When we are born we have to figure out important things like how to breathe, eat and go to the bathroom. As we get older we try to figure out our strengths and weaknesses and how we might deploy our strengths to achieve some sort of success in life. Then, just when we think we might finally have figured out the art of growing up, we find out that feeling good about ourselves has a lot to do with how healthy we are. We usually get that message along with the first chest pains.
This scared the hell out of me. My doctor said he didn’t know what was wrong with me? Even worse was his comment about me being in my late years. Didn’t he realize people lived well past 80 now and I was only 65? Okay, math is not my strongest suit but I still didn’t like the comment.
I was then ushered into an examination room where a very pleasant and efficient woman asked me to take off my shirt so she could attach a dozen or so electrodes to my body. The female technician took one look at me and said she would have to shave my chest so the electrodes would stick. Body hair is a consequence of coming from Italian stock and, is considered a sign of virility by some women. Except, when she had finished with me, I would be going into the summer season with more hair on my back than on my chest.
When she finished shaving little holes in my chest hair she then took out a tube of something she said would feel like liquid sand paper. As she administered the abrasive gel she told me a story of how, when she was a student, her teacher told her to rub until she saw blood. She smiled as she told that story and seemed to expect me to find it just as amusing but I was too busy grimacing. When she had finished sand blasting me she cleaned off what was left of the goop with alcohol, warning me that it might sting a bit. ‘Might?’ Why do they even bother to say ‘might’? When she was finished my chest was a mass of red polka dots so inflamed they would glow in the dark. She then attached some sticky circular pads to the places where she had shaved, sand blasted and cauterized me. They were not particularly uncomfortable by themselves but I knew my future would have something to do with them being torn off. With this in mind I realized the shaving and sand blasting were the good old days.
They started me on the treadmill slowly. In fact, it was too slow because all my real life I had walked at a fast pace. I assumed I was just a bit too healthy for the machine. After a few minutes she told me she would speed up the machine. She did and I found myself walking at a fairly brisk pace but not fast enough to make me breathe harder than I normally do. A few minutes later the speed was increased again and I found myself breathing a bit harder with some sweat breaking out on my forehead. After a few minutes they speeded the machine up again and this time I had to hold onto the hand rails in fear that if I let go I would be catapulted to the far end of the room.
Apparently this still wasn’t fast enough because they speeded the treadmill up again and again until I found myself running at an all-out sprint, wondering if their idea of a stress test was to see how much it took to make my heart explode in my chest.
As I lay there panting I watched my beating heart on the display screen telling the doctor and technicians the story of how unhealthy my heart really was.
The doctor said I had the heart of a teenager.
For a couple of seconds I wanted to argue with him, but then, all I could do was smile and asked if he could do the same for my face.
Throughout life one has the opportunity to travel down many roads. The other day I just traveled down one I hope not to see for many years to come.