Good News


1. 1

After my tenth heart attack my dad finally took me to the hospital. It had nearly been a year since our last visit and dad hated it. Hated the memories and the sickness and the nurses. 


I kind of like hospitals, they make me feel safe. They are the best place to be if anything bad starts to happen to you. I feel relaxed for days after leaving the hospital. If something was really wrong with me one of the hundreds of doctors or nurses would have noticed and pulled me to one side and saved me.    


I suppose that is where my story starts. I’m sixteen, in a hospital, with my dad, having what I guess is my tenth heart attack.


Obviously I wasn’t having a heart attack. It was a massive release of adrenaline caused by fear, of dying and pain and heartache and all that, which sent my nervous system into the fight or flight response. Apparently this was once useful for escaping from things trying to eat you. 


Then: survival.

Now: a massive panic attack that feels as unreal as it does intense.   


Ella is with me because Ella is always with me. She had a bigger house and more stuff and nice parents, but she practically lived with my dad and me. Probably because we had better food. 


Our hands were stuck together with sweat and nerves. She had grabbed mine as soon as my breath started to go and hadn’t let up since. For a while she had carried on watching television, I think it was a show about millionaire children under five, but once my nails had started to dig into her palm hard she realised it was serious and called my dad.


So we were all at the hospital, again.


It was the same hospital we had gone to right after mum’s heart attack that was a real heart attack and not adrenaline. I kept comparing the urgency of that day with how everyone was looking at us now. Like we didn’t really belong in the hospital.


Of course a real heart attack is worse than a panic heart attack. And of course I feel terrible taking up everyone’s time when there is nothing wrong with me. And obviously I feel guilty. But does no one understand what the feeling of dread that tingles through your body can do to your ability to rationalise?      


A nurse took me by my free hand and for a moment it felt as if her and Ella were pulling me apart, but then Ella’s grip released and I was moving away from my dad. He smiled his support as the nurse pulled a curtain down behind me, blocking the rest of the emotion in the building.


“The doctor will be with you shortly.”


And then I was alone. In a cubicle, wrapped in a curtain, swallowed by a building where thousands of people had died and hundreds might be dying. 


The doctor was good looking. As in shouldn’t be a doctor good looking. He had the right amount of beard, slicked back hair and blue eyes. My breathing and heart rate were now nearly normal and I felt like an expectant idiot. 


“What seems to be the problem, er, Julie?”


Every time. 


“It’s July, like the month.”


“Oh, sorry.” Then we both were silent for a bit and he crossed out something on the paper in front of him, my name presumably. “July, what seems to be the problem?”


“It’s pronounced Jew-lee, it’s just spelt like the month.”


He was very patient. Very patient and very good looking. 


“OK. What’s the problem?”


What is the problem? Nothing really, except every few days I can’t breathe and I think I’m about to die. 


“I keep having panic attacks.”


He smiles a smile that makes me feel about ten years old but makes me want to be whatever age he is. 


“That’s fine.”


It is not fine, it is a lot of things, but it is not fine. 


“We can give you some tablets that you take every day and just calm you down a bit.”


He went back to the cluttered paper and started to write again. His hair was thin on the top and I wondered how often he thought about that. If he washed his hair every morning and thought about his thinning hair that reminded him that he was aging and would eventually die. Or maybe doctors are so close to death that they never even think about it. It would be like a postman spending all day thinking about letters. 


I returned to Ella and my dad with a prescription and a weak smile. Ella immediately grabbed my hand again, it was noticeably less tense and clammy. My dad rubbed both my arms as if he was trying to warm me up. 


“You’ll be fine pumpkin.”


What is it with everyone’s obsession with fine? Maybe I’ll be fine, maybe I won’t. What even is fine? 


Ella started talking to me about Josh, who was kind of the third leg in the three legged table that represented our friendship, but I was too distracted to do more than nod and she quickly stopped. Her grip tightened on my hand and she looked at me to say something. 


“Ella, please don’t tell me I’m going to be fine.”     

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