The Heart Within
“At one point I had wires looped three times through your heart,” said interventional cardiologist Dr. Pratik Sandesara, to my husband the next day. I have secretly dubbed this man ‘Ariadne,’ the archetypal weaver from Greek mythology. The maze is the cardiovascular system. The Minotaur was the complete block in the artery. Theseus is the the wires and stents. – If you know your Greek mythology, yes, Ariadne is a female character, but without her Theseus would never have had a clue how get to the Minotaur let alone slay him, hence the honorific title.
Shortly after the success were some challenges, dropping blood pressure, clammy skin, three people taking 15 minute turns to apply pressure with their entire body weight to my husband’s femoral artery. They let me stay with him, holding onto his shoulder as they worked rapidly but calmly (unlike the drama of any TV hospital show) and with utterly seamless teamwork. There were lots of numbers and graphs, and finally the words “vasovagal response” were uttered instead of the words “heart attack,” and as my husband’s blood pressure reassuringly came up, mine went down a bit. We synced in the middle.
I’m beginning to believe that old debate of whether the soul resides in the brain or the heart is ridiculous. Between my husband’s reaction and my own spinal challenges, it feels like the branched vagus nerve is the connection to All. It is what connects our brains, hearts, and guts to everything we’d ever need to fight, flee, or freeze in order to survive. To calm it down and reassure us that our bodies are safe places to inhabit takes about as much convincing as does a traumatized toddler whose endless sobs seem never to subside.
People often tell me I do incredibly complicated things with tiny wires. What I do now seems low risk and on a macro scale. My biggest accomplishment of last week was not in metal or pigment; it was managing not to becoming Emory Midtown’s next emergency cardiac case of the day from the horrible stress of it all.
A mere four days later my husband and I sat across from each other over a plethora of heart-healthy sushi, and I marveled at the man across from me, the one who looked less like my tired and stressed out mate of late and more like the tall, handsome, smirking imp I’d met 15 years ago when a (now very smug) mutual friend was determined we should get together.
Along with my mental image of three looped wires through a heart, my brain flashes back to the before and after images that ‘Ariadne’ showed us on his phone. – You know a cardiologist is another kind of artist when he keeps images of his best work as portfolio images on his iPhone. – Whenever someone has talked about arteries, hearts, and plaque, I’ve tended to think of the ubiquitous red and blue medical diagrams that accompany any high school biology text book. There are literal chambers, empty, from which flow colored tubes as neat as a high flowing freeway interchange through a major U.S. city. What we saw on screen were incomprehensible layers of lines, dimly lit, dense, foggy, dark gray, and mysterious, not a cavernous pump at all, but The Maze, now without the Minotaur.
Best Valentine’s Day present ever.