They ARE out to get you!

“Paranoia strikes deep,” read the lyrics to the song For What its Worth. “Into your heart it will creep…” And goodness knows, I am a worrier. I probably worry too much, but when those eleven guys stand in a small circle on the football field, I just know they are talking about me!

You have to have one ear tuned to your body, ready to detect any subtle change. When I walked this morning, I had a rough time: I was puffing and wheezing 10 minutes into a planned 40 minute walk, bad enough that I had to call it off. I’m pretty certain that it’s nothing – I usually have a Kool-Aid type drink in the refrigerator that i drink along with breakfast, but I was out and forgot to make a fresh batch last night. So I had a muffin and a grape soda. Carbonation + stomach + exercise = Steve is not a happy camper! It’s happened before. But with a heart defect, you never assume anything. So I’ve been sensitive to weird beats and unusual pains all day. So far, nothing, so it is looking more and more like the soda.

I hurt my right index finger in Baltimore; it’s swollen a little and bruised. That was the stupidest thing — you know the little curved piece of metal on a hotel door that is part of the privacy loop? I put my hand there when I was pushing the door open and it tried to “bite” my finger off! I thought for a bit that it was broken, but it’s not. (I learned this trick when I kept statistics for the football team in college: To determine of a finger, wrist, toe or ankle is broken, fill a container with the coldest water available. Add ice if possible, and give it a few moments to chill. Then plunge the hand or foot into the water.  If you have the “That’s cold!” reaction, it’s fine. But if that body part hurts – and I mean really, really hurts – then it is most likely broken.)

There are always little aches and pains, but folks who have had surgery seem to have more of them. It’s not normal to have your body sliced into! So we have to learn what’s “normal” (normal for us, that is) and what is a cause for alarm. I had just graduated high school and was hanging out with a few friends at a Captain D’s restaurant, and right in the middle of the meal my heart started racing. That’s not normal, not by a long shot, so I let my friend know I was having a problem and he got me home. (I have a hand signal that only a few trusted friends know; if I ever flash that sign it quietly tells them “I need help.”) To make a long story short, it turned out that I was drinking too many sodas and I needed to cut back on the caffeine. But for all I knew, it could have turned into a Fibrillation, and that’s trouble. (“Gotcha!” The reader says. “You said that you had to cut back on the caffeine, but earlier you said you drank a grape soda at breakfast! Bad boy!” True, but Grapette Soda has no caffeine!)

As always, it’s a balancing act. Live life and do your thing… BUT stayed tuned to your body. If it is sending you a warning signal, pay attention!

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