Saturday, June 19, 2010

My body is talented, but self-destructive.

Once upon a time, believe it or not, I was an athletic girl. I joined the track team. My best event? High jump. Seems impossible, doesn't it? Given my short height of five foot five/six inches now, I was just under four feet back then when I was eleven. Weighing in at a total of sixty five pounds, I was skinny and short and I didn't look healthy, but I was stronger and faster than I looked. I was fast enough to be put on the track team despite my age, strong enough to put myself over the bar backwards and not knock it off when kids seven, eight inches, sometimes even a foot taller than me couldn't manage it. I also liked basketball, was decent at it. I had talent.

I had some problems, though. Problems that I explained to the track coaches, but they didn't think the problem was as serious as I insisted because I didn't have a doctor backing me up. You see, I always got tired easily. Walking around amusement parks for an hour exhausted me and I'd have to rest fifteen minutes at a time. I could run short distances just fine, but I told the track coaches that I couldn't do any extended, long distance running. I didn't know what would happen if they tried to put me in a long distance event. My assumption was I'd be too exhausted to compete in any other events.

My first track meet, they stuck me in the 800 meter race instead of the 100 meter dash. I asked them to reconsider, but they stuck to the belief that I would be fine. The high jump was the first event, and so I didn't argue it much. I figured it wouldn't matter if I did my other event first, and then I could rest the remainder of the day.

This was spring in Austin, Texas in 2000. It was ninety-eight degrees outside, hot and humid in the way only Texas weather can get. I took second in high jump. I was the shortest competitor. I stretched for my race, drank lots of water and Gatorade, prepped myself the way I had been taught.

The race started, I took off and took second place. Always second best, never first, but that was fine with me. I was good at track, but I didn't love it. Maybe if I had I would have pushed myself a little harder to train. I made it through the first lap, strong and steady. At the beginning of the second, my chest started to ache. Breathing became difficult and painful. I tried taking bigger breaths, but the air couldn't get through. Every intake of breath felt like something stabbing through my chest. I started to slow down against my will, but I still pushed. I fell to third. Then fourth. I was in fifth place when my world suddenly went black and the track came up to meet me.

The next thing I knew, I was looking up at the sky, blue and bright, and there were faces around me. Coaches screaming, friends and parents touching my face, testing my breathing, trying to see if I was okay. They asked me questions. Was I in pain? What happened?

I tried to tell them I my chest was hurting, that it hurt to breath, but I couldn't get the words out. I sat myself up. My hands and knees were stinging. I'd scraped myself up when I fainted. I saw my bloody knees and promptly fainted again. The sight of my own blood freaks me out, and the smell of blood makes me physically ill.

I came to in the Nurse's Office, and she had my grandparents on the phone. My mother had only recently come back, so she wasn't the main contact on my papers. Mom and Memaw came to get me though, and they called the doctor, who sent us to a specialist.

Two days later I found myself in the Breckenridge Cardiology Center, running on a treadmill while hooked up to wires. They ran lots of tests. Then they gave me a heart monitor to wear for a week, which they put in a purse for me to carry around so I wouldn't feel like I looked stupid.

Two weeks later we had my diagnosis: a heart murmur and an irregular heartbeat. They said the heartbeat was the bigger problem. The way they explained it was this: a normal heart beat says "love you, love you, love you" and my heart says "love you, love you, I love you, love you." The third beat throws off the way my blood is pumped, which makes it harder to get the oxygen in my blood circulated through my whole body, which makes strenuous activity, such as track meets, almost impossible, and potentially dangerous.

The orders? No more sports. So I took up choir, and then flute, and dedicated my life to the things that I loved: reading, writing, and playing music. Things that I excelled in, things I enjoyed that couldn't possibly hurt me. I've had to play it safe every day since that track meet, never pushing myself too far. I kind of miss running, but I'm so out of shape that even short distances start my warning signals in my body. So I resigned myself to my fate a couple of years ago, and I'm invested in my new future: couch potato extraordinaire.

No comments:

Post a Comment

My Shelfari Bookshelf

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog