Darlings killed for AFib piece

Heart Insight Magazine, which is produced by the American Heart Association, published an article I wrote about my experience with atrial fibrillation in their Spring 2019 edition.

“Through Thick & Thin: One Patient’s Journey to Regular Heartbeat” is the second autobiographical article on this website. “On the Trail of Calamity” tells about my experiences travelling around the country as a reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I generally prefer to shine the spotlight on others, not myself, but I also like write about what I know.

In the interest of brevity and coherence, I left out a few parts in the AFib story. This is a practice that Stephen King, among others, calls “killing your darlings.”  He wrote in in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft(a great book, by the way), “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” 

Outtakes included details about the discovery of my arrhythmia and a certain explanation of benefits. 

I was on a quick trip away from my FEMA assignment in New Orleans and I had a packed schedule when I saw my Denver doctor for a routine physical. It was a fun but stressful time. When my EKG showed AFib, the young doctor sent me home with an anti-coagulant and a box full of syringes so I could give myself shots in the abdomen. Ugh!

When my friends saw the meds, they said I wasn’t sick and shouldn’t take them. They said the anti-coagulant was rat poison, which is almost true. The same active ingredient, or a similar one, is used to poison rats. It causes them to hemorrhage and die. 

I had a complete cardiac workup when I got back to New Orleans and it showed no signs of arrhythmia at that point in time, so there was no rat poison or shots in the belly for me. Whew!

Years later, after I had my first ablation, I received an explanation of benefits from the insurance company showing that the medical center where the procedure was performed was charging $229,473.97. Sure, a cast of thousands – or so it seemed — participated in the procedure itself, but I was there for only about 36 hours. 

About a year later, I got a final explanation of benefits and it showed the insurance company had paid $5,520 to the medical center and my charges were $100, which I had already paid.

I was glad that the explanation of benefits was not a bill and I was grateful for my good insurance, as well as my cardiologist, health care team, modern medicine, and miracle drugs. Together they allowed me to live to tell my story and even add this bit about the darlings I killed.