So. Today is January 22nd, and my pacemaker is one year old.
Compared to all the crap that had gone before, my 8-day stay in Vincents was fairly uneventful. The staff were friendly, hard-working and knowledgable. The nurses were cute and, to my surprise and delight, some of the doctors were even cuter. I had the heart monitor removed, they waited a bit for that wound to heal, and then they put in the pacemaker. During my stay in Cardiac Care I got to be the youngest in a group for once, since most of the others were in their seventies, so I was the ward gofer, trekking off each morning to buy newspapers in the hospital shop. One morning NiceNurseNicola (one of the Russells from Skerries, as she used to describe herself) gave me an explanatory booklet about my pacemaker, and the patient on the front was also in his seventies. I think this was the only time I got down during my whole stay. “Look at him,” I said to NNN, pointing to the cover, “is that not the age I should be to be going through all this?”
Most of the time I was fine, though. I was visited each day by Mrs Tin and an ever-changing selection of Tinkids, my dad came in a lot, and I was also visited by some of the workmates who regularly appear in these annals, including GoldenEyes, Blondiebird, TallNeuroticGirl and even The Overlord himself. I sent and received almost two hundred texts to and from various others. One guy from my local asked would I get to see the United game on the Saturday, and when I said no he offered to text me whenever there was a goal. That was one of the most dread-filled afternoons of my life (and I’m speaking here as a man who’s had blackouts and heart operations, and who once set fire to his kitchen) as all conversation gradually dried up and the Tinsons and I just stared at the still silent phone as the time ticked nearer and nearer to ten to five. With about eight minutes to go my phone finally beeped, and I fell upon it. “One-nil – Rooney,” read the text. “About fucking time,” I texted back, “do they not know I have a heart condition?” (I later discovered that one of the guys had suggested texting me that they were losing, but the general consensus in the pub had been that this might have killed me).
One evening at the end of visiting time I was walking the family out to the front door. There is a statue of Jesus very like this picture in the front hall, with him pointing to his Sacred Heart as he always seems to be doing. “Look,” I said to the Tinkids, “Jesus had a pacemaker too.” Mrs Tin gave me a look of horror as if she reckoned I was now doomed to hell for all eternity, but I think that even if I am it will be worth it, just to have heard them all laugh during what must have been a really scary time for them.
At half-eight on the morning of the 22nd a guy arrived into the ward with a trolley to collect me. I climbed up onto it while he went off to sign some paperwork. After a couple of minutes I started calling out “I say? Driver?”. The man in the bed opposite said “I’ve been watching you this morning. I’ve been in here lots of times, and I’ve never seen anyone who’s about to go upstairs for an operation looked as relaxed as you.”
“Listen, ” I said, “I’ve been through eight months of not knowing when this will all end. All that time I was hoping for a day like this. I can’t wait to get upstairs.”
Two hours later I was back in bed and I sent out a group text saying “Am now part-man, part-machine”. The people at work were always giving out about how little time I’d taken off during all this (what was the point, I used to blackout at home too, with the difference being that at home I was doing it in front of my children) so HR Fireball texted “I suppose I’ll see you here in work tomorrow.” “Why?” I texted back, “will you not be there this afternoon?” (“Not in the least bit funny” was her reply).
CuteAccountantGirl, who has now left but with whom we still go on the beer sometimes, texted back “Congratulations Tinman!” and so is indirectly responsible for the name I took when I started all this blog stuff three months later.
And the following morning the doctors said I could go home. I texted “FREE AT LAST! FREE AT LAST! THANK GOD I’M FREE AT LAST! Er, can I have a lift?” to Mrs Tin, said my goodbyes, and headed off to a slightly different life.
And in general this life is fine. I do feel the pacemaker turning on every so often, and occasionally it will irritate muscles around it, so that they keep pinging and spasming for a while after it had stopped. I can’t go through the X-Ray machine at airports (not, as I’d always thought, because the pacemaker would set off the machine, but rather because the machine would turn off the pacemaker). Getting to skip the queue is as not as much fun as it sounds, since it just means that I have to get patted down every time, and that’s not as much fun as it sounds either, since they always call a bloke to do it.
And look at my muscles!
When swimming last summer I decided to wear a Rafael Nadal type t-shirt, since I didn’t want my kids or my nieces (or indeed, any of my in-laws) to see my chest with it’s three scars (monitor in, monitor out, pacemaker in) and the visible lump where the pacemaker is. My last lingering hopes of being a male stripper have vanished.
But at least now I can swim, without fear of blacking out and drowning. I can drive again, though the seven months without it has made me realise that I actually don’t like driving anymore. I can do almost everything that I used to do before, and also have an excuse for not doing things I don’t want to do (there’s a guy at work who arranges paint-balling every year, and he’s so young and sweet that I’ve never had the heart (sorry) to tell him that I didn’t want to go, so I’ve twice gone and had a really miserable and painful time, but this year I just was able to say I’m not allowed).
In other words, I’ve adapted. Very occasionally I feel it’s a bit unfair that a bloke my age should have gone through all this shit, but most of the time I’m amazed and thrilled that it all finally got sorted.
I am Tinman, and very content with that.
That’s it finished, right? You’ll be back to slagging the Government and talking about your kids or the cute girls at work from tomorrow? Promise?
One last thing. If you ever have to get circumcised or anything like that we don’t need a 7-post series about it. Understand?