I have a confession to make. I am going to die soon. I’m sixty-seven and 13 days now and with my condition I may have as little as thirty two years before old Father Time beckons me. It’s a sobering thought. When you are faced with this kind of bleak reality life seems all the more precious.
My daughter is in her thirties now, and when I go, she will hardly have reached retirement age. My son, about to enter medical school (with my heart-felt encouragement— talk about foresight!) will hardly have settled into his plush office as Dean of Students at UBC when he will have the tragic responsibility of arranging my cremation. I am insisting on that. Better a few seconds of intense warmth than that they should make a mistake. After all, sometimes it’s the medical student who gets roused from his girlfriend and warm bed at three am to confirm the old geezer is truly gone. True. I should know. I was in the business.
OK, enough of the sentimental tear-jerking.
Oh, I forgot, my grandchildren. The lawyer, now five, will receive the news over his $20,000 videophone in his new BMW (MSRP $768K) and the doctor, now just two, starting out in his first Head of Department post, will be paralysed with grief too.
I may have to erase the next sentence.
My darling wife will likely be spared the pain of our separation, as I am sure she will go first. God knows how I will manage all the money that Rhea will have squirrelled away for me.
So why all of a sudden this morbid preoccupation with death?
Well, I had my first intimation of mortality about two weeks ago. Just a little swelling of the ankles, a little short of breath.
Congestive Heart Failure.
Sylvia, my darling wife, thought I should got to the ER, but that I didn’t need an ambulance with the sirens. Pity. That’s one experience I was kind of looking forward to. It’s likely to be the only time I will sail past BMWs, respectfully pulled over as I head into town in seven minutes, shaving twenty-eight minutes from our normal time.
So she drives me into town, slo-owly, with maddening respect for every traffic light, and callously leaves me at the ER entrance. (“I’ll just park the car, dear, you’ll surely manage to register by yourself?”)
About six hours later, I am starving and could do with a shave and some clean clothes, but I’ve almost reached the registration desk. Sylvia has gone off to have sex with one of the ER docs. She was debating going home (where she and the doc could be more comfortable, I guess).
“Oh, yes, thanks dear.” A plywood and 10W30 motor oil sandwich washed down with Fanta orange, delicious. But no matter, I’m getting to see the doctor, if they can find him, and he’s almost finished with that cute medical student. Sylvia swears up and down that she gave him no encouragement and anyway, he wasn’t her type. (More of a Ralph Fiennes, rather than Leonardo Di Caprio, whom she prefers)
So anyway, I’ve seen the nurse, so she has already confirmed the diagnosis of CHF (mild, she said. Very mild. Borderline normal. I hate nurses. So know-it-all.) I’ve had my EKG and my chest Xray, and the blood lady has taken a moment from her involved conversation with the other blood lady about somebody called Derek, and taken three vials of blood. I am surprised. “Only three?” I say. What about the—? And the—?”
(I won’t bother you with the confusing acronyms and medicalese.)
“Oh, the doctor doesn’t need all those. He’s ordered all the ones that are needed.”
I restrain my natural impulse to remark mildly that after all, I am a retired psychiatrist!
Have you ever noticed how the doctors are getting younger and younger? This one looks like an adolescent Hugh Grant.
He gets my story, efficiently, and examines me, ditto, being appropriately respectful when he realises I am a colleague. Then he says, “It’s obviously mild CHF, and I mean mild, from the symptoms, but your exam and all the tests are normal. Maybe it’s a side effect from one of your blood-pressure medications.”
He seems inappropriately cheerful and humorous as he gives me a prescription for the smallest dose possible of a well-known diuretic, half a pill, daily.
“Hey, relax doc, you’ll live for ever!”
I hate it when people don’t have the guts to level with me.
Bad enough that my family should have to face the awful possibility of a life without me, but I want them to know the truth too! No sugar-coated euphemisms!
Anyway, I’m much better now after a couple of days on the water pill, and going off one of my blood pressure pills, which has the tendency to cause fluid retention.
Naturally, my case has been assigned the highest possible priority, which explains why I got a letter in the mail yesterday, confirming my appointment for a cardiac ultrasound in June 2014.
Wow! An appointment for a cardiac echo in just nine months! I just knew it was something serious.