This Week: Sunshine, Blue Skies and an Echocardiogram

Brian H. Gill's 'Be Happy.' (2016)

It hasn’t been quite four years since a small patch on my tongue’s underside went numb.

My wife said I should call our town’s emergency room, so I did. I’d long since learned that she’s got common sense.

That was on a Thursday evening: August 2, 2018.

By Friday afternoon, I’d been up close and personal with a CT scanner here in Sauk Centre and the MRI scanner in Saint Cloud, about an hour down the road. And I’d met, at least briefly, maybe a dozen or so folks, of course.

When scan and lab results were done, I had good news. Whatever had happened, it left my brain’s various subsystems working normally.

An image from Brian H. Gill's brain scans in 2018.Well, as normally as they ever work, and that’s another topic.

At least one of the scans showed that I’ve got an atrial septal aneurysm.

“Atrial septal aneurysm” is a five-dollar phrase meaning that there’s something odd about my heart’s atrial septum. It’s the membrane separating my heart’s two upper chambers.

The five-dollar phrase for the numbness I’d experienced is transient ischemic attack, and I talked about that back in 2018.

The heart’s atrial septum is an important bit of tissue. It keeps blood that’s delivered oxygen and is coming back for a fresh supply from mixing with blood that’s been oxygenated in the lungs.

Apparently what I’ve got is a bulge in my atrial septum. One that hasn’t changed in four years, which is good news.

Now and then, folks have a hole in that membrane; which is normal for a newborn. But if the hole doesn’t grow closed promptly, well: that’s not good news.1

My Atrial Septal Aneurysm, Heart Valves and Mostly-Good News

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's illustration, showing how echocardiograms are made.A month or so back, my doctor told me it was time to check on my heart, so I went to the clinic this week.

The anomaly is still there, but hasn’t changed. And that, like I said before, is good news.

Happily, the technician — sonographer, I understand, is the proper term — had the computer’s screen on the table’s left side.

Which made it the metaphorical right side from my viewpoint, since that way I could see the images.

And had both a pleasant and an informative chat about the procedure and the pictures.

I learned that each valve makes a different sound. Maybe someone’s composed music based on the heart-valve sounds, and that’s yet another topic.

I also learned that there’s a little backflow or leakage in one of the valves. Nothing serious, well within normal parameters: just not a textbook-perfect situation.

On the other hand, leaky valves can lead to complications ranging from feeling lightheaded to being dead.2

Life, Health, Death and Options

Pieter Claesz's 'Vanitas Still Life.' (1630)I like being alive.

Even if I didn’t, appreciating my life comes with being Catholic.

Human life — all human life — is precious, sacred: a gift from God. So is physical health. Taking care of both, within reason, is a good idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2288)

Being sick is okay. Being healthy is okay. It’s part of being alive. Getting well, and helping others get well, is a good idea. The same goes for scientific research: about which ethics apply, same as anything else we do. (Catechism, 1410, 1500-1510, 2292-2296)

But staying or getting healthy shouldn’t be my top priority. Putting anything or anyone where God belongs would be idolatry. And a bad idea. (Catechism, 2112-2113)

Anyway, no matter how much of a health nut I am, sooner or later I’ll die.

Death happens. (Catechism, 1006-1007)

But it’s not permanent — which is good news or bad news, depending on what I’ve done with my life. And whether or not I accept God’s love and mercy at my particular judgment. That last item is a sort of postmortem performance review. (Catechism, 991, 997, 1020-1029, 1033-1037, 1042-1050)

Worried? Me? Apparently

Brian H. Gill (2021)I had something other than echocardiograms, heart valves and medical imaging in mind for this week’s topic.

I’d been working on that other stuff until early Wednesday afternoon, when it was time for me to get to the clinic.

Getting the echocardiogram was fun, since I got a chance to see how the tech works and talk about it with the sonographer.

But when I got back home, I realized that what I’d been writing would take several more days to finish: not the two and a fraction left this week.

That happens, sometimes. But when it does, I generally see how to wrap up what I’ve got and still make my self-imposed deadline. This week, that wasn’t happening.

And I realized that I wasn’t nearly as unconcerned about my echocardiogram as I thought. Somewhere, well behind my mind’s front office, I was worried.

So I decided that I’d save my notes and what I’d written to date on what I’ll call topic number one, and start writing this thing. Which I did.

Then, Thursday afternoon, I got the echocardiogram’s results. Results of an analysis of it, actually. The oddity in my heart hasn’t changed — I said that before — and the medications I take will stay the same. Basically, good news.

Let’s see. What am I missing?

Blue skies! Right!

This week’s blue skies, fleecy clouds and sunshine were punctuated by rain and the occasional thundershower. “Thunderstorm,” as the National Weather Service started calling them some time back now.

Sunshine, Lollipops, Rainbows and Me

Gustave Doré's illustration for Poe's 'The Raven.' (1884)This week’s weather and unconscious anxiety, plus my eclectic musical tastes, have had me playing Howard Liebling’s, Marvin Hamlisch’s and Lesley Gore’s 1963 “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” in my head.

Not the whole song, just the bit I remembered. “Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, every-something” and repeat.3

It’s among my favorite mood-lifters.

Which have been very useful over the decades. And that’s yet again another topic:


1 Hearts, healthy and otherwise:

2 More about hearts and medical tech:

3 Happy musical memories:

About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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6 Responses to This Week: Sunshine, Blue Skies and an Echocardiogram

  1. You know, Mr. Gill, reading you being so detailed about such health conditions of yours makes me think you’ll be some stylish dying jig instead of a mere dying breath. But seriously, I’m glad you’re still learning and doing your best out there. Praise and thanks be to God very much again, and may He keep on challenging and guiding You as He wishes!

Thanks for taking time to comment!