Feeling Human


The frailty of life is what makes us feel most human, I’m sure. Often we’re taking care of the frailty of those closest to us, but it’s when something reminds ourselves that we’re not superheroes after all that life becomes most precious. Let me not over dramatise what’s happening to me here – it’s nothing like the accident I had a couple of years ago. Recently I’ve just been experiencing something that’s both fairly common and uncommonly painful.


For a good few years now I’ve felt what are called “premature ventricular contractions”. They didn’t bother me that much in the past, just a little unsettling when I had an attack, but over the years they’ve become more and more noticeable and painful too. In the past month they’ve occurred almost every day, twice a day and while they’re difficult to describe I’ll give it a go. What’s actually happening to a heart when it occurs is that it beats prematurely and then has to pause while it resets the rhythm. The pause isn’t very long at all, but when I feel it it’s difficult to breathe or carry on talking or whatever else I might be doing at the time. That and the first beat after the reboot (haha) is increasingly forceful and painful. Sometimes it feels like my heart will pound itself out of my chest.

I’m also very aware of the surge of electricity it causes in that area and it’s been getting so uncomfortable. When I’m having a particularly bad episode they seem to happen around 8-10 times in a minute, but averagely it’s “just” 4 times a minute. To not bore you with any more details I had a Holter Monitor attached for 24 hours to record an ECG.

While I’ve endured a surprising amount of sickness in the past year ranging from the flu to pneumonia and my regular old asthma, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the apparatus employed by the medical world to try and discover what could be going wrong. For now, the disruptions to my life while sometimes painful and tiring are so interesting to someone like me who is fascinated by how things work.

Robot Cherry and her exposed wires, out.

What makes you feel most human? Would you document it to remember for the futre?

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  1. Posted October 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Ohmigod! I’ve had the same exact sensation for years! Every time it happens, I swear I’ll get it checked out, but then it won’t again for ages and I’m worried they won’t be able to tell.

    I hope everything is okay!

  2. Eric
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Luck you, living in Vancouver. I visited for the first time two years ago (Bowen Island for two nights and then a couple night in N. Vancouver) and loved it as much as I do Paris or San Fran. I would have moved there in a day if conditions had permitted.

    But, on to my point.

    For years I’ve been having episodic heart mis-beats. I haven’t experienced pain, only a bit of panic that the thing keeping me alive from second to second is mis-firing. I’ve worn a monitor twice, but no explanations were forthcoming from the docs. Sometimes the mis-firings happen dozens of times a day. Right now, for reason I don’t know, they don’t happen. I can go for days or weeks like this before another one will hit. If I had to take a guess right now as to why my heart is behaving, it’s because I’m doing intense exercise, eating well, popping all sorts of supplements and getting good sleep. Have you tried taking a good Omega-3 fish oil supplement on a daily basis? Some hearts, so I’ve read, don’t respond at all well to any kind of caffeine.

    Somehow I’ve convinced myself that despite being incredibly healthy, it’ll still be my heart that does me in some day. Hopefully, if that happens, I’ll be staring at one of the giant slugs I saw on Bowen Island, that I was told, take off their blankets, slide out of leafy beds, and start heading for gardens come dusk.

    Best wishes,

  3. ben hengst
    Posted October 10, 2009 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    That sounds both amazing and horrible at the same time. As I grow older I am more and more amazed at how wonderfully complex our bodies really are. I’m so glad that you are safe and it sounds like this is something that medical science has a grip on. I hope this all pans out as well as it can.


  4. cherry
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Ben – It’s really mind boggling to me at times too, I think the older we get we definitely become more aware of what our bodies are up to since they probably don’t work quite as smoothly as they once did.

  5. cherry
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Eric- the panic really is something when these things kick in. Although because they always subsided before I never worried too much. These days, though, since they’ve become increasingly more painful I am slightly worried that it actually means something this time and my family has a strong history of angina which is always worrying to me. Mind you, there’s also been a lot of cancer in my family so we can’t worry about everything, eh? Haha.

  6. cherry
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Kestrel – thanks! It used to only happen to me on the odd occasion too, I hope they never get more frequent for you!

  7. ste
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Finding out I had a (relatively minor) heart condition a couple of years ago was this kind of moment for me, I suppose. It’s nothing that affects the way I live my life (at least not until I’m much older), but the knowledge that something isn’t quite as it should be did feel… I don’t know, strange. Can’t think of a better word at the moment. But I am able to find what I’ve got interesting, too, perhaps similar to that fascination you mention – how things work, sometimes despite whatever flaws or faults there might be.

    I hope you and your ticker are doing well.

  8. Posted October 28, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    hi cherry, it’s tigerlily. i’ve had severe heart palpitations for years, and they became very frequent and painful during my pregnancy, so i can imagine what you must be experiencing. in those pauses before the reset, time seems to still, and then the return of the beat is so unsettling…it doesn’t feel possible to take life for granted in that moment. as if the ground you stand on is suddenly gone and you are just suspended. i hope your ticker will sort itself out, and i send you love and strength.

    my heart too, makes me feel the most human. the experience of emotionality, when i can really be with it, especially tenderness, grief, vulnerability and joy, feels essential to what my time here is about. really being with my heart is the most difficult and most rewarding work for me.


  9. Gord
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Cherry, whom I care for DEEPLY, you will follow up on this episode with the medical folks won’t you?? Please? Just for me (& Mau & Tuk & Matt & Pat???)?????

  10. cherry
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I will, I promise!

  11. Elise
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I have so many answers for what makes me feel human. Knowing I’ve lost people who have been so important to me, even just looking around me makes me feel more a part of the world. But the same also makes me feel as though I’m existing outside of myself.
    I hope they figure out what’s going on and they fix it. Good luck and happy new year.

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