Anything You Can Do I Can Do… Worse?
One thing that I have noticed in reading the heart transplant pages is rather comforting. We like to engage in dick-measuring contests as much as the Healthies. I thought my ejection fraction (the measure of blod remaining in the ventricle after the heart contracts) was pretty bad at 20%. I was quickly disabused of that notion.
Yeah? Mine was 6% before transplant.
I was at 12%. 15%. 5%
Well, slap my ass and call me Fanny.
The same *contest* goes on with meds. We post pictures with our fists full of meds. We cyber-backslap each other over massive doses of Prednisone. Ironically, we also have the reverse, everybody wants to lower their dose of this steroid and anti-rejection meds.
The latter comparison is generally discussed with more empathy and support-the side effects of the anti-rejection regimen are legion and unpleasant enough that many transplants find themselves questioning their choice to accept the gift of a new heart.
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Moon face
- Confusion, feeling disoriented
There are more, but you get the gist. We all volunteer our personal parade of horribles, commiserate, and offer advice for dealing with the symptoms or managing the transplant team. I am pre-transplant, but I have my own fistful of meds and side effects. Yeah, I can throw down with the best, baby.
Billy Crystal did this character when he was on Saturday Night Live. He would talk about workshop mishaps-nail gun misfires, belt sanders going crazy across his face, that sort of thing. He would always wrap with a wistful smile and a shake of his head, and the line: “I hate when that happens.” It’s kind of like that.
There are a host of reasons why we do this. By using gallows humor, we are able to air our misery without sounding like we’re kvetching. The responses offer a sense of normalcy. “Oh yeah, I’ve got that too, you aren’t alone.” When you aren’t the only one who struggles to find the word we have used a million times, when you’re awake at 4 a.m., watching commercials for chat lines and medicare advantage plans, you are less miserable knowing you aren’t alone. The talk about who has what also offers a way in to ask people about their own issues without prying. People share advice, actions to ameliorate the symptoms. It helps coalesce us Heart People. We’re a team.
By the way, I can’t walk from the front door to the end of the driveway without needing to hold myself up at the mailbox until I catch my breath and my blood pressure comes back up. My weight see-saws 2–5 pounds a day. Every day. I can’t concentrate on anything for more than 2–3 hours. And that fistful of pills up above? That’s mine, baby. And that’s just breakfast.
Yeah. I guess you can say I’m kind of a badass.