NR Digital

State of the Art

by Michael Walsh
Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, by Dick Cheney and Jonathan Reiner, M.D., with Liz Cheney (Scribner, 352 pp, $28)

‘You’re not sure what is happening, but somehow, in a visceral way you can’t articulate, you know that it is not good. At first, the symptoms were subtle. Maybe you awoke not feeling right; you might have had some of these symptoms yesterday, but you’re not really sure when it began. You thought it might be indigestion because you’re a bit nauseated, and you took some antacid a little while ago, but the discomfort hasn’t eased. Now you’re feeling something in your shoulder and chest, and your left arm is tingling. Someone tells you that you look pale, and you realize that your shirt is drenched even though it is not warm in the room. You’re asked if you are having chest pain, and you say no, it’s not a pain, it’s more like a pressure or maybe a tightness. When you try to describe what you’re feeling, you subconsciously place a clenched fist over your chest. You have the sense that if you could manage to burp, you would feel better, but you can’t, and to make matters worse, you’re a little short of breath.

“You don’t know it yet, but a blood clot, smaller than a pencil’s eraser, is forming inside one of your coronary arteries, and if it is not dealt with quickly, it can kill you.”

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