Hearts Are Not Heart-shaped

My younger daughter is watching people from her hospital bed in the ER.

“I feel like I’m on the Hogwarts’ train, you know, when all the people keep passing by the compartment?”

Passing through the frame, only for a few seconds…a woman pushing a cart overflowing with bins full of files, a white-coated man pushing another cart in the opposite direction with containers full of mysterious liquids, a man on a gurney with blood on his jeans and his head wrapped in gauze, paramedics–one who Meg points out has biceps that fill up his shirt sleeves…

I worry that her heart will race faster than the 200 beats/minute she was rushed here for…an unorthodox way of getting out of language arts class.

Only one person is frozen in the middle of the frame. A very old woman has been brought in, and the gurney she is lying on is parked in front of the nurses’ desk right outside Meg’s “compartment.”

Pain in right thigh…Alzheimer’s…doesn’t speak English…

She is moaning loudly, reaching a shaking left hand to cover her face in her distress. She yells something in Polish over and over again.

Meg, who is hooked up to an IV and machines monitoring her pulse and heart rate, is worried…about the old woman.

“Mom, no one is taking care of her.”

I explain to my child, the one who has had various health issues all of her life, and now apparently a new one to deal with, that if the woman was in serious condition, they would be caring for her. That she is confused because of the Alzheimer’s.

“Where is her family?”

The woman yells out it Polish again. Over and over, the same word. It sounds like BABUSHAH!

“You need to rest while we wait for the doctor.” I get up to close the curtain on the craziness.

“No! I want to see her.”

The old woman begins to claw at her IV.

“Mom, please help her.”

I’m sorry for the woman, but more moved by my daughter’s heart–the one that is always so full of love for others, the one that is beating too fast.

I walk close to the woman, whose eyes search my face for some familiarity, and she reaches out a crooked, soft hand, which I take. I tell her it’s okay and “shush, shush” her like a baby. She is calm for a moment then yells out again. She pushes my hand away then reaches for it.

I stand this way for about 10 minutes, and I realize I’m not doing much good. I look over my shoulder at my daughter lying in her bed. She is smiling broadly at me. She thinks I am doing good.

As I back away from the woman’s bedside, she gets a hold of her IV tubing and begins to pull as hard as she can. I grab her hand and call for a nurse. We’re surrounded by them, but they are so frantic, working around us in such a way that I think, “This is what it feels like to be a ghost.”

One finally hears me and takes over caring for the woman. I’m relieved to go back to my daughter who says as I sit beside her, “Thank you, Mom, I’m proud of you.”

I don’t feel like she should be. My heart isn’t in the place hers is for that woman. Her heart is big and shaped like all of the things it holds. And it is almost back to beating normally.

“You know, I think your heart is trying to keep up with how you feel about people. Maybe you’re wearing it out,” I tell her.

She smiles at my diagnosis, as someone comes in to hook her up to a Holter monitor. She’ll wear it for 24 hours, and it will record any anomaly and measure all heart activity.

At least those things which can be measured.

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