Monday, July 16, 2018

Getting to see your own heart

That ghastly bike accident returned to the present tense today as I was obliged to cast my shadow on the extensive grounds of St George’s Hospital again, this time for an echocardiogram. A what? Unless you’re of a certain age, you might suspect the term has more to do with social media than medicine.

You might expect, too, from earlier stories that a blog about me and that extraordinary hospital must mean accounts of massive amounts of time admiring the décor of waiting rooms. But, dear readers, not at all!
When I attended the same department the other day I had followed the NHS ‘Don’t be late – or else’ advice in the written invitation.
That time I arrived about quarter of an hour early and was kept waiting almost three hours.

Rusty maths

Today I walked into Reception 40 minutes early. Wondering what that might cost, my rather rusty maths tried a guess.
It seemed to amount to about four hours, proving perhaps that even ocean navigators can be rather lacking mathematicians when deprived of a calculator.
It seemed there’d be plenty of time to write several articles for blogs, and perhaps a short story or two, too. I plonked down, pulled out the laptop, and wondered what damning things I might write tonight about this giant hospital and its own unique variation of Greenwich Meantime and definition of the word punctual.
However, hardly had I opened the variation of a latter-day typewriter than – surprise, surprise - my name was called. A pleasant young man took me off to the heart probing rooms. He was Sam, a very alert Finn with an excellent command of our language.
Shirt off, lie on a couch, some liquid dabbed here and there for the electrodes, and soon Sam was filming and inspecting my heart almost as clearly as if he’d been a surgeon who had just slashed open my ribs.
He studied this aspect of the heart and then another and looked down from the neck at the wonder mechanism that each of us possesses, and then upwards from the diaphragm.
Perhaps a quarter of an hour later, the filming done, and the heart returned to the green room, Sam guided me through the shots, giving me the very rare and extraordinary chance to see my own vital organ at work. It is one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.
I’m not at all sure why but watching that amazing human machine working so tirelessly took me back to my solo voyage around the world.
How amazing, I realised suddenly, that for all of those long months without a human closer than hundreds if not thousands of miles, this extraordinary organ kept on pumping the vital fluid around the equally vital irrigation plan.
Of the navigation I worried over, of the long nights on watch, or watching out that limbs didn’t get caught or injured around and up the schooner rig, I never thought once about how the heart would cope with long sleepless periods, of days when conditions were too bad to cook, and the physical demands of a small yacht shaken and bashed vigorously by storms.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at


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