A Heart Like a Rabbit

A Heart Like a Rabbit
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Moist, squelching sounds filled the otherwise silent room as the sonogram of my heart was being conducted.

I was lying on my left side on the slim hospital bed, at my yearly cardiovascular checkup. One of the most important tasks to ensure the wellness of Friedreich’s ataxia patients is to regularly check on the heart’s function. I wrote about last year‘s visit: After that checkup, I was relieved to learn that my heart rate was stable, although it beat at a more rapid pace than normal.

I hoped for a repeat of last year’s news.

About nine wires were fastened from my chest to the sonogram machine. I thought it was amazing how through those wires, I could see a live image of my heart as it went about its tireless business, pumping and allowing me to live. I looked at my heart with admiration. 

Although I liked seeing my heart, hearing it was another matter entirely. In and of itself, the noise did not bother me, but the exhausting rapidity of it did.

I was disconcerted, realizing once again how difficult the job is because of Friedreich’s ataxia. My heart must strain itself much more than most people’s to keep me alive. 

Hearing its rapid pace at this year’s appointment was unsettling, and it reminded me of a frightened rabbit desperately panting, pursued by a relentless fox.

I closed my eyes and begged it to slow down so that I would have a good report from this visit.

You are doing a good job. Relax, buddy, I silently begged my heart.

***

Before I knew it, the wires were unfastened from my chest and the sonogram machine was wheeled out of the room. The lab portion of my visit was over. Now I went down one floor for my appointment with the doctor.

The writing’s on the wall, I thought glumly. My heart seemed to beat much faster this year. To distract me from the sad reality of progression, I looked around the generic appointment room. Sand-colored walls. No paintings.

Before long, the doctor rushed in, greeting my dad and me with friendly elbow bumps. He sat before me and cracked the file folder he was holding.

The rabbit awoke. I could feel him quickly thumping my chest.

“Everything looks good,” he said, to my relief.

“In fact, compared to last year, I notice some improvement.”

Record scratch.

That was the last thing I expected to hear. Any improvement is rare with a degenerative disorder. So rare, in fact, that I started a column forcing me to recognize the small, easily overlooked successes in my life.

Whenever I find a new little victory, I’m awestruck.

Maybe there aren’t as few of them as I thought. 

***

Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.

Matt Lafleur was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia at age 11. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in mental health counseling.
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Matt Lafleur was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia at age 11. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in mental health counseling.
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