Marina Gomberg: When ‘the heart of the matter’ becomes too literal

Some weirdness with her heartbeat turns our columnist’s Saturday night into an ER trip.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Gomberg.

It was a long weekend with too many hours spent at the hospital. But at least on Sunday night, I was fortunate enough to get our 6-year-old, Harvey, to bed.

It’s one of my favorite routines because without screens, food or toys to distract him, he talks (and talks), and we get to learn what’s going on in that gorgeously encased brain.

It’s a lot of Minecraft trivia mixed with memories of the day, stuff that made him laugh and jokes he tells with a frequency that could mellow. (It’s only funny the first couple times, bud.)

That night, he did what he often does after our chats, and hermetically sealed his head to my chest and went quiet. I love feeling that weight. When he falls asleep, there’s this subtle shift — a heaviness of total relaxation accompanied by sleep breathing, and it’s better than Xanax.

But he hadn’t fallen asleep yet that night. And he could feel my heart’s mischief.

“Mimi, your heart is beating so big.”

I noted his perceptiveness and told him it’s because my love for him keeps growing. And it does, exponentially, so that’s true. There’s some additional truth I left unsaid, and he was picking up on the thing that’s a little less ideal.

It isn’t the worst and I have a comforting sense that we’ll figure out how to make it right, but I’d be disingenuous to say it hasn’t scared me.

I was in incredible pain that day before (despite having grown to manage a fair amount) and it felt like my heart kept falling asleep to then wake up and beat doubly to make up for any missed time. I have never so genuinely understood the description of feeling like one’s heart is beating out of their chest.

We were prepping for dinner with our friends (we’ll try that bacon-wrapped date with goat cheese recipe another time) but I wasn’t in great shape.

“Do I need to call 9-1-1?” my wife, Elenor, asked as we saw my Apple Watch draw my discomfort in the line of an irregular EKG.

That reality had crossed my mind, too. But I’m stubborn and tough. So I decided to text our doctor instead.

Despite a weekend text out of the blue, she responded so graciously. Curious, caring and calming without being dismissive. She’s too good.

She asked a bunch of questions and wanted me to check back in after a couple of hours. But when I came to question my own ability to withstand the discomfort, Elenor and I enlisted the help of my sister and brother-in-law, who shifted their Saturday night plans (with more generosity and grace than could fit on any continent) to care for Harvey, and El took me in a fast-but-legal-and-safe zoom to the hospital.

And then, of course, she sat with me for hours, made me laugh, kept me hydrated, kept my gown tied up, communicated with the fam and was just generally the best wife a gal could have. She even did an improvised dance, slightly resembling a horse ride, once we got into our own room.

Even being so engulfed in love and kindness, my heart was being a drama mama.

It’s not her fault, really. Illness or maybe meds were making her act out.

Instead of the traditional lub-dub lub-dub, she sometimes gets confused. The bottom half contracts first instead of the top, and then like a person returning from vacation, she had some stuff to catch up on!

So, BOOM, a beat that pumps 150% its normal volume of blood, and feels like it shoots liquid pain and adrenaline out of a confetti cannon.

Then trickle trickle trickle until the next one a couple of seconds later. Woof.

Those little episodes are called preventricular contractions, or PVCs, and we actually all have them from time to time. It’s just an issue if you have them with more frequency, and something is making my little confetti cannon work like it’s at a New Year’s Eve party celebrating in every timezone.

So, I’m back on all the steroids (all delicious crustaceans should be worried, as I have discussed in this space) and sometimes want to wail at this string of hurdles.

Then I remember that with the bologna, I’ve been served an even larger helping of kindness and love. And like the anti-dieter I am, I’m going to try and enjoy every bite without guilt.

Marina Gomberg is a professional communicator, a practicing optimist and a lover of love. She lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey, and their dog, Mr. Noodle. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.

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