Running in Vancouver
The newsletter returns from a brief hiatus with an essay on where your writer plans to go from here.
It’s been two years since the combined intellect of the Trudeau and Ford governments gifted yours truly with a heart condition, and I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself.
I knew something was wrong the moment the second dose of Pfizer went on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride throughout my system, inflamming most of what it came across; but mainly: my heart.
“It stays in the deltoid,” they said. It didn’t.
Within days, I was fainting in coffee shops.
I thought my downstairs neighbours were having a raucous party one night, only to realize it was my own pulse vibrating into the floor.
The excitement of the final days of the 2021 F1 season, which saw Max Verstappen edge out his bitter rival Lewis Hamilton, on the last lap, of the last race, left me gasping for air every Sunday morning.
When Canada’s second-world healthcare system finally deigned my case as worthy of a cardiologist, it took an additional two months to be onboarded by a hastily assembled semi-private cardiology clinic in the basement of a Downtown Toronto office building. The lineup was out the door.
As I was first fitted with a Holter Monitor, the tech informed me that she was seeing 30 other patients that day around my age, and that they were running out of monitoring equipment.
She had never seen anything like it. In fact, she had been experiencing palpitations herself.
All we could do to cheer each other up was laugh, which I documented on video here:
A week later, I had my results from the monitoring, a stress test, an EKG, and an echocardiogram: I had a freshly hypertrophic left ventricle, pronounced inflammation, and even a valve leakage.
In short, I had been placed on the short track to heart failure. The cardiologist played coy about the possible reasons as to why a young(ish) man who just months before had run a half-marathon was suddenly looking at a prognosis of premature death before his 40s, lest matters improve, or, at the very least, stabilize. In response, I was less reserved.
“Honestly, doc. How screwed are we, exactly? Why did I have to take that crap, even after having Covid?”
“We’ll just have to wait and see. We’ll know for sure in the years to come.”
Since that moment in the fall of 2021, I’ve felt in some ways lucky to have had two of them; years, that is. I’m well aware the same can’t be said for thousands. (Tens of thousands? When it comes to parsing through our ever-growing excess death data, it’s hard to differentiate between deaths from delayed access to care brought on by lockdowns, and the not-so-adverse events that often go underreported.)
As of press time, the inflammation has subsided, with the “material size increase” to my left ventricle holding, ostensibly thanks to the help of a low dose of Ramipril I may now be on for life.
I can run again, but not race.
I can lift again, only, nothing too heavy.
The floorboards no longer pulsate from the beating of my Pfizer-brand Tell-Tale Heart.
“True! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.” -Poe
But “the disease” — heart disease — has indeed sharpened my senses. My tolerance for the men who helped do this to me, and the cravenness that lurks within dark corners of the Canadian, but particularly Ontarian character, is non-existent.
My own mind remains hard on itself for giving into one of the last gasps of vaccine mandates, solely because of the thought of another winter of discontent, removed from polite society, and even the ability to fly south, west, east — anywhere but north — brought about immense ideation just as worrying at the time as a robust side effects profile.
Most of all, I didn’t want to miss out on Vancouver. A place from which I just returned, and where I found a home along the sea walls and in the packed parks in 2020 and 2021, while Ontarians in four-million dollar Victorian homes baked rosemary focaccia for the first time, spray-painted circles in parks frequented by the great unwashed, and chose to pretend they were Wuhan, in order to best live out their survivalist, centre-of-the-universe delusions, even as they ordered UberEats and subjected Canada’s supply chain to the virus they were about to get anyway (over, and over, and over again).