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Their Behavior Is Not Hole-Hearted

, , | Healthy | December 7, 2017

(I’m a young woman who was born with an innocent heart murmur that gets checked every few years; arrhythmia and mitral valve prolapse. I have recently suffered some strong heart palpitations that lasted an hour and left me exhausted and terrified that something’s wrong. After spending the night at the hospital, and the X-ray, EKG, and echo tests showing nothing new, I’m sent to a cardiologist for a stress test. After being stuck with enough wires that I look like a cyborg and 20 hellish “Now a little bit faster” minutes on the treadmill, I float light-headedly over to the exam table and lie down while they check the scans.)

Nurse #1: “Oh, wow. [Nurse #2], come look at this.”

Nurse #2: “Wow. I’ve never seen that outside of textbooks.”

Nurse #1: “Me, too! Hey, look at this part–”

(While the nurses are ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the picture on the screen, I’m staring at them with rising concern. My worry spikes when the doctor herself comes into the room, sees what they’re looking at, and proceeds to talk about it to them like she’s teaching a university lesson. Finally, I raise one of my trembling cyborg arms.)

Me: *weakly* “Um… excuse me?”

Doctor: *looking at me with surprise* “Yes?”

Me: “Is… is something wrong?”

Doctor: “Oh, no. You just have a hole in your heart.”

Me: “…I have a WHAT?”

Doctor: “But that’s not what’s causing your palpitations.”

Me: “It’s… not?”

Doctor: “Nope. It’s small and near the top of your heart; it shouldn’t be affecting you at all. It just happens sometimes when your heart muscle sinks to the bottom.”

Me: “Oh… okay. So there’s a hole in my heart, but… it’s not a problem. So it’s okay.

Doctor: “Yep. You can come back to keep an eye on it, though, just to make sure it doesn’t get any bigger.”

Me: “?!”

(That did not fill me with confidence, surprisingly. They never found a physical source for the palpitations, so eventually decided they were panic attacks, and I got to add ‘hole in the heart’ to my heart murmur repertoire.)

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