It’s just after midnight and I can’t sleep. I’ve been reading for longer than I intended and now, in the dark, I’m mulling over a passage from Lucky Jim; it contains what is probably the finest, funniest, description of a hangover in the English Language. Having thoroughly relived the page and a half of Jim’s discomfort, I park it in the back of my mind and turn over onto my left side.
The left is not much favoured when it comes to sleeping. In the absence of a good chunk of lung, my heart seems much nearer – and always much louder. Which is why I always find it unsettling. I count the beats; 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7…. Hang on – what happened to 3? I take my pulse; 3 is still missing, as are a few more.
This arrhythmia comes quietly, without fuss. No big, jumping out of bed, ‘wakey, wakey!’ bang. Just a low-key miss-ticking of my clock. As if someone has grabbed my pendulum, held on to it for a few moments, then let go.
Give or take a day, the past 4 episodes have occurred with the following frequency; 4 weeks, 4 weeks, 2½ weeks and 4 weeks. Not even the laziest statistician would dare call this pattern ‘significant’. I, on the other hand, always keen to prove something or other, have to wonder. Episode 3, which came early and messed up the neat 4-week sequence, occurred after Chris and Emma’s wedding. Not from an alcohol induced hangover à la Lucky Jim, but perhaps from the physiological side effects of eating too much food.
Up to this point it’s been a pleasant stress-free day; a few jobs around the house and a bit of gardening followed by a light and alcohol-free supper. Paroxysmal is the label appended to heart arrhythmias which have no obvious cause or trigger – such as mine. I came across one blogger who could accurately identify which foods trigger his arrhythmia. Perhaps I owe it to science to over-indulge more often to test my particular trigger.
I am, to put it mildly, disappointed by all this. While I know that it may be a permanent feature of my life, my (apparent) natural optimism (see a man’s gotta do…..Oct 12th 2011) leads to me to hope that the Pill-in-the Pocket will stay just that – in my pocket.
What to do about it? I can ignore it and hope it goes away – or I can pop a pill. The advantage of the former is that I can then determine how long the episode lasts, hoping for a reduction on the 8 hours or so that the previous few episodes have lasted. All very laudable and scientific. On the other hand it’s preventing me from getting to sleep. The pill takes an hour to work and then lasts for about 12 hours.
Annie’s asleep and although she wouldn’t mind, I don’t want to wake her. I re-read the instructions. The dose recommended by the electro-physiologist is ‘non-standard’ and my GP telephoned him to make sure it was correct. When I collected the prescription the pharmacist took me to one side; she was concerned that I would be taking these while still on the beta-blockers – a nasty mix apparently. With all these people being extra cautious – is it any wonder I am too? After about a half hour of turning this over in my mind I decide to take the pill. Hopefully I should be asleep by the time the side effects kick in.
I wake around 7.00am – with a steady rhythm. Slight nausea, but no dizziness, hallucinations or any of the other listed side effects.
My friend Neil (mandolin player, Fat Freddy’s Cat) phones to catch up on the voice procedure. He has a gig with another musician friend, Monty and wonders if I want to sit in on a couple of numbers. I explain that this is not possible, but decide to go to the gig anyway. I cannot sit here a prisoner of my own self pity.
We have a good time; I get called up – I smile and mouth “no thanks” – and just sit back and enjoy the music. Monty says to me later “this must be really hard for you”. Bless. He offers me a gig in Germany next year. That’ll be the day.
If the voice has a volume control I guess mine has moved from 2 to 3. Perhaps 3½. There is a slight improvement. More than that – I manage to sing a song. At home in the shower. But it’s a start. It’s not the right key (too low) but all the notes are there and in the right order. I just need a vocal processor – something to add a bit of reverb and sustain. So Mr ENT you’ve clearly done something – you’ve cured me of gig phobia.