Atina the Amazing Malinois was trying to climb this tall tree that you see here. I looked where her gaze was riveted, and thus is what I saw: the back end of a raptor of some sort, white underside, soft, with enormous grasping talons. I knew the rest of it must be on the other side of the branch the corpse had been draped over, or rather, dropped over by the triumphant winner of what must have been a hell of an aeronautic battle. No blood, which points to a slam from above, a tactic used by other raptors to rid themselves of competition in their hunting territories. Here is the other side:
The young raptor’s beak curves off to the left. You can see how she is just draped across the crotch of this piñon pine, as if she was simply dropped there.
Well, she was. I’ve never seen anything like this before. She was too high up to have been put there by people, who use this place in the forest on the Coconino Plateau, close to the Grand Canyon, as a hunting camp. You can tell from the numerous white-picked skeletons of young elk and deer, headless and mostly whole except for the parts easily hauled off to be picked by the eaters of carrion. And the young raptor, so far, has been left alone by Nature’s cleanup crew, so it must have happened very recently.
I had a heart attack five days ago.
It happened at about 6:15 on Monday morning. I was awakened by a piercing pain on the right side of my head. My blood pressure has been out of control lately, and I’ve been trying different meds to bring it down. The one I’m on helps some. I tried a tiny dose of a beta blocker, but my pulse went down to 48 and stayed there. The next one clashed with my lithium so I couldn’t take that. Another one is now waiting for me at the Walgreens in Flagstaff, but I’m chilling on the Plateau. I’ll pick it up tomorrow.
Monday morning. When I had the big pain in my head I thought, well, here it is, now I’ll really lose my whole left side. At least language will be preserved, though, since the stroke is in my right brain.
But that pain went away, and suddenly my left chest got crushed by a great weight. The weight also crushed my throat. I couldn’t believe it. I could barely breath. My chest wouldn’t move. I couldn’t move. All I could do was wrap my arms around my chest and moan. Atina plastered her full length against my side, panting. I also panted. I couldn’t expand my chest without aggravating the already excruciating heart pain.
It took maybe two hours before I was able to move. And the rest of that day, all I could manage was to make my way from the bed to the bathroom, and back to bed. Atina did get to go outside, but not for our usual two to three mile walk. I gradually recovered my energy over the next few days. I think I’ve been having some episodes of angina, heart muscle pain that comes and goes. I’ve been having that for some time.
Listen, I found out the body does not like heart pain. At all. When the heart is not getting sufficient oxygen, it screams.
This is the third episode of heart pain I’ve had. The first was maybe two years ago. That time the pain woke me from a deep sleep. It sat on me for hours. I kept thinking, I should perhaps dial 911, but the phone is on my bedside table and I can’t move. They always tell you it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest. They are right.
I had a third, smaller one in between the bigger ones. That was when I tried to seek care at a large hospital with a large reputation, and ended up leaving without being seen because they were so rude to me I thought I was going to have a stroke.
I’m not afraid of dying. I am afraid of the medical establishment, and I am afraid of having my life even more dominated by tests, invasive procedures, and “experts” than it is already.
For example, the only real way to find out what’s going on with my heart is to do a cardiac catheterization. They thread a fiber optic tube through a blood vessel in your groin, all the way up into your heart, and from there they shoot some dye right into the three major arteries of the heart, and watch where it goes on a screen. This way they can see whether the vessels are blocked, and if so, where and how much. If the vessel is only partially blocked, they can open it with a balloon and maybe put a stent in there to keep the vessel open.
That sounds pretty simple, and most of the time it is. But my blood vessels are very friable, meaning that they rupture easily. Like, just opening a cabinet door, or walking over the edge of a rug. Any little bump or stress, and I’ve got a painful hematoma. So a major vascular procedure would be terribly risky.
I’m much more afraid of a cardiac cath than I am of a crippling or fatal heart attack. I just have to figure out how to save Atina from being locked in the van with me if it happens. I’d call someone, but when this happens I’m unable to move. So I’ve taken to leaving the doors unlocked at night. Hopefully someone would show up eventually and let her out.
I wish all this grim stuff was not reality. I have so many things I want to do, finally, and now this. I feel as if I’m in the grip of some evil force that is making my life into a big joke. I’ve been feeling that for decades, but the joke is getting worse and worse.