why I wear my heart on my sleeve

4.9.13

If you've ever had any type of symptoms that may be related to your heart, such as: dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath etc., you likely had an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG: any nurses reading this know what the difference is?). You lie down on a bed and the technician attaches a series of leads to your body: several on your chest, a couple on your wrists and even two on your ankles. Personally, although I don't typically have sensitive skin, I get quite a reaction to the leads (of course I do). The doctors now request that I have latex free surgeries, but I don't think I'm allergic to latex. I think it's the adhesive that the leads attach with. It's much worse when I am in a hospital bed hooked up to a monitor on the wall. Probably because the leads themselves are bigger. And it's much better when they use the paediatric leads. Maybe I'm just a big baby. It may surprise you - considering I've been labelled "medically fragile" - but I actually don't have any allergies (well except maybe to lead adhesive)! I mean, compared to my brother. That guy is pretty much allergic to the world - he's even allergic to kiwis?! What? He definitely got the short end of the stick when it comes to genetics.

I will never forget being in one of my longer stays in a hospital in Sudbury. I had to get an ECG twice a day. On a few occasions, two nurses/technicians came in and one kept tickling my feet right after the other said "don't move," and so of course I'd laugh and move. They were getting such a "kick" out of it, and so was I. When you spend as much time in hospitals as I do, these little moments really count. Thanks ladies!

Okay, so the ECG machine measures your heart's electrical activity and creates an output of line tracings onto a piece of paper. It ends up looking like a series of spikes and dips (a.k.a. waves). Excuse me while I get a little textbook-ie on you... A typical series of waves look like this:

This is courtesy of www.webMD.com
An atypical series of waves look like this:


Yep - that's me. This is actually my first time comparing my waves to a series of normal waves. Wow - my heart IS messed up! So medically speaking, mine dips when it should spike. I'm backwards! My T-Wave is upside down. I did a little googling (legit): the T-Wave is associated with the lower chambers of the heart. It indicates when they are electrically resetting and getting ready for their muscle to contract again.  Or in my case not... haha.

But when I think about the type of condition I have, this all makes sense. My heart is enlarged and the muscles of the lower chambers are thickening and stiff. The problem isn't how much blood is being pumped out into my system, the problem is how much blood is being sucked in. When doctors look at how much is being pumped out they can diagnose something like Congestive Heart Failure, for example, which is a heck of a lot more common and is NOT WHAT I HAVE. Which also explains why I don't look like your "insert whomever here" who also has heart failure. So don't judge or question my condition. Snap. Yes, it happens, often. NO, I am not bitter.

In my unique case, the amount being pumped out isn't so bad, so at first glance it may appear as though my heart is pumping properly (irregular beats and upside down spikes aside). But with a closer look, doctors discovered that it's where the blood is being sucked in that the problems is. Once my heart has filled with blood, pumping it out is not the problem. I can now appreciate why it took them over a year to diagnose me.  My heart has to work so much harder than a regular heart to get my blood flowing, and my entire body feels this.  It's exhausting.

So, because e-v-e-r-y single doctor, technician, nurse, concerned parent... freaks out when they see my ECG wave, I decided to get it tattooed on my arm. Now I can show it the doctors when needed. I was encouraged to carry a copy of it around with me on a USB device, but really? That doesn't suit my lifestyle. I have a hard enough time remembering to bring my glasses so I can switch off my prescription shades. That annoying celebrity-wanna-be-with-shades-on in the grocery store. Hi :)

I went to Ink Fix Tattoos in Sudbury and worked with Joel. Here is MY draft that I gave to him, along with a copy of my ECG so he could copy the waves. 


My only concern was that it would look like sperm. Not okay. Yea, I said it. But hey, sometimes the truth is gross. And my only request was that its placement was at the proper angle so that I look "badass" while drinking tea. Joel laughed so hard at this and said no one had ever said that. He seemed so sincere and yet he still won't accept my Facebook friend request. Life can really suck sometimes. Oh, and I wanted it to be a tattoo of an anatomically correct heart (in case that's not clear from my sketch).
Here is what he came up with. (Phew)
Here we are getting things done:


My brilliant plan about having my waves tattooed on my arm kind of backfired, though. Turns out I feel very self-conscious of my tattoo(s) when in a hospital environment because I'm afraid staff will think my irregular spikes and dips are on account of a drug addiction (because only drug addicts have tattoos, obviously). Seriously though, I have defended my non-existent cocaine addiction to a few doctors in the past just based on test results, let alone the fact that I'm tattooed. Hmmm.... I guess I have some internalized tattoo-phobia issues to work through.

BUT the good news is my brilliant plan about looking badass while drinking tea was, clearly, a huge success:




14 comments:

  1. You and your blog are so badass ; ) Awesome post Jess.

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    1. You know-it woman! ;p
      Thanks!
      And a big thanks to you and your mad tech-ie skills
      xo

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  2. Jessie! Your tat is sweet! Perhaps it will start trending!!!
    Lou

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    1. ah yes perhaps, considering most lesbians wear their heart on their sleeve the potential is certainly there. Although they may not want to look quite so "spray painted"
      Someone recently told me they like my spray paint tattoo. Score.

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  3. Every time I see your tattoo, I think of sperm. ;)

    Also, great post! I love how honestly (and hilariously) you write.

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  4. Badass for shizz! Vandercamper :)

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    1. haha oh yes my newest nickname acquired while camping. Hey, I have a system...back off ;)

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  5. Jessie you're such a good writer! Loved reading this and it is by far my favourite tattoo I have ever seen.

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    1. Sarah! So nice to hear that you read it :)
      Thanks so much for the compliment aaaaand thanks for keeping it on the DL while it was in the works. Even thirty year olds need to keep certain things from their mothers.
      I hope all is well with you.
      xo

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  6. I think this may just be my favorite post so far, and can I just say from one ink junkie to the next, I love it! Body art level: Master. I must say though, I'm definitely going to picture sperm whenever I see your tatt from now on (lol Lily) ... awkward! That being said, tea-toting bad-assery achieved!

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