This is a poem I wrote about the early stages of my recovery from having pacemaker fitted. It happened in November – as you might know, if you read regularly – and especially in that first month or so, it was pretty much all I thought about. Still, three months on, it dominates my days.
It’s a simple enough poem, about the kinds of things I would find myself doing in those early days. Things like avoiding using my left hand side or getting used to the sight of another scar on my chest and just staring at it for long periods of time.
I didn’t see many people during that time; the fatigue and the pain and discomfort just made me want to hide away, but I did get a lot of messages from concerned friends. And when they’d ask me how I was I’d just tell them I was ‘getting there’ because I didn’t know what else to say and didn’t think they’d really want chapter and verse about how I really felt. It was also the kind of thing I told myself when I was feeling low or poorly – I must be getting there. Hence, the poem, written during any one of a huge number of sleepless nights, downstairs while every else in the house slept soundly above.
Getting There Check your watch, swiping left three times, lie awake, listening as your heart pounds, strong but more vulnerable than ever now, you feel. Trace the lumps in your scar all along its length, then follow the shape of a matchbox jutting out under your skin and stare endlessly at these ugly changes in the bathroom mirror, making sure that when you reach for something it's on your right, never left. This is the routine now. Follow it like a child learning dance steps until it becomes second nature, losing yourself for God knows how long in a train of thought that feels like it might never switch off and then remind yourself of them and however bad you feel, tell anyone who asks that you're getting there.
So, since it all happened I’ve never been more aware of my heartbeat. At least nowadays it feels regular, unlike before. And then there’s the scar; a new one to go next to the one I’ve had for over 40 years now from open heart surgery. This new one is only about 3 inches long and at times looks fairly neat and tidy. However, sometimes it turns purple and has lumps in it due to the wires that come out of my pacemaker. Attractive, no?
On top of that there’s the actual pacemaker, which juts out of my chest – not literally – and is fairly visible under the skin. A friend recently explained that his grandad had one – which made me feel great, as you might imagine – and that it looked like someone had put a matchbox under his skin. So, that’s where that line came from.
The last part of the poem and the ‘them’ refers to my family. They’ve had to nurse me through this time, my wife and daughter especially. They were there when I passed out the first time as a result of palpitations and then it was my wife who took me to Accident and Emergency on the afternoon that I was admitted to hospital and her and my daughter who visited during the week I spent on the ward. It was especially difficult to watch how worried my daughter was; too young for all of this. So, when I would feel down about my health I always knew that I couldn’t let them see it and I had to just find a little bit more strength in order to get through the day.
As always, I hope you enjoyed reading the poem. Feel free to let me know what you thought in the comments.