Friday, June 27, 2014

That Other Gear

There it was again.  Beep, beep, beep, pause.  It wasn't loud or piercing; it wasn't the alarming sort. Beep, beep, beep, pause. I was in a store at the end of the day, on my way to the beach; I almost had to strain to hear it.  Beep.
Oh.  The rational response from a normal person would be lazy curiosity at the source.  Hardly half a thought, part of a nearly disinterested question.  But wait. I am an SCA survivor. I have Skippy the defibrillator in my chest wall.  I don't have the normal response.
Beep, beep, beep, pause.  I've had this conversation about beeps with my SCA friends and my mind hurtles forward, reaching to remember who reported what.  Oh crap, was that beep me?  Look around the store, any obvious source?   Oh crap.  What had they said, my SCA friends?   What did a beeping implanted defibrillator give rise to?  My idle curiosity about what was beeping had become anxiety and I knew with special SCA certainty that fear was right behind it, then terror, then panic. Strain to listen, strain to figure out the direction.  Beep.  Crap.

Ironically, the heart races - really not helpful.  I'm trying to remember as the fear starts to gallop - was a beeping ICD a precursor to a shock? Was the heart rate too fast? Too slow?  Knocked out of useful rhythm?  Wait - was it the low battery signal? All those possibilities in just few seconds.  Anxiety to panic for SCA people isn't a slow turn.  Instead, it feels like that bell at the start of a horse race --- from dead stillness to utter chaos in one stride.   Beep, beep, beep, pause.
We learn to stave off the panic before it arrives - quick, quick, use the brain.   Tamp down that adrenalin.  First things first - regardless of what the beep means, get out of the store. No matter what is going to happen, I don't want it to happen in a convenience store.  Beep.   A plan, get a plan.   Take a breath.  Calling 911 seems extreme; maybe instead drive myself to the nearby pseudo-hospital or 15 minutes to the real one. Wait. Drive?????.  An exceptionally poor idea.  Stop, breathe.
Deep breath. Beep.  Get to the car and see.
 Sit in the car.  Silence.  Breathe.  More silence.  It wasn't me. No beep.  Exhale.  It wasn't Skippy. Saved again.

After sitting with a few more breaths, to the beach we go.  Reminded with a mix of self-exasperation and gratitude that new SCA fear is probably permanent.   No matter what, a new fear will turn up and turn up and turn up.  Such is an ICD life.  Things will beep and create near panic in a nanosecond. They will or will not pass. But as I head to the treasured, tranquilizing ocean, I'm singing a long-forgotten song from my youth.  Go ahead, have a listen.  Beep, beep, beep.

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