Monday, March 10, 2008

I don't heart my monitor

first, it's not called a "halter monitor," as i'd supposed, but a "Holter monitor." in my imagination, it was one of those sexy black chest straps that only the buffest boyz at the gym wear, shirtless ostensibly to provide access to their cyborganism but really to show off their abs. that's what i thought i was getting, and i even packed a gym bag, thinking i'd stop for a workout on my way home from the cardiac clinic.

a Holter monitor is a whole other thing. don't get me wrong. i'm not an ingrate. the idea of a rolling ECG is cool. but the thing itself is pinchy and awkward and clunky and really quite ugly. there are seven plastic discs stuck to my chest. each is connected to a medium-gauge wire that measures the electrical signals from my heart. the seven wires, color coded, come together in a flat, wide plug lying against my sternum. the cord coming out the back end of this plug -- and we're talking a pretty heavy cord here, like an extension cord -- goes up around my neck, down my shirt sleeve and into the monitor itself, which is a flat grey institutional box the size of an old-school handycam. this sits in a grey canvas pouch with black neoprene straps that you wear over your shoulder, mailbag style. the contraption makes a fanny pack look chic by comparison.

but wait, you're wondering, what about your bra? indeed. let's just say i puzzled over that one for a bit and eventually called my tech, anne, back behind the curtain for assistance. she had a clever way of threading it up, over and through the various wires, a technique i realized immediately i could never master. and that pretty much put paid to the plan of going to the gym.

for 24 hours, i walk around like barton fink carrying a head around in a box. only in my case, it's my heart i'm wearing on my sleeve.

and yet, even though my heart is right out there for all the world to see, it remains opaque. somewhere inside the box, a digital motherboard is tracking my heart's every modulation, but this record will only be read retrospectively, by an expert, tomorrow. for now, for me, it's the usual guessing game.

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