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Laughter is the Best Medicine

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

By Alissa Butterfass

My high school yearbook quote was, “Love makes the world go `round but laughter keeps us from getting dizzy.” I’ve watched Saturday Night Live since I was five years old, somehow convincing my babysitters that I was allowed to stay up late for it. I worked at Comedy Central for three years. Suffice it to say, I love to laugh and to find the humor in any situation. In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few funny moments in my CHD history.

Tune in Tomorrow for Another Episode of “As Alissa’s Heart Beats”

In January 1989, an episode of SVT (supraventricular tachycardia, or a really fast heart rate) caused me to faint at a friend’s sweet sixteen party. My aunt (a General Hospital addict) and uncle, who lived nearby, rushed me to the ER, where my parents met us. As I lay on the table in the ER with the doctors using the paddles to shock my heart rate back into normal rhythm, I turned to my mom and said, “Go get Aunt Rita. Tell her to forget General Hospital. This is the real thing!”

What’s Your Number?

The hospital I was taken to that January was around the corner from my high school, where I was a junior. The usual policy that only seniors were allowed off-campus during the school day was relaxed to let anyone visit me. Mind you, I was hooked up to a heart monitor that displayed my heart rate for all to see. Suddenly the new favorite game was to see who could get Alissa’s heart to race the fastest.

It was mortifying.

Whether I was excited to see a friend or nervous about talking to the rabbi who taught my Talmud class (I went to Jewish Day School), the numbers jumped and everyone knew exactly what physical reaction they had caused. My favorite episode was when one of the boys from my bus walked into my room and before he even said hello to me, looked at the monitor and exclaimed, “215 – not bad for a sophomore!”

(OK, I admit, I don’t remember the exact number but I definitely remember the exact swagger with which he delivered the line!)

Leaving My Professor (Not Quite) Speechless

I was a first year MBA student, and my Intro to Operations class was discussing a case study about quality improvement at Massachusetts General Hospital. I am sure in his years of teaching Professor U. had always started this particular session the same way: “Have any of you ever had CABG heart bypass surgery?” With no hands raised he went to his next question, likely with expectations of a similar (lack of) response: “Have any of you ever had open heart surgery?”

I raised my hand.

Everyone turned to me in surprise. I explained that I was born with a heart defect and had undergone one open heart surgery when I was 8 days old and another when I was 2 years old. Professor U. paused, clearly taken aback and searching for an appropriate response, and finally replied “Bummer.”

Make us laugh: please share your own funny stories!


Add yours below.


The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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