Sandra was born with a sideways heart. She lived 38 years of her life without any knowledge of that fact.
Only after she’d endured frequent heart palpitations for months, did Sandra finally seek out a medical professional to ascertain her body wasn’t planning to kill her any time soon.
Sandra waited for months before even considering scheduling a doctor’s appointment because, frankly, her life wasn’t ‘anything special.’ She went to work, she came home to her tiny studio apartment, and she took two weeks of vacation every year to go visit her mother, who was spiraling deeper into dementia. It was getting so bad Sandra didn’t think her mother would even recognize her the next time she flew back to Idaho for a visit.
“Idaho. Of all the places to be born and raised,” Sandra thought as she contemplated, then mentally postponed, booking her next trip.
Sandra was at least moderately happy she’d moved to a large metropolitan area after earning her college degree.
“A city that’s grimy, rife with traffic, and teaming with homeless encampments under every freeway underpass,” she thought, then sighed heavily. She was riding the bus on her way home from work with her aching forehead pressed to the dirty, yellowed, graffiti-scratched window, looking out to see what the city would share with her this evening.
“Ugh, more of the same dirt and criminals,” she thought to herself, as the bus rolled through a particularly unpleasant part of town. She closed her eyes briefly and willed herself to get home faster.
Sandra exited the bus two blocks from her apartment and ran into the deli to fill up yet another Styrofoam container full of ‘delights’ from the salad bar that she would take home and fuss with for hours, moving its contents around a lot with a fork, and eventually throwing more than half of it away out of her sheer tedium with lettuce, carrots, celery, potato salad, and macaroni salad, all bathed in ranch dressing. She did still enjoy throwing a few sunflower seeds or raisins in to mix it up once in a while. But still, another workday, another salad for dinner.
It wasn’t always like this. When Sandra was in college, she had a lot of friends and even an occasional boyfriend. But that all changed when she got a job in the city. She was now perpetually exhausted by the steady stream of people she had to deal with all day long. The thought of having to go online to try to meet someone or risk being setup by a co-worker on a blind date with “just the most amazing guy” was too much for her to contemplate.
Dating had never really gone particularly well for her anyway.
First there was Ryan, who told her it was too much effort to get her to even smile, much less laugh about anything. He needed someone who would laugh at his dumb jokes.
Next came Tom, who found her to be too ‘challenging’ to be around. When she pressed for more details, his only reply was, “See? That’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about.”
She took a break from dating for a while, but after a year she tried jumping back in. By the time Sam referred to her as “arduous” and a real “ball-buster,” on just their second date, she was at a complete loss and decided she’d just have to get through life without a man by her side, which was disappointing.
Sandra had been the proverbial ‘third wheel’ in her family, watching her parent’s relationship from her front row seat. It was so free and easy. They were so happy and excited every single day when they woke up and realized, once again, that they’d actually found each other, got to have another day with each other, and would be together forever.
Of course, ‘forever’ ended when her father passed away after a long illness. After that, Sandra’s mother was never the same. She’d been separated from the only person who she knew had been positively tailor made just for her. But now with her declining faculties, it didn’t seem as though she even remembered that she once had a husband who she adored and who adored her back.
Sandra’s doctor appointment to get her heart checked was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. She found the right bus to get her to her appointment and, upon arrival, walked up the four flights of stairs to his office. In retrospect, she realized when you’re seeing a doctor about a heart issue, pressing that issue to its limits might not be very wise. She paused at the top of the stairs to catch her breath and slow her heart rate down before heading down the hall to his office. After getting checked in, she immediately sat down in the lobby and waited to be called, grateful for a few extra minutes to slow down her still rapidly beating heart.
Once the doctor held his stethoscope up to listen to her heart, “Hmmm, tsk, tsk,” he muttered, followed by, “We’re going to need to take some X-rays and perform an EKG.”
When the X-rays and EKG were completed, Sandra went back up to the doctor’s office to hear the results. The doctor came into the room staring at the documents and shaking his head back and forth. He stood there for a moment trying to fully absorb what he was seeing.
“Well, this is a first,” he finally said. “Apparently your heart is positioned sideways in your rib cage,” he added, while staring at her and awaiting her reaction.
Sandra had no idea how she should react. If she’d lived with a sideways heart for 38 years, clearly it shouldn’t be too much of an issue, right?
“Is there anything I need to do about that?” she cautiously asked the doctor, hoping a major surgery and months of recovery time weren’t going to be in her very near future.
“Well, not that I’m aware of,” he said, “Heart palpitations shouldn’t be related to size, shape or position of your heart. Just cut back on the caffeine, try to reduce your stress, and come back to see me in six months so we can discuss if that helped solve the problem.
Sandra walked out of the doctor’s office in a daze. “Well, I guess I’m going to live,” she thought to herself, as she passed a coffee shop on her way back to the bus stop rather than stopping in, as she would normally do without a second thought, for her second cup of caffeine for the day.
“Ugh, doctor’s orders,” she muttered under her breath.
Later that night Sandra pondered the day’s events. “I have a sideways heart. My heart is literally sideways,” she said out loud to positively no one, or possibly to her cat who was paying absolutely no attention to her.
Then it finally came to her why her love life had always been such a challenge. Not only was she born with a (literally) sideways heart, but also with a figuratively sideways heart. Maybe it was just too much to expect for her parents – the perfect couple – to have passed on their perfect, and perfectly-matched hearts to their child.
Suddenly Sandra’s entire life made perfectly sideways sense.