Labor day weekend I had an irregular heartbeat. I had a funny feeling in my chest and when I took my pulse, son of a gun, I was missing a beat every now and then. I wasn’t near any place where I could put myself on the monitor and see what was actually going on, but every time I checked, even when I wasn’t feeling anything, i couldn’t get to 30 without a dropped beat.
I am sixty-two years old, and while I feel I have been in somewhat of a physical decline over the last two years, particularly this last year with the COVID altering my normal workout eating and mental health routines, I have never questioned the strength or health of my heart before. I admit that it scared me.
I tried to determine what might be causing the missed beat and focused on two culprits. A medication I take for my thyroid which can cause palpitations and caffeine. I did- against my better interests have several coca-colas that day of and the day before. I am somewhat addicted to Coke, but often go months without it because it makes me cough quite badly when i do drink it. Still I love the taste in a glass with lots of ice cubes and I just sip it. I particularly enjoyed the flavored varieties. Coke with lime, first among them. It is hard for me not to relapse.
So I cut out the caffeine, even the green tea that has been my sad replacement for Coke. I also stopped my other medication for two days. I resumed that med, but kept off the Coke, and after a few days, not only could I go a sixty count without a missed beat, every time I checked I was at a perfect 60.
This post originated as I stood in the cafeteria looking at the fountain Coke machine that lets you add whatever flavor you want. I was really close to getting one, and I thought I would write about how despite my irregular heartbeat, I still couldn’t kick the habit. But will power prevailed and I still haven’t had a Coke (Shh-there was an old 20 ounce bottle of Cherry Coke on my desk with maybe 3 ounces left in it. I filled a Dixie cup up with ice and poured a couple sips worth into it, and I did this a couple, three times till I was holding the bottle over my head and trying to shake the last drops out before tossing the bottle into the trash, never to have Coke again. Ha!). We need to be stronger as we grow older.
When you start out as a medic you are usually of the age where you feel an invincibility about your life. You know that someday you may end up like your patients but it is so far off you don’t need to worry about it.
My hand on my neck, I count sixty steady beats.
I don’t want to think about the future, but I know it’s out there.
Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg died two days ago at 87.
May we all use the remaining time we have left on this earth in the service of our families, fellow humans, country and world.
Peace to all.