Corazón, My Rapid Heart & Harper's HeartSunday, July 07, 2013
The concept of the existence of something called the heart first came into my life when I was 8. It was then that Manrique, a plain closed policeman friend of my father’s gave me as a gift a book that was very popular in Buenos Aires at the time. This was Corazón by the Italian writer Edmundo de Amicis (1846-1908). The book, by a man who graduated from a military academy was written expressly for boys ages 9 to 13 and it was the staple of books read out loud in Perón’s school system in the later 40s and 50s.
I have read Corazón several times. From the very beginning Manrique was one of my heroes as I was impressed by the bulge in his suit jacket that I knew contained a .45. The beautiful cover of the book is long deteriorated into dust and what's left of it is a flaky mess that I have to treat with kindness.
On my father’s side most that died, succumbed from stomach problems caused by the Hayward tendency to drink. My father had a heart attack on Calle Monroe in Coghlan, across the street from the Hospital Pirovano. He was taken to the hospital by a friend, a police sergeant (in uniform) and was declared dead on arrival.
On my mother’s side the only man with a heart ailment was my grandfather Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena. Shortly after climbing the Philippines’s tallest volcano, the Mayón, he died of a heart attack as a young man in his early 40s.
After working in the garden most of the afternoon I lifted a heavy bag of dirt which did me in. I told Rosemary, my arms are numb, I am short of breath and my chest feels tight. I am going to lie down. While in bed I realized that my best course was to go to emergency. I drove myself there with Rosemary beside me.
Once Rosemary had convinced me (I had asked her) if I was still insured even though our premiums have been increased because of our age, that dead I was worth $500,000 I drove uncomfortably but calm to emergency.. I was wondering what it would be like once the juice was turned off. I wasn’t scared. I was curious.
I was told to remove all my clothing except my underwear and to to lie down in a wheeled bed. In short order I was surrounded by 8 very friendly people of which, as far as I can tell only two were born in Canada. My radiologist was half Italian and half Filipino. Sonya who carted me around in my wheeled bed was Russian. Another nurse was Afghan. When I asked him if he were a Pashtun he told me that he was formerly an Afghan but was now Canadian. All were young, smart and efficient. When I told Lorend that I knew a word in Hungarian, "curva" he choked even though I explained that in Spanish it means curve. He asked me if I had experienced curvas. I denied all knowledge of them but brought up the subject that Hungarian insults seem to involve the placing of either a male horse or camel into the equation. Lorend choked again.
Lorend, my Hungarian nurse said, after checking my EKG, "You have converted." Upon enquiry I was informed that this is a medical term that indicates that my heart had gone from an uncommonly fast rate to a normal one in short order and that probably I would be going home.
And that was the case.
But this cannot end here. My friend, writer John Lekich says that when possible you must finish anything your write with a citation to the beginning, so I must return to the heart.
A week ago I went to see my ophthalmologist, Dr. Simon J. Warner. As he was examining my eyes I related to him that in Spanish we have a saying, "Ojo que no ve, corazón que no siente." This translates exactly to, "The eye that does not see, the heart that does not feel." I asked Dr. Warner if there was an equivalent in English. With little pause, he answered, "Prime Minister Harper."