‘My life was turned upside down during a routine check-up when I was 31’ - wima space
Wed. Nov 30th, 2022
‘My life was turned upside down during a routine check-up when I was 31’

My mother was understandably very anxious about me getting into scrapes as a child. I can remember not being allowed to go on a lot of the rides at Oakwood Theme Park in Wales. The same happened at Disneyland in Paris, to which myself and three of my sisters won a trip through a raffle when I was about eight or nine. 

Having been wrapped in cotton wool for years, I had a strong desire to assert my independence in the stupidest of ways. The amusement park at our local beach, Tramore, had the waltzers, which I defiantly went on with predictable results: Fast heart rate. Dizziness. Nausea.

I moved away to go to university when I was 18 and relished the freedom, though I was only two hours from home. Since then, I have moved country twice: first to the Czech Republic, where I met the woman who would become my wife and she convinced me to move to her home country of Norway, where I have lived for the past six years. 

Most people with a serious heart defect don’t tend to move abroad, and it was never really my plan. But among the many lessons that a life lived with an unpredictable condition teaches is that you occasionally have to take chances when they come. Plans, as we all learned in the past two years, are contingent at best.

Hospitalised during the pandemic

In early 2020, during a routine check-up with my cardiologist in Oslo, signs were detected of an arrythmia. Concerned about this, the cardiologist scheduled me in for an ablation in March 2020. If that didn’t work, he wanted to install a pacemaker. I was just about to turn 32.

Suddenly, my life got turned upside down. Right before I was to have the ablation, Norway shut down. 

A few days later, I got Covid-19 and was quickly hospitalised. My situation deteriorated rapidly. After 11 days intubation in ICU, I was moved to the cardiology ward for a week. 

After 18 intense days, I was sent home from hospital to begin regaining my strength – my muscles had atrophied badly after so long in bed. By August, I was well enough to have a pacemaker implanted.

Since then, I have spent a lot of my time reckoning with what it means to live with a serious illness. Part of that process has resulted in my book. I have begun to see the ways in which all those moments when I was given greater slack as a sick child, as well as those moments where I was stopped from doing things I wanted to because of the risks they posed, have shaped me into the person I am now.

Instead of seeking the thrill of a roller coaster or the heady buzz of conquering a mountain peak, I’ve learned to take pleasure in moving through the world, absorbing it. 

I spend a lot of time walking but I rarely take on steep climbs, preferring instead to cast my gaze upwards, to approach the landscape in the same way as we might crane our necks up at a skyscraper in awe.

Recently on holiday in Trondheim, my wife and I visited the majestic Nidaros Cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century. We paid extra to go up on to the roof of the cathedral to take in the views of that beautiful city. 

The climb to the roof, up a spiral stone staircase, was an incline of 40 metres in just 172 steps. A sign said that those with heart problems should consider whether or not it was safe. I went up anyway.

Pacemaker, by David Toms, is out now (£12.99, Banshee Press)

#life #turned #upside #routine #checkup

By wissem

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