Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

A Flashback I Just Cannot Overcome

Many have been in this situation at least one time in their lives… you eat something you have always enjoyed.  But shortly after the meal, your stomach is upset, and wallah!, everything you ate has returned to the surface.  Depending on the cause of the vomiting, there is a natural tendency to be repulsed by even the mere thought of ever eating that food again.

I first heard of the term “flashback” following a horrific car crash involving my first wife.  She had been travelling down a dark two-lane road.  High embankments were on both sides, but the road itself was straight for well over a mile.  Approaching her little Geo Storm was a pair of headlights, heading in the north bound direction.  Slowly, that car began to drift into the south bound lane.  As the distance between both vehicles shortened rapidly, soon, my wife then knew, a head on car collision was unavoidable.

By all means, she should have been killed in that collision.  Her little Geo was no match for a Ford Queen Victoria which oddly suffered very little damage.  Photos that I took the next day at the junk yard showed what little was left of the Geo, the entire front end just crushed like an aluminum can.

Even in the passenger seat, my wife had issues with headlights coming in her direction, even with a clear and defined median separating both directions.  Each incident, resulted in an enormous emotional breakdown.  She would soon overcome these flashbacks, but for the moments that they happened, they were devastating.

I have my own issue with “flashbacks”, and though therapy did help somewhat, as time has gone on, the flashbacks become even more powerful.


I literally hate this machine.  For months I was exercising on it, all the while, unbeknownst to me, my body was dealing with a situation of fatal proportions.  The physical symptoms should have been enough to let me know that something was wrong.  But I even had the numbers in front of me.  The display showed calories burned, distance, time, and the results of sensors on the handle, heart beat.

And within seconds of beginning, my heart rate would skyrocket from the 60’s at rest, to well over 150 within the first minute.  All the while I just figured that was what was supposed to happen to benefit with exercise.  And I kept that rate going the entire hour on the elliptical.

Well, if you have followed “Paul’s Heart,” then you know eventually I was discovered to have a major blockage going to my heart, commonly referred to as a “widowmaker”, and there is only one reason it is called that.  You can read “CABG – Not Just a Green Leafy Vegetable” on the pages on this blog for the whole story.

Of course you know from reading this blog, the story had a happy ending for the most part.  I survived the surgery.  But the one thing that I have never been able to get over is facing this machine again, or any kind of cardiac machine.  I am supposed to exercise, but options are limited.  I am not supposed to lift weights due to potential injury from weakening caused by late effects from my cancer treatments.  And though I have never really been a runner, I do not really feel the need to become one.

Which really leaves “walking” as the only form of exercise that is endorsed by my doctors for me to do.  And I try to walk as much as I can in my days.  But every now and then, I have tried to get back on that machine, or even a treadmill.  But as my heart climbs, as it is supposed to when you exercise, psychologically it really is devastating, because I instantly flash back to the days before the discovery of my heart problem.

The solution should be simple to resolving this, “don’t hold on to the sensors” when exercising on the machines.  But the sensors are there, and the temptation is too great.  Even worse is the flashback.  I do not ever want to face heart surgery again, though I know it is inevitable given my health history and issues that have not been dealt with yet.  So if the only way that I can avoid thinking about it, is to simply walk the street, walk along the beach, I do not need that mechanical reminder to cause me such emotional pain.


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