“Do you want to watch, or do you get squeamish?” I didn’t hesitate to respond when the doctor offered to let me watch the ultrasound of my heart.
I curled up on my side and gazed up at the large screen as the doctor pressed a slippery wand against my chest so hard that it hurt. The large mass in the middle of the screen expanded and contracted rhythmically and effortlessly as the doctor snapped screenshots, captured measurements, and monitored my heartbeat.
He pointed out the flapping aortic value, as it sent blood to various destinations throughout my body. It danced with the smooth elegance of a handkerchief being dragged through a pool. The doctor noted significant scarring on my lungs and surrounding areas. “Pneumonia?” he guessed. I nodded, adding valley fever and bronchitis as its accomplices.
The doctor clicked a button and we watched the grey-scale transform into bright hues of red and blue, signifying the velocity of blood flow. I stared at that screen in awe for the full 20 minutes. I was observing my body as it worked hard to preserve itself.
How bizarre and beautiful it is that we have evolved over the course of millions of years from single-celled organisms into such a complex self-regulating system? The human body is truly a miracle.
Beneath any unhealthy thoughts or behaviors, our organs are continually working behind the scenes to ensure our next breath, adequate blood flow, and the transfer of oxygen to the brain. Even in the midst of fighting off disease, our bodies refuse to take a day off.
Today, more than ever before, I appreciate all of my body’s hard work and its commitment to supporting my longevity. If my heart were to stop beating, all of my other organs would soon thereafter follow. Here I am complaining about pain and fatigue, while behind my perceived physical suffering is the unsung hero fueling my recovery.
Up until now, I think I’ve taken my heart for granted. It’s always been just another organ, pumping away with all the others, giving me the pulse necessary to achieve my personal, relationships, and career goals.
I don’t know how to interpret what I saw up on that screen, but the images of my body intuitively nurturing itself have given me a new appreciation for my sharp pains, achy joints, and frequent nausea. Some people don’t have hearts that are able to rhythmically take in and send out blood to the circulatory system.
I’m here because my body is strong, healthy, and well-equipped to keep functioning as the figurative bombs drop around it. My heart may be processing blood that is dense with fungus, but it’s still ticking away. My lungs may be severely scarred, but they are still able take in air to 80% capacity. My brain may not be receiving enough oxygen for optimal functioning, but it knows how to allocate its resources to prevent me from having a stroke.
I am alive. I realize today what a privilege that is. What more could I possibly ask for than the gift of a strong heart, a steady breathe, and the awareness to know so intimately what it feels like to be alive?