Six months ago to the day a fella named Remington Watt entered my body. Tragically, Mr. Watt is not a handsome, rich, emotionally stable, commitment-seeking bachelor. Remington is my Medtronic pacemaker. Remington’s implantation was painful and irritating, like bad sex. Remington left me with a gnarly scar on my heart, like all of my exes. It has been no easy feat to accept Remington’s smooth metal form, protruding edges and malleable wires as part of the fiber of my own living and breathing human body. Every day my mind and my heart struggle to harmonize with Remington, to follow the beats of his drum, the thumps of his pre-programmed settings.
I will spare you an explanation of the conditions that necessitated Remington’s implantation, my fourth heart operation before the age of 28. What I will do instead is attempt to describe, from the beating, non-battery operated part of my heart, what it feels like to be young and have a pacemaker.
Every morning I wake up with a raw ache on my left side. It is my fault, really, because I cannot seem to stop sleeping with my left arm under my pillow. Remington’s metal casing rubs between my pectoral muscle and my breast tissue at all times, but most especially when my arm is lifted and strain is put on the pocket in which he is stitched. Among my first thoughts for the day is the hope that the Leeds that connect Remington’s battery to the chambers of my heart did not somehow disconnect from the tissue they are screwed into. The developers who raised Remington must have instilled him with a love for travel because he has a hard time staying in one place. I often feel him slip, slide or rotate, and sometimes I can even see his bulging edges move under my skin like a tiny steel devil. I am told to keep a close eye on him as he may one day decide to travel down to my armpit.
At times Remington misses important signals from my heart and gets confused. Sometimes Remington does too much, sometimes not enough. On the too infrequent occasions when he does exactly what he should do exactly when he should do it, I almost feel normal. Those glorious, fleeting minutes always pass too quickly and then I am just me again, a young woman who has never really known what it feels like to have a normal heart.
Every waking hour of every day, I am aware of this organ in my chest, the lifeblood of my body. I only wish it was love and not any number of abnormalities that made my heart skip a beat, or two beats, or three or four or more beats.
I am the only person I know with a pacemaker. I wish I knew others so I could ask if they also feel their pacemakers vibrate at concerts with loud bass or what kind of protection they put over their device when paint-balling. I want to ask others if they too are afraid to die young or dread the idea of at least four more guaranteed surgeries. I often feel as though I am a single ship, floating in the sluggish sea of my heart’s strange rhythms.
Yet despite all my grievances, Remington has actually taught me an important lesson. Whatever it is that sustains your heart should not also be a source of suffering (unless, of course, you have a pacemaker).
Happy six month birthday, Rem, you little metallic bastard.
You have saved my life
‘Cos amid countless heartbreaks
You’re my pacemaker…
© Raphael Uzor