. No need to parade my medical history around and share it with the world. Naturally, my husband knew, and our children with their spouses. My father, and siblings knew. Also a handful of friends. That was it—no posting on Facebook or any such public place.
The day before I went into the hospital, one friend called and asked if I was nervous. Well, I pondered a bit—and said, no, not really. Then my dad asked how serious the procedure was—could it result in death? Well, the answer is it could—rarely does, though. But, the same can be said about getting in a car and driving down the highway.
Did I think about death? Naturally. I think about death from time to time. I am not immortal. The bargain of life is we are born, and we die. I also like the opening words from my denomination’s Brief Statement of Faith: “In life and in death we belong to God.”
So, while I think about death, it holds no fear for me. In fact, I have mused that dying during surgery would be an “easy” death compared to what some people go through. It is for the living that death is hard.
Oh, please don’t think me morbid—this blog is, after all, about “matters of the heart”—both in the sense of what our hearts mean to us as living biologic creatures, and also what our hearts mean to us in those that we love.
Perhaps a brief poem by X. J. Kennedy (whose birthday is today, August 21, as I write this) speaks words I would say--
“In Faith of Rising”
When all my dust lies strewn
Over the roundbrinked ramparts of the world
I can be gathered , sinew and bone
Out of the past hurled
Delaylessly as I
Flick thoughts back that replace
Lash by dropped lid, lid to eye
Eye to disbanded face.
No task to His strength, for He
Is my Head—Him I trust
To stray the presence of His mind to me
Then cast down again
Or recollect my dust.
And then these words, from Sir Walter Raleigh, who penned them the night before his execution.
Even such is time, that takes on trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
My God shall raise me up, I trust!
In matters of the heart, I trust.