mardi, octobre 18, 2011

Broken Heart Murmur

Ok, so maybe the title is a bit dramatic.

My company sponsored a blood drive today, and I had signed up to donate, in honor of my adorable niece Meaghan. The last time I donated was in 2005.

I went down and filled out the questionnaire, had to run back to my office to find my donor card and some ID, had a chat with the nurse registering me about the fact I was born in the US (a question on the form), and went in to see the doctor.

"So," he said, in a way I thought a tad condescending, "anything you want to tell me?"

As if I was hiding something. I had filled out my form thoroughly, thank you very much, but he hadn't even looked at it.

"Well," I said, "I indicated on the form that I had surgery to correct a heart murmur in 2009."

"In 2009?" he said, surprised. I wasn't sure if the year surprised him, or the heart surgery.

I say 'heart surgery' all casually, when in fact my atrial septal defect was repaired in an hour by going through a vein in my groin. It was done in a private hospital very well respected for cardiac issues, I had a private room, was released the next day and paid not a cent for any of it. (Vive la France!) It's not like I had open heart surgery or anything.

"Yes," I replied politely but firmly, "in 2009 I had my atrial septal defect corrected."

"Well," he said, taking my form and stacking it, as if it was a pile of important papers,"I regret to inform you that you will never again be able to donate blood."

He didn't seem too regretful. He was downright thrilled to tell me this. I must have been his only refusal case for the morning.

"Really?" I said, incredulous. "Why is that?"

"Well, when they've gone and messed with your heart," he said dramatically, "and torn you open to get to it," at this, he gestured at my chest, miming ripping it open, "it's just too risky."

"I didn't have open heart surgery," I replied, "it was repaired through a vein in my groin."

"Well, all the same," he said, "it would be too dangerous for you."

At that, I just wanted out of there as fast as possible. I didn't want to ask what was so dangerous, I didn't want to point out that my cardiologist had already approved me to go scuba diving a year after the operation, I didn't want to say how alarmist and silly I thought he was being.

"That's too bad," I said, "I wanted to donate in honor of my niece who had leukemia and received many blood transfusions during her treatment."

"How old is she?" he asked. I don't know why he acted like he cared.

"She's almost five," I said.

"Sad stuff," he said, typing into his computer atrial septal defect 2009 with satisfaction.

I grabbed my purse, wished him a good day and got the fuck out of there as quick as I could.

I sort of felt like crying, but not really. I knew he was being alarmist. I suppose I felt unfairly rejected. I don't deal well with that.

Then, I looked it up on the Red Cross Website : Blood donation WITH a heart murmur defect is "...acceptable if you have a heart murmur as long as you have been medically evaluated and treated and have not had symptoms in the last 6 months, and have no restrictions on your normal activities."

I no longer have one.


But maybe I'm just mad because I didn't get to spend 30 minutes reading my book lying down. I missed my metro stop TWICE last night because I was so absorbed.

Or maybe I was mad because I was looking forward to that chocolate croissant.

vendredi, octobre 14, 2011

The New Year

Well. My apparent anger at silly French desserts has dissipated, and we can move on to other things.

In June I finished the second-year of my 3-year acting school and got accepted into the third year, but for various reasons, decided not to continue classes there. Mostly, I wanted to be home more often and feel less pulled in all different directions. With three four-hour classes a week, work, and rehearsals, I was rarely at home. Handsome got a little frustrated at this, and said so. I wanted some more free time, too, and frankly, the school's administration was pedantic and it tended to suck the joy out of the experience. Once, I was rushing to get to class from work (on opposite sides of the city, of course!) and when I arrived, two minutes late, the professor counted me as absent, per the administration's regulations. I nearly imploded with rage. My clown was on fire that evening, though, so always a silver lining and all that. I was also afraid that we would have a certain Russian professor as the director for the end of the year play, and I had really had enough of him and his style. I learned a lot from him, to be sure, but after a certain point, the novelty wore off, and I wanted something different. Something less invasive (when you were in his production, he owned you and your life - it was exhausting).

I had asked one of the professors I liked about his amateur school, had written him twice, but when he didn't respond, I set it aside, thinking it must not have been the right path. A classmate talked about starting a theatre troupe and asked if I was interested, which I was, but I thought it would be best not to count on it.

I went to a few workshops. I even signed up for one, not really understanding until almost too late that I had pretty much committed to it (I am so glad I got out of that one - it was definitely not the right option for me). I called a bunch of schools, I searched the web. There were very few schools that fit my requirements of real evening hours (I can't do anything before 7PM and expect to be consistently on time) and an advanced level. Most of the professional schools, understandably, only had daytime hours.

Basically, I had nothing lined up and figured maybe I'd just sign up for workshops from time to time. But suddenly, one after the other, things materialized.

My classmate got in touch, saying the troupe was ready to start, we just needed to find a rehearsal hall. She had managed to convince one of my favorite professors from the school be our troupe leader and guide.

The other professor got in touch to say, come to our informational meeting and see if you want to sign up. I did, and I did.

So now, I have two of my favorite professors from the school for a fraction of the price. Same quality of instruction, a third of the cost. That's what I call a really good deal.

The troupe has already started working on our February project : a stand-up routine (individually, of course) in a live comedy club. (Gulp.)

In the amateur school, we have already started working on a monologue. This week we did an exercise where one by one we had to imagine we were in a confined space and could not escape. We could make all the noise we wanted, just not use real words. Each time the professor felt the student was "acting" or "faking it", he'd stop them and say, "you're cheating." Brutal. But effective. I got out there, imagined I was stuck in a tunnel in a cave (drawing on some of the creepier ones we had explored in Cappadoccia recently) and just as I really began to believe I was really stuck, felt real fear and panic, at the exact same moment I felt the surge of real emotion, the professor says, "Yes, that's it, let it come." It was downright creepy that he saw it at the exact time I felt it - maybe even before I knew it myself. I screamed, I wept, out of real despair. It's a very odd sensation to be surprised at a real emotion coming from your imagination making something real. In that minute and half, I actually believed I was stuck in a tunnel in a cave. I felt real fear, panic and despair. And when the professor stopped me, I took a few seconds, wiped the tears away, stood up and went back to my seat. I had no problem "coming down".

At that point, I thought, I'm beginning to understand this acting thing...