ECG strip (A reply)

To a person who knows exactly who I’m talking to/about.

I spent a month reading ECG strips everyday. The first one I read was one of a patient with ventricular fibrillation- he had a pacemaker implanted and a day later his ECG was as normal as every other 47 year old’s. No, I won’t forget that ECG strip. I won’t forget the way my friend and I looked at it or how at one glance we said in unison what the patient had. But we went to McDonalds that day and we laughed about our friends’ misdiagnoses, not to mention the guy who spilt hot coffee all over his pants. That day ended, and the next day we paired to look at yet another ECG strip. This way, the diagnoses got tougher and before we knew it we were already done with a week, and then another, and then yet another, until we had two days for our final exam. So I stayed up late, drained my coffee mugs, walked like a zombie during the day, poured over my books like a vampire in the night. 03:00 am, and the 04:00 am and then there was the exam. The four books I had altered between to study the ECGs, not forgetting all the ECG strips we read in class or the googled images saved in my phone’s gallery, were but the end of yet another subject. I slept through that night, complaining that I didn’t have anything to study for, because the next day was a new subject.

With all the pathological Q waves I saw, all the T inversions and ST elevations, PR prolongations, Wenckeback phenomena, diphasic and flutter waves, I knew I wouldn’t forget the signs of a myocardial infarction or an atrial flutter any time soon but I didn’t know there was a reminder of all those diseases put together in the form of two pictures- two pictures of two screenshots sent directly from somebody’s phone.

So when I received these messages I saw, to my surprise, yet another ECG strip, but this time it was different. Instead of the precordial leads were lines running into each other, rich descriptions of a person I didn’t know. Someone who read ECG strips better than I did, but captured a heart in the process too. Instead of the heart rate I could simply count the number of tears shed, and still not be able to put a number on it. Instead of a life at stake, it was love at stake. I poured over this piece of writing more than I poured over my books, as though the signs of a heart break that I could read on it could fix all the wrong answers I had marked on my paper. And for the first time, after an entire month of all the red and white paper, I held in my hands a beating heart- no murmur, no click, no pathological heart sound, and yet as broken as it could be.

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