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Can We Laugh About This?

Nov 30

Posted by: ACHA
11/30/2011 2:47 PM  RssIcon

By Clare Almand

As an avid TV and movie watcher, I often think of how I would apply my experiences with CHD to the cinematic arts. Instead of a two-hour film filled with tears, laughter, heartache and triumph, I’m leaning towards TV sitcom. While an hour-long drama seems more appropriate given the subject matter, my experiences usually lean toward the comedic side.

After getting a mechanical aortic valve and then a pacemaker in elementary school, I had a nine-year break from surgery. Initially, I was always afraid of getting sick and going back in the hospital. Every skipped beat and every beat that was too fast or too slow was magnified by my valve; I believed each one meant impending doom. But I was always told that I was fine. So eventually I accepted that I would have the occasional irregular beat and I was able to spend middle school and high school focused on important things like being popular and not getting fat.

When I awoke that fateful March day sophomore year of college to a heart rate that didn’t seem to increase when I was mobile, I didn’t think too much about it at first. I was late to class and while jogging up that hill to the quad, it was difficult to breathe and I felt like I had a weight on my chest. But when I sat down in my seat and took my two midterms that day, I felt fine.

I didn’t have time to think about my heart. I had to finish class, go back to my dorm and pack, because I was going to Cancun the next day for spring break! But I called my mom anyway just to let her know what was going on. She suggested I go to the ER. So I did. But first I got a manicure, pedicure and a bikini wax. Clearly, I had my priorities in order.

And yes, it was devastating to hear that my pacemaker was dead and working on reserve battery power and I would not being spending spring break in Cancun, but in a hospital. But now that a few years have passed, I think it’s pretty funny that I took two midterms (I got a 104 on one of them) and got all pampered for my trip with a dead pacemaker.

Several months later, I was just sitting in my apartment when I realized my heart rate was in the 140s. When nothing had changed fifteen minutes later, I had my roommate drop me off at the ER. She was so confused. She asked, “Do you want me to wait with you?” I told her, “No, it’s cool. This happens all the time.”

After a pacer check and some blood work, the cardiologist told me I had atrial fibrillation. A-fib being another condition that I had no idea was a possibility for me, I wanted to know why. He wasn’t my regular cardiologist and he only saw patients with acquired heart disease, so he said, “The main causes of a-fib are alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, diet pills and asthma medication.”

Without missing a beat, I replied, “Well, I’m on all of those.”

He didn’t even crack a smile. Come on!

Only focusing on all of the negative things in our lives can really get us down, so I try to find the funny, the unusual, and the ridiculous. When I tell those stories about getting a new pacemaker or finding out I had a-fib, it’s not just one more bad thing that happened to me. It’s “guess what I did before I went to the ER?” and “guess what I said to the cardiologist?” Because we should be able to laugh about our whole CHD situation as much as possible.

Clare Almand was born with Shone’s syndrome and has undergone a repair for coarctation of the aorta, multiple atrial septal defect and ventricular septal defect repairs, aortic valve replacement and an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator implantation. She has a B.A. in Media Arts and Design with a minor in Creative Writing from James Madison University. Clare pushes paper during the day and writes screenplays in her spare time. 

Tags: Clare Almand
Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

7 comment(s) so far...


Re: Can We Laugh About This?

Clare, we must be kindred spirits. I seem to think in the same way you do. So many funny stories about very serious events. We have to look on the humourous side, enjoy the absurdity.

By Denise on   11/30/2011 7:08 PM

Re: Can We Laugh About This?

I just Love you! Keep Blogging! I truly believe laughter is the best medicine - thank goodness you have such a great sense of humor.

By Trish on   11/30/2011 9:51 PM

Re: Can We Laugh About This?

Great story and a wonderful attitude.

By Joanna C, Kelley on   12/1/2011 12:08 AM

Re: Can We Laugh About This?

LOVE THIS!! Let's all get together and write a sitcom..." The Wierd and the Wired". I had an attack of ventricular tachycardia many years back that hit me while I was in the grocery store. I was bound and determined to get home and feed the cat before calling someone to take me to the ER.
I used to go to a teaching hospital...those poor med students..I think they drew straws to talk to me 'cause I would give wacky answers during the * neruo test* on purpose. " What year it it ? "..." um 1812 ? " 3 farm animals...." um...a a hippo...and elephant ! "

I was also the one who would disconnect a lead on my telemetry just to see if everyone at the nurse's station was awake !

By Michelle on   12/1/2011 12:16 AM

Re: Can We Laugh About This?

I can't believe that cardiologist didn't laugh out loud!!! Thanks for always finding the "humor" in each and every moment --- and sharing your experiences with a smile!

By Darby on   12/2/2011 12:28 PM

Re: Can We Laugh About This?

great story. so true that sometimes we have to do what we have to do prior to going to the hospital...

By joanne on   12/3/2011 5:18 PM

Re: Can We Laugh About This?

This is too funny. You have an amazingly upbeat and positive attitude. I too often joke about my condition with friends and colleges. A "botched boob job" is a great reason to explain a thoracotomy scar. It better to laugh and live then be consumed with fear and anger :)

By Jen on   12/5/2011 12:18 AM

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