Screw That: A Guide to Heart Surgery

Erin Brody

1. Tell your fiancée you’re experiencing a sharp pain in your chest. She’ll tell you to go to the hospital, but you’ll decide that your heart issues aren’t as important as getting enough sleep because sleeping for eight hours is one of the many rules of health you follow.


2. Once you finally fall asleep, have your fiancée call you to tell you that after research, she concluded that you’ve had a heart attack caused by angina. Reluctantly get ready to go to the hospital, grumbling about how much your fiancée cares about you by researching your symptoms and worrying about you while she’s 40+ miles away. Maybe “til death do us part” isn’t what you really wanted.


3. Drive yourself to the hospital because why rely on an ambulance with medical professionals with years of training who will help you? Plus you can get that one last cigarette in because smoking doesn’t directly link to heart issues.


4. When you’re placed in the cardiac unit, call your fiancée and force her to buy you Burger King despite checking in for angina. Make sure she grabs a Burger King crown so the hospital knows you’re the King of Unhealthy Diets.


5. When a nurse asks, “Do you have any questions?”, reply with, “Yes. Can I smoke?”


6. Your fiancée will leave when it’s late, leaving you time to think of why you’re in the hospital, before falling asleep to the soothing sound of monitors and alarms going off every five minutes.


7. When you wake up early in the morning and see that you’re blessed with another day, stroll through the corridors and go to the first floor. Walk past the front desk to go outside and enjoy the cool morning in your hospital gown with a cigarette in your mouth.


8. Go back upstairs and have a nurse ask why you were disconnected from your heart monitor. Proudly show her your pack of cigarettes and strut back to your room, knowing that nothing will stop you from being the responsible man you are.


9. Later that day, have doctors attempt to put stents in your arm and send you home. Happily get wheeled into the surgery room because after this, you won’t have to deal with any of these medical idiots and their “healthy” ways of living anymore.


10. By now, doctors will realize that stents won’t work. After they insert a camera into your bloodstream, receive news that six out of nine major arteries are clogged, which means a sextuple bypass surgery needs to be done ASAP.


11. Have Nurse John go into too deep a detail about the procedure. Apparently getting your chest split open and carving through your rib cage is a normal thing to him.


12. Shake your head, say, “I’m not convinced,” then discharge yourself from the hospital. Besides, the worst that could happen is that you drop dead without warning.


13. At home, call your friends to get their opinion on the surgery. One friend will tell you that their father went without surgery and lived for seven more years. Seven more years!


14. Happily tell your fiancée the wonderful news and question why she’s staring at you with her mouth hanging open.


15. Now you have a two-week period of self-reflection before your surgery. Be sure to fill this time with disobeying all of the doctor’s orders: no smoking, no drinking, and no excessive labor. It’s not like a culmination of these three things will trigger another heart attack.


16. When two weeks are up, have the surgery and wake up to the most painful things you’ve ever experienced. Getting a claw hammer stuck in your head both times wasn’t this bad.


17. After three days, you’ll go home. At home, try to follow the surgeon’s orders. There’s no way you’ll ever want to experience that again.


18. Vow the following: I’ll never take my life for granted again. I’ll try to be patient with myself and to take it one day at a time. I’ll now try to see the best in people and to be a better person. I’ll do my best to start a healthy diet and to take better care of my body. I was granted a second chance, and I will use it wisely. With all this in mind, I hope to never find myself in the hospital again.


19. Go back to the hospital because you’re experiencing an abnormal heartbeat. It was probably because it’s a common thing that happens after open-heart surgery and not because you were doing excessive labor, drinking alcohol, eating fatty and sugary foods in large amounts, deciding to skip doctor appointments and rehab, lifting objects heavier than 20 pounds, accidentally tearing out your stitches, driving weeks before your doctor suggests you should, or letting your anger get the best of you. Besides, you take your medicines, so why should any of this apply to you?


20. Have your daughter visit you after school. After talking for a bit, the urge to smoke will wash over you, however you now realize that they monitor your heart, so leaving the room is nearly impossible. Throw your car keys at your daughter and tell her where you parked and to go into the middle compartment of the car. Inside, she’ll find a pack of cigarettes, and she’s to smuggle them into your room where you can happily puff away, not giving a damn.

Erin Brody is a writer from the Pittsburgh area who attends Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School for their Writing and Publishing program. She has been published in pulp. for creative nonfiction, Hot Dish Magazine for fiction, and Dime Show Review for poetry. Outside of writing, she also enjoys participating in theatre.

© Variant Literature Inc 2021