SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Happy EKG to Me!



February 15, 2016
Monday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
I celebrated my recent birthday by getting an electrocardiogram!

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Well, it wasn't on my exact birthday, but it was a couple of days later so that counts. I was still basking in the glow all those good birthday wishes when I got strapped down in a comfy room in the ER and "inspected" and "detected" to steal a couple of lines from "Alice's Restaurant."

Which is an appropriate thought, because "AR" was an all-time great Thanksgiving holiday movie and our family has an affinity for visiting the "ER" on holidays.

When Liam was little, he used to always get ear infections on Christmas and New Year's and Presidents' Day. Then Charlotte got sick on Valentine's Day. And I broke a foot on the Fourth of July. One time we even visited the ER on St. Patrick's Day, but it was not from any over-imbibing of the green. It was me "partying hearty" with gout!

Anyway, making a holiday visit to the ER was soooo freaking inevitable that one time, on a Thanksgiving of course, one of the ER nurses looked up and remarked "Oh, it's the Kiffer's. What holiday is it?"

Yep, that is life in Our Fair Salmon City.

But, as usual, I digress.

So, after turning 57 (that's a lot of varieties), I had the pleasure of getting a bunch of little electrode-stickers attached to my body and my heart got a very special "close up."

Nothing much exciting about that. I lay on the gurney and the nurse stared at the screen with her forehead all crinkly. I made a couple of jokes. She didn't even crack a smile. The bestest part was when she pulled off the little electronic stickers. Next EKG, I am getting a chest wax first.

At any rate, 57 has always been a problematic age for me.

My father was 57 when he died. That is not unusual in my family, the men either keel over in their 50s or sail blithely on into their 80s and 90s. Of course, the ones that go in their 50s usually have bad habits like drinking and smoking or engaging in seriously risky behavior. I don't do those things. At least not very often. Certainly not this week. Despite my birthday and Mardi Gras coming perilously close together.

But still, that 57 has been sitting there like a big fat target for me for the past 42 years and I now that I have arrived at it, it absolutely DOES NOT make my day when my doctor starts free associating words like "irregular heartbeat."

So that's why I was getting an EKG. Doctors don't like the word "irregular." It seems to mess things up, anatomically speaking.

I, natch, don't like the word "irregular" because it conjures up images of those absurd TV commercials for medicines that have long caveats about all the bad things that could happen to you if you take the drug, which of course you need to take because it will help you, according to the commercials.

You know the disclaimers, such as "this may cause drowsiness so don't operate heavy machinery" on a sleep aid. Duh!

Or, "may cause suicidal thoughts" on an anti-depressant. Wow, not good.

I particularly like how certain drugs - like ones for better skin - seem to have horrifically fatal side effects that the drug companies are compelled to warn us about. I think that a little "embarrassing acne" is preferable to "massive systemic organ failure." But that's just me.

And any time a commercial says "tell your doctor about..." you can be danged sure that is the LAST thing your doctor really wants to hear about. Seriously, does anyone go to the doctor and say "Sure, you're the expert, but I saw on TV that I can be 1,000 percent better if I just take abilify, eliquis, xarelto AND viagra!"

BTW, according to the Social Security folks, “Abilify,” “Eliquis,” “Zarelto,” and “Viagra” are the 2015 top baby names for either sex.

Anyway, I digress, again.

During my birthday checkup my doctor determined that my heart beat was on the slow side, but made up for that by occasionally having a double beat. Kind of like a "chorus of slow swing with a little be-bop thrown in on the bridge."

That sounded okay to me, I kind of liked that my heart was on the Count Basie side of the jazz spectrum - built for the long haul perhaps - but that "irregular" word still caused me some consternation. Even in jazz you want your rhythm to be sort of regular.

And, of course, my blood pressure "was a little high" after I got that information.

Well, duh, again.

It spiked a third time when I went to hospital for a "simple EKG" and they gave me a little pamphlet on "End of Life Decision-Making."

Natch, I joked that that seemed like "overkill" with the admissions person, but she didn't even crack a smile either. My blood pressure went up. Again.

Speaking of which, isn't "Living Will" an oxymoron?

Yes, yes, I get all the reasons for making these decisions in advance. It certainly makes things easier for your relatives and health providers. But "Living Will" has to be right up there with "jumbo shrimp," "civil war" and "journalistic ethics."

And since we're on the topic of things that just don't sound right, how come they call it an" EKG?" There is no K in electrocardiogram.

Is this one of those Kardashian things?

Have they taken over the entire medikal kommunity?

Yes, yes, yes, a fancy pants "liguisticiologist" will probably write in to tell me that it comes from a German word and we all know that Germans are obsessed with turning c's into k's, as if making something "kandy koated" is somehow "kooler." Go phigure.

Anyway, now that I have gone through - and survived - my first EKG, I have even better news.

For the past 42 years, I have been convinced that my Dad died at age 57. After all he was born in 1917 and died in 1974.

But it - really - just occurred to me that since he was born in December of 1917 and died in August of 1974, he hadn't reached his 57th birthday. He was only 56.

And now that I am 57, I've gotten past that "problematic" year!

Yeah! Happy Birthday, to me!

That eases my thoughts immeasurably, as I sit here looking at those two dozen patches of tender skin where my chest hair got pulled off.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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