We can't think in detail about our own demise.... It's a survival mechanism: quit worrying about dying and get on with living. Like most adults with the mind of a juvenile, I've always figured the game is rigged in my favor - in short, I'm immortal.
A couple of weeks ago, I started getting dizzy. I mean really, really dizzy. As in, you're six years old, just ate five chili dogs and rode the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair ten times. That kind of dizzy.
Now, I've had this before, and I just figured I had an inner ear infection. A round of antibiotics would perk me right up, so I went to the Urgent Care. My least favorite Nurse Practitioner, we'll call her Nurse Sourpuss, was on duty. She doesn't like me and I don't like her - mainly because I wouldn't get blood work when she asked for it years ago. I don't like needles, she doesn't like sniveling man-children.
Nurse Sourpuss looked in my ears and then grumbled, "They're fine."
Then she listened to my heart, "You need an EKG."
What is it with Sourpuss and tests? I wondered. But, I agreed to it because there's no needle involved. There is sticky tape that hurts when they rip out your over-abundance of chest hair, but I'm only needle-phobic.
The EKG technician came in and wired me up. He was cheerful, talking about this and that. Then he ran the test.
So, let me clue you in on something. I have Asperger's Syndrome, which means I have a hard time interacting with people in a social setting. Over the years, I've learned to talk to normal people, trained myself to read visual cues in their facial expressions and actions. It's sort of like learning a foreign language.
The technician was reading the EKG chart, and he went silent. He quickly left the room. A few minutes later, he came back and ran it again. He read the new chart. Then he started dropping stuff, ripped the tape off in a hurry, managed to tangle the leads trying to get them back on the EKG cart. He beat a hasty retreat out of the room.
You didn't have to be a mind reader to know something was amiss.
Nurse Sourpuss came back in, only now she wasn't sour. She was smiling, and not her normal velociraptor smile either. Sometime in the last ten minutes, Nurse Sourpuss had found her bedside manner.
Oh, crap, I thought. This ain't good, Bubba.
"I was afraid we might have a coronary issue, and it turns out we do. I'm getting you in to see a cardiologist immediately - either that or you can go directly to the hospital, your choice."
"Uh, so this is serious?"
Whoa. Those are two of the heaviest words someone can drop on you: life threatening. The imaginative part of my brain kicked into overdrive: death, funeral, will they play AC/DC on bagpipes like I've always wanted? Then the switch got flipped and I'm hearing Tommy Chong's voice, "Hey, man, she like didn't get the memo, man. We're immortal, man."
"Shut up, Tommy, this is important. It's life threatening."
Turns out I have something called Atrial Fibrillation. Without being too technical, the bottom two chambers of my heart are beating normally, while the top two chambers are beating like a frightened rabbit on crank. I didn't feel it till it got so bad it started affecting my balance. The problem is this can cause a blood clot, which in turn causes a stroke.
Now, I always figured it would be my weight that did me in, and it certainly isn't helping matters, but it turns out this is inherited. My aunt has the same thing, and she runs about two miles a day.
Lots of things can trigger an episode of AFIB. For me, it was Valentine's Day chocolate - I put away a large Hershey bar for breakfast one morning, then had two more before lunch. Caffeine can do it as well.
Alcohol can also trigger it, which made me remember the last time I had a dizzy spell. It was the morning after I put away a double martini in Long Island.
I'm getting better through medication. I now abstain from caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate. I even went for blood work. They got a thimble full of blood out of me before I passed out, and I call that progress.
Turns out I'm not immortal. I have an expiration date, but through modern medicine it may be extended a bit. Please, somebody remember AC/DC on bagpipes. I don't ask for much, just a little Back in Black and Dirty Deeds with a highland flair.
And, if worse comes to worse, I've told my wife to have my head cryogenically frozen. A thousand years from now, they'll thaw me out and put my head on a robot. It's gonna be cool, man.