- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Friday, 18 March 2016
Stent By Holly Searle
For AO with love from HS X
Up until the day it happened, and throughout the previous month, before it had occurred, which by the way had encompassed his fiftieth birthday: Marty Quinn had felt both psychically and emotional out of whack with his life.
In retrospect, it was possible to map the inevitability of its arrival. It was as clear as the nose on his youthful clean shaven face: the formidable and unrelenting tsunami of stress that had shattered his world, contained one last little gift for him. Happy Birthday it screamed in his ear, so loudly that it woke him up. A clear and concise message in a bottle for a survivor shipwrecked by his own emotional and genetic history.
Just like that, when he had thought that the aftershocks of his ill-conceived marriage and subsequent divorce had finally (finally), become nothing more than a miserable memory that he could hardly believe he had once been a willing participant in: his body crumbled.
Well he certainly hadn’t. He was absolutely clueless. Prior to the night that he had stood alone in the kitchen that belonged to the guy he was renting a room from, whilst munching on several aspirin as instructed while he contemplated the imminent arrival of the paramedics: he still assumed it was nothing more than the wear and tear of ageing. After all, hadn’t the locum he had seen at the nearest GP surgery less than 48 hours before, confidently informed him after he had explained to her that he was getting pains in his right arm and across his chest, that is was nothing more than a trapped nerve?
Yes, that is correct, Marty had thought to himself as he chewed and then swallowed the bitter tasting tablets. The first doctor I have seen since I was a child, quite clearly told me it was a trapped nerve. And that is all it is.
Who knew it was a heart attack? Who knew? The paramedic that called through to Harefield Hospital that’s who. He knew as soon as he set eyes on Marty.
Was it that bad? Obviously, from the look on his face when he look at Marty, it was.
The ride to the hospital was surreal. Heart attack. It may as well have been a shark attack it was so out of the blue. Reality bite a huge hole out of the dark void Marty now physically occupied as he lay there in the ambulance connected to a machine that was monitoring his heart.
The ambulance raced along while its crew casually rock and swayed with its steady forward moving motion on its way towards the hospital.
Marty tried not to think about his heart. Instead he tried to focus on something else. But it was impossible. He wanted to cry. He felt like the loneliest man in the world. Why was there no significant other with him in this ambulance? Was this it? Was this the sum of his fifty years on Earth over? Was he going to die? What about his kids? Would they miss him? He could just see his how cross his ex-wife would be when the child support stopped. That wouldn’t guarantee a favourable epitaph for his memory in the years that were to follow.
He blew slow calming breaths out through his pursed lips and tried to focus on that.
“Nearly there now.” Said the paramedic, shattering Marty’s self-imposed glass train of thought.
As they pulled up to the hospital, Marty’s heart grew heavy. This was really happening.
Marty had been a man who had inhaled and exhaled stress in the same way that other people used oxygen. It had not been his intention of course to become the agent provocateur of his own well-being breakdown. On the contrary, this was absurd. His friends would laugh along with him later when he recounted the current events that were unfolding around him.
“You? You had a heart attack? But you’re the most health conscious person I know!”
And as the paramedics delivered him from the womb of the ambulance and into the care of the waiting cardiology team, he wonder when Terry Gilliam would shout “Cut!” Rapidly followed by the sentence. “That’s a wrap people.” At which point Marty could return to his uneventful life and obviously not that healthy life, where this would all appear to have been nothing more than a peculiar dream.
But that wasn't what happened. What happened was that he was laid out on an operating table where morphine was immediately injected into the tiny artery via his wrist. The sensation as it made its way up his arm, reminded him of the Space Dust he'd once sprinkled on his tongue as a youth.
He had entertained that at his own pleasure. This he was enduring in order to survive.
The cardiologist explained to Marty that due to his heart attack, they were going to perform a coronary angioplasty. This he explained was an operation whereby they inserted a tiny tube called a stent into the blocked artery of his heart to enable it to flow better. The current blockage was undoubtedly the cause of the heart attack. He explained. And this, along with a few lifestyle changes, would prevent Marty from having another one.
“What now?” Marty asked “You’re going to do it now?”
“Yes. Time waits for no man Mr Quinn. Would you like to watch?” Said the cardiologist as he turned a monitor in Marty’s direction.
“If you keep watching, you’ll see the stent as it travels all the way up through the now comfortable numb artery in your arm. Then I will place it just in the right spot at the cause of the blockage. Imagine Fantastic Voyage captained by one of the world’s best plumbers, and you should get a pretty good idea of what’s going on.”
Marty was enthralled as he watched the minute lifesaving piece of wire-mesh tube make its way towards his heart. He wished there was someone holding his hand that he could turn too and say “Wow! Look at that! How amazing that Proteus is on its way to mend my heart!” But there wasn’t.
With his eyes focused on the procedure and his body partially anaesthetised by drugs: Marty’s mind began to wander.
Was this it? The age and winter of his own personal discontent had now evolved into the age of health issues which would now be compounded by his woeful unrelenting loneliness. Woe woe woe is me he thought.
He had attempted to find a special someone, but it all seemed too much. Maybe he hadn’t been ready in the post-apocalyptic-post-divorce terrain of rebuilding himself from nothing with nothing. Who would be interested in someone who was obviously not relationship fodder, and who had absolutely nothing in terms of a dowry? No one that’s who.
There had been that one lady. She was nice enough, and they shared a lot of commonalities. He had liked her. But he hadn’t been emotionally ready to deal with a relationship. That wasn’t what was going to fix him. He had to do that himself. Of course now he wasn’t just emotionally void, but heartbroken as well.
He watched the stent being parked into place by the frail hair like thread.
“All done. Good good. Well done team.” Said the cardiologist.
“Mr Quinn. Don’t take this the wrong way. But I don’t want to see you again. Now go away and get better.“
“I think we’re beyond such formalities now. It’s Marty. And thank you. Thank you for letting me imagine that Raquel Welch is now and forever in my heart.”
“You’re welcome Marty. From here, you’ll be taken to a ward where we will monitor you. During that time, someone will come and explain what happens next. And what you will need to do and expect. The worst is over for now. So just try to rest and get better.”
“Cross my heart.” Said Marty.
Over the next two days Marty didn’t rest. How could he when he was attached to a monitor that would beep whenever his heart rate altered. As a consequence, he didn’t sleep. He was scared that if he did, his heart would stop working and he wouldn’t wake up. He was beyond exhausted. The only silver lining was that he was a temporary resident of the Eric Morecambe Department of Cardiology and its Intensive Care unit. That made him smile.
Then it all began, rather than ending. His blood tests showed that Marty had type two diabetes and that was the reason for his heart attack. The hospital gave him some many potions and lotions and pills, that he was overwhelmed. When he left hospital two days after his heart attack, he returned to his make shift home so exhausted that he felt as old as Methuselah both in body and mind.
Over the next few days he still found it hard to sleep. His senses now seemed to be heighten. Everything was illuminated, sharp and clear. And he could hear every single beat of his heart as the stent and Raquel continued to ensure that his blood pumped efficiently around his body.
Everything had changed. Every simple task now seemed to be monumental. He needed to visit the local shop for something and was shocked when the once five minute trip took him nearly an hour to complete. Older people, pensioners for Christ sake passed by him on his journey as if they were Olympic champions.
When he got home he was breathless and awash with fatigue. Apparently, this was all normal and something he needed to expect during the course of his recovery. And the pills. Marty hadn’t been to the doctor since he was a kid. And now he had pills for this and pills for that. Roll up roll up for the greatest pill taker on earth. The extraordinary Marty Quinn. Sit back and watch him swallow as he wallows in despair. To add insult to injury, Marty noted that an inevitable side effect of nearly all of his pills was erectile dysfunction. Excellent! What fantastic news. It just got better and better.
But Marty was getting better both mentally and physically. The tiny stent now forever embedded in his heart, it transpired was also a catalyst for his emotional well-being.
One day he decided to envisage his life laid out on his bed as if he were packing for a trip. In doing so, he could clearly see what had caused him the most stress, and what was unlikely to so if he didn’t make some changes. He could also see the benefits of reconnecting with people he had discarded to encompass all of the negative personal stressor he had had in his life. When he had mentally packed away most of the harmful culprits. He noticed that she was still there. The nice lady he had dated a few times, whom he hadn’t been ready for a year ago. Marty sat down.
I wonder what she is up to now? He thought. Be good to find out. Be good to see.
Life, after all, as Marty knew all too well, could change at a moment’s notice. And it had. His life would never be the same again. No it would be different, that’s all. And that was okay. He wanted to live and he wanted to age. And he didn’t want to be alone in the process. So he contacted the nice lady, who was welcoming and pleased to hear from him. They started a conversation as if no time had lapsed at all. She was shocked to hear about his heart attack, but not dismayed by it. Yes of courses they could meet up. And so a third date was arranged.
On the day they met, she smiled and waved at him from her side of the street, and Marty smiled and waved back.
She crossed over to his side and they hugged and said their hellos. And just like that, five weeks after his heart broke, Marty finally began to heal.