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Since I’ve been old enough to remember, I’ve eagerly anticipated the last three months of the year. For me, the holiday spirit with its accompanying electric thrill arrives mid-October and terminates with the cold, harsh bleakness of January. Autumn leaves, football, warm crackling fireplaces, blustery breezes, teasing snow flakes…what’s not to like? I even enjoy raking leaves and shoveling snow.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday in the midst of my favorite season. I remember with fondness past years of family warmth, great food, and togetherness. Even present day with those departed and the remainder in-the-quick scattered to the four corners of the country, Thanksgiving remains first in my heart.
The family dynamic has changed greatly during my lifetime. My generation was the first where the masses became college-educated. The downside was the necessity to chase work resulting in destruction of tight geographical bunching of clans. And “work” has become a global pursuit. We have not had a family holiday for years due mainly to a natural drifting apart. My cousins have children that I don’t even know their names or where they live. Such is the reality of today’s world.
Early December was once an annual excuse to spend a long weekend in midtown Manhattan dancing and dining at the Rainbow Room attired in black tie, and attending Radio City Music Hall to watch the Rockettes headline the annual Christmas Spectacular. I heartily recommend the New York holiday experience as an item on your personal bucket list. Although the Rainbow Room is no longer available, there is still plenty of holiday fun to be had. Check out the Carnegie Deli on 7th at 55th or the Stage Deli one block south. Maybe we’ll make a retro trip this year. London is another great holiday season destination. Maybe next year…
I am by nature a cockeyed optimist grateful for a wonderful family (past and present), good friends, a great career, unique worldwide experiences, and (mainly) excellent health. Like Jack London, I believe we should live with gusto and not merely to exist. The candle should be burned at both ends, and maybe even in the middle, rather than placed unlit in a closet to be devoured by rats.
On November 7, 2013, www.amazines.com published my essay entitled, So This Is How It Ends. The article described my reaction to the arrival of unwelcome chest pain. I suggested that because of my hearty lifestyle such a frightening malady was undeserved IMHO. (Thought I’d throw in some leet-speak for you texters.) In my stunned state of mind, I was in denial that such a fate could befall me. I also logically realized the source of the discomfort should be diagnosed by a professional, but a la Satchel Paige, didn’t want to know for fear something bad would be discovered.
And so with anxiety and trepidation I allowed my wife to talk me into getting checked.
It was in the third straight day of the episode when I entered the emergency room of a hospital that specializes in diagnosing and treating heart problems. Here’s how a clever guy like me figured that out: The words on the outside said, Heart Center.
First I had to answer a battery of the usual questions: Ever experience cheat pains before? (No.) Does heart disease run in your family? (No.) Have you had shortness of breath? (No.) Nausea? (No.) The sweats? (No.) Are you a smoker? (No.) Do you take baby aspirin? (On-and-off.) Drug user? (Nope.) Do you drink? (With pleasure.) What prescription meds do you take? (None.) How they hanging? (They didn’t really ask that.) More questions probed into my diet and lifestyle, which are both extremely healthy, and on and on… Then upon looking at my footwear (Vibram’s “toe shoes”) they launched into more questions, e.g.: Are those comfortable? (Yes.) How long have you worn them? (Six or seven years.) Do you like them? (I must; I have three pair.) Where can one get them? (On-line if you can’t find an outlet.)
Next a nurse slapped 12 adhesive nipples all over my upper body so wire leads could be attached. I requested one for each side of my neck a la Frankenstein’s Monster, but they ignored me. I thought it would be a cool look. Another nurse stuck me in the left arm so blood could be drawn to check my body chemistry. A machine was wheeled-up that I feared was a lie detector, and with my wife nearby, I wanted no part of that. A technician assured me it was for checking ECG and monitoring my vital signs.
After I was hooked-up it occurred to me that I had to take a leak. Nice timing. It was mind over bladder for awhile, but eventually I had to be unplugged. I hustled to the nearest facility squirming and dancing like a little kid that waited too long, and encountered an unpleasant surprise. A previous occupant had whizzed all over the floor, and even on the seat. Pardon me, but gross! I had to step carefully and stand awkwardly to complete the transaction. It wasn’t easy. Upon emerging, I told everyone within earshot about the restroom mess mainly because I didn’t want to be blamed.
After my connections were reattached, they got the required read-outs for ECG, and left some wiring in place to continue monitoring. The machine had an alarm that sounded every several minutes until a technician came by and made some kind of adjustment. He explained that many heart victims have racing hearts, and that the normal rate for a male was 60 to 70 beats per minutes. My machine was set so that below 45 bpm the alarm would sound. Since my normal rate at rest is below 40 bpm, every time the machine sampled it sounded the warning.
“Are you a runner?” the techie asked after observing my numbers were consistently between 37 and 39 bpm.
“Yup. Run, bike, swim, and weight train,” I answered, “For most of my life.”
I was also subjected to the, “You’re in GREAT shape for-your-age,” backhanded compliment. The statement was annoying because I prefer to believe I’m in great shape for any age, which I will prove from their data before this essay is concluded. However, I got the point—I look “seasoned” although I do not enjoy being reminded.
I patiently replied with a forlorn sigh, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”
Later I explained to the physician that the pain subsided when I exercised, but returned intermittently when I was at rest. That stumped him, which did nothing to give me comfort. Two people in life who I do not want confused are an attending physician and the pilot of any airplane of which I am a passenger. He asked me the usual describe-the-pain-from-one-to-ten query. I replied that being a big sissy my pain was either zero or ten, but that this was a “one”; more discomfort than pain. Uh-oh, I saw more confusion in his look. He had that befuddled Peter Griffin countenance.
My chest was x-rayed, after which I received a throat numbing cocktail to drink. The latter also influenced my tongue tho I taut libe bith. It also made it difficult to swallow, which doesn’t seem like a big deal until you realize that every so often humans are required by involuntary reflex to do so. Passersby upon hearing me speak gave me a glance of benevolent understanding like I was “special”.
In all I spent four hours in the ER while being tested and diagnosed. The staff was extremely thorough and checked 32 items (“labs”) for body chemistry, x-rayed my chest, and performed a full EKG/ECG diagnostic. The results are as follows: 1) I have the heart of a 20-year-old; 2) My “labs” are unusually outstanding, most in mid-range of the tolerances, and one (liver) not even registering for alcohol; and I enjoy cocktails.
They want to experiment on me further to discover why I’m so exceptional (physically). I’ll return next week so they can administer stress testing. I would blow them off, but it’s simply another workout to me, and (truthfully) I’m curious about the results. I’d be exercising anyway.
Bottom line: Neither the medical staff nor I know the cause of the chest discomfort. The feeling no longer causes me any great worry; it’s just that the sensation is not normal. That bugs me because I’m a cause-and-effect kind of guy. What is the freaking root cause??? I also have swimmer’s ear (left side), a temporary malady that causes intermittent ringing of which. I’m only aware when I think about it. Same deal with the chest “pain”.
Nevertheless I am very thankful for the knowledge of what’s NOT the cause. Given my fear of the trip to the heart center, I can’t think of a better gift for the holidays—and just in time for Thanksgiving.
Copyright by Gene Myers, author of AFTER HOURS: ADVENTURES OF AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN (2009), Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY – a hilarious account of the author’s overseas travels; and SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE (2010), PublishAmerica, Fredericksburg, MD - a mildly sinister, but amusing work of fiction. Both are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and available in Amazon Kindle and Nook formats. Watch for SALT HIS TAIL, a catch-me-if-you can crime thriller.
To read any and all future articles by Gene Myers go to: GGOGLE BLOG SEARCH and enter genescoolgems
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holiday spirit, Manhattan, Carnegie Deli, Jack London, chest pain, emergency room, ECG/EKG,