I hate everything about going to the doctor except a few things, and one of those things is getting my heart rate measured. I love getting my heart rate measured.
The average human heart beats 60-100 times per minute at rest. The whole time you’ve been reading this your heart has been beating, it’s beating while you sleep and while you shower, and while you listen to your favorite song or shop online.
At a doctor’s appointment last year I found out my heart beats 55 times per minute at rest, which the doctor said was very impressive, the rate of a marathon runner or a half decent Olympic athlete. Lately I've been running even more and yesterday at the doctor took my pulse and go to the next line:
47 beats per minute! That’s what my resting heart rate is.
Look at all this chart do you even see 47? I don’t. But my eyes aren’t that strong, it’s my heart that’s super strong. According to this chart it's even better than EXCEL'T.
When I was growing up my heart wasn't super strong, it was full of holes. Murmurs is the word for heart holes, it probably comes from the whispering sound of blood slipping out of your heart every second but I'm not sure. I got my heart holes when I was eight, as a side effect of Rheumatic Fever, which I got because I had strep and didn’t do anything about it.
There were five kids in my family, and complaining about feeling sick seemed like an annoying thing to do. I thought "not a big deal, this seems like something I can sort of handle myself" which is a dangerous thought I've had hundreds of times. It's the type of thought that puts you in a hospital with a disease people usually only get in Little House on the Prairie. It's how my heart got full of holes.
On the way home from the hospital my dad decided to take me to McDonald's. Either he thought I was so brave I deserved it, or he figured that my new sponge-like heart condition would make transfats just sort of float through it like gentle rain. The gentle rain theory seems the most likely. Because he didn’t make a big show of it, we just went through the drive-through and ordered a Happy Meal, and the McDonald’s employee who couldn’t see me in the backseat, asked if it was for a boy or a girl.
My dad and I pondered this question while we waited at the second window.
“I bet there are two different toys you can get, and one's for boys and one's for girls,” I said. I was hoping I was wrong and it was actually two different types of McNugget dipping sauces, a glitter sauce for girls and one with crunchy peanut pieces for boys, and suddenly I was starving for glitter sauce even though seconds ago I had never imagined such a thing existed.
My dad also hoped my toy theory was wrong, he said there was no such thing as toys for boys and toys for girls. My parents were strict about this growing up, we owned only gender-neutral blankets, toys, and books. And clothes, as babies we wore as much green and yellow as newborn die-hard Packer fans or Oregon State fans GO DUCKS. And probably a few other teams but I don't know that much about sports because I'm a girl.
Our parents reminded us all the time: other families thought boys and girls were different but other families were wrong. There are boys and there are girls but on the inside, our hearts are all the same. Except mine, my heart was full of holes.
Ten years and maybe two trips to McDonald’s later I found out at a doctor's appointment that the holes, or the murmurs, had miraculously sealed up, and that my heart was pretty much as watertight as a really expensive brand of ziplock bag.
And now, ten years after that, or less than ten, now my heart beats half as slowly as a lot of other human hearts, like a whale floating slowly through a crowd of panicked guppies in a McDonalds, now my heart is super muscular and strong, the type of heart some families would say a boy would have, and now exactly forty-seven times a minute it grabs a heart full of blood and holds all of it tight for 1.3 seconds, and none leaks out because there aren’t any holes.
It was a different toy for girls and for boys, in case you were still waiting on why they asked that question at McDonald's. I got a mini Barbie, and a boy with holes in his heart would have gotten a mini Hot Wheels.