Dangerous Compassions

matters of the heart, winning the diabetes lottery, old questions, really huge mangos

I didn’t know an echocardiogram is just an ultrasound of the heart.  The worker told me to take my clothes off my top half, put on this paper gown with the opening in front, and lie on this exam table with my feet this direction, my head that direction, lying on my left side.

“I’ll turn my back to you so you can undress,” she told me.  She was doing forms related to a previous ultrasound.

I’ve always thought it was weird how a doctor can see you naked and touch you in the most private of places, but for some reason, dressing and undressing is a sacred personal thing that they cannot witness.  What’s up with that.  Some illusion of dignity, I guess, but I don’t know why they chose that thing to pretend about.

So I took off my clothes and put on the paper gown which was of course way too small.  The exam table was so high I almost couldn’t get onto it.  I thought it was strange that she didn’t have a stepstool.  I’m of average height but have short legs.  Many people must have trouble. 

Somehow, I got myself onto the table, my legs going in the right direction, my head going the other direction, on my left side. 

There was no pillow.  I tried to be comfortable.  She had music playing on her phone.  The first song was in Spanish, but the next was in French.  Was that really French?  Yeah, that chewy sound is a French sound, as in “moi.” 

Then the Beatles song “Help” played.  How did that make sense?  I thought maybe that was her ringtone, not a song, because it seemed to play briefly then go back to another language.  That would make sense as a ringtone.

A few minutes before, when I was getting the EKG, the two nurse people putting the leads on my body were talking crap about this ultrasound lady.  So I was remembering that.  The things that seem small from the outside, but if that’s your job, everything is so magnified.

So I was lying there.  She put some goo on my chest, warning me that it was cold, and moved the ultrasound wand on my heart for a while, taking pictures of my heart.  Sometimes I heard my heartbeat whooshingly, for a few seconds, which made me nervous.  I willed it to be steady.  I tried to give love to my heart’s sound and give love to myself, uncomfortable on the exam table.

Then she asked me to take my left breast and move it so she could get her ultrasound wand under that breast.  She gave me confusing directions about which hand to use, and then she changed her mind and decided my original way was going to work fine.

Lying there, holding my breast, wondering how much longer, I felt like I deserved an award.   My arm got tired.  Ming was falling asleep and waking up over and over. 

Suddenly, we were done.  She handed me three paper towels to wipe the goo off my chest.  She said I could use my jacket also.  I was wondering why I would use my jacket.  Then I realized she meant the paper gown.

I struggled off the exam table and wiped myself, then used the gown to wipe myself more.  I like minimizing consumption of resources, but I didn’t like the feel of the rigid scratchy gown on my skin and wondered who made her the paper towel police.  And there was no trash can in the room to be seen, so Ming carried out the wadded up paper towels and gown.

Again she turned her back on me while I dressed.  Over all, it had been like a not very good dream.  She said it would take a week to ten days for the ultrasound to be read.  I wondered if they’re read by doctors in India. 

I had ultrasounds in the hospital.  The workers there kept telling me to hold my breath and then when I could breathe again.  They pressed the wand hard against places I was worried about.  I hoped they weren’t hurting me and wondered if they knew some intense stuff was happening in there.  The first ultrasound person messed it up, which was why they had to do it again. 

The first ultrasound, they sent someone with a mobile machine to me–they thought I was too sick to wheel to another floor?  How does that make sense.  All I had to do was lie there.  But by the time they did the second ultrasound, I must have been on the mend, since I was strong enough to be wheeled away. 

That’s when the transport person didn’t want my mom to come, and my nurse fought with her that my mom should be able to come, because when they did the endoscopy, they left me alone waiting, scared and bored, for more than an hour, so Mom didn’t want that happening to me again.  Mom is awesome, and that feisty nurse was awesome.

I have some shame about my heart.  That if I have heart problems, it’s because I’m fat, so I’m bad.  It doesn’t make sense because my dad wasn’t fat.  His clotting problem was a genetic thing, congenital, the fault of no one. 

But I’ve always had the feeling we had to watch out for my heart, that it will fail, and it’ll be my fault.  But then lots of thin people have heart issues.  The blame thing I can usually escape, but feelings don’t always make sense.

As Ming fell asleep and woke up over and over, I saw him try to look at the screen and see my heart.  I wondered if he could see my love for him in there.  Some healthy region of pink glow. 

I was glad the worker didn’t exclaim “Oh my God!” that she saw something really wrong.  An alien nestled in my left ventricle, or some parasite or some part missing.  “Do they train them not to exclaim?” I asked Ming afterward.  I always think it’s weird when techs can’t tell you what they saw, but doing it thousands of times, they must know things.

I woke up with a terrible leg cramp, yelling, and Ming heard me.  I thought it was morning, but it was only 9:30pm. 

Yesterday I was panicking in the morning for hours.  Got better.  Got happy after the endocrinologist told me I’m not diabetic–my hospital diagnosis was incorrect, based on hemoglobin, when I was almost dying from anemia, and even I know intuitively, you can’t trust a test based on hemoglobin if your hemoglobin is f-ed.

Then when they took my A1C again, a third of the blood in my body wasn’t mine.  So how could we trust that result either. 

The fructosamine test showed my blood sugar over time is not only ok, it’s great, the doctor told me.  I felt ecstatic, some health problem I don’t have, like I won the diabetes lottery.

Then Ming was out for hours in the afternoon, and I got very sad.  “Feelings are a bad idea,” I told Ming, when he came home.  “When God made feelings, that was not her best day.”  I was frustrated with emotional pain and it all seemed so stupid, how feelings are so real in the moment but can change so completely. 

Were they ever real?  What is a feeling?  Some chemicals that pass?  Do they really matter? 

I’ve been trying to figure all this out for a long time.  Imagine me in third or fourth grade, sitting in my desk wearing a dress, my hair in a braid, wondering what feelings are for and can I trust them. 

Not much has changed.  Well, my dresses are more comfortable now.  These questions have been bothering me for a long time.

Today Ming bought two really huge mangos.  I asked him to take a picture, but you couldn’t tell how huge they are.  “Oh, well.  You tried.  Thank you,” I told him. 

I guess that’s it, for now.  I hope you’re having a good sleep.  Gnight.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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