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Heart To Heart

PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA | The special story that is Erik Compton has been written dozens of times. But for some of us it never gets old. You see, nothing focuses the mind more keenly than the words “heart transplant.”
Compton first heard them when he was a child. At 12, a virus attacked and killed his heart. He said goodbye to his parents as he was wheeled into the operating room for his first transplant. He said goodbye again in 2007 after he drove himself to the hospital as he was having a heart attack. Lying on his stomach vomiting, his only thought was that this would be the lasting final memory his father had of him.
I heard those soul-sharpening words in early July 2006. Being just enough of a hypochondriac, I went to my doctor because something wasn’t right. The problem with having a general practitioner who is also a good friend is that, while he didn’t laugh at me, he did say, “I’ll check you out, but you’re fine.” Then came the EKG. When you have idiopathic cardiomyopathy (fancy medical language for heart failure that no one can figure out), the machine reading your heartbeat has an alarm that goes off, one that, in my case, brought nurses, doctors and a pill salesman who happened to be in the office running to my side.
A trip to a specialist ensued, where I was greeted by a large older nurse who put her arm around my shoulder and said, “Aw, honey, you gonna be fine. They gonna give you a Zantac and send you home.” She hooked me up for a stress test, had me trot along a treadmill for 30 seconds and said, “Uh oh.” Not to be outdone, the doctor who came in 30 minutes later to read the echocardiogram I was receiving took one look, pointed at the screen and said to a trailing medical student, “There it is.” I finally said, “You know I am conscious. I can hear you.”


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