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Ethan's Heart (6) - Ablated Hope
Ethan checked the time again. His wrist-watch read 4:01 pm. He walked across the small office, turned around when he reached the wall, and walked back.
“Ethan, you’re pacing again,” Elina said in a soothing tone. “Why don’t you sit down?”
Ethan went for the nice leather desk chair behind the desk. He sat down, reclined back, and immediately started rocking and turning back and forth, as if he was on a wild amusement park ride. The chair made a soft thunk each time he rocked back.
Elina watched him turn and rock around with a pinched, tight-lipped face. “Ethan, you’re going to break Dr. Miller’s chair. Try to sit still.”
Ethan stopped almost immediately, but the look on his face made it appear like he had heard but not comprehended Elina’s words. His eyes were focused on something far away. Abruptly, he stood up and started pacing again. Elina bit her lip and checked her own watch. “What do you say we get dinner after this, take it home and watch a movie together?”
Ethan didn’t answer.
“How does Valentino’s Pizza sound?”
Ethan sort of shrugged as he pivoted to pace across the room.
“We’ll get your favorite,” Elina said, but it almost sounded like she was talking to herself.
The door opened and a slightly overweight man with reddish-brown hair came in. Elina jumped to her feet and Ethan immediately stopped pacing. “Dr. Miller!” Elina stepped forward to shake the man’s hand. The gesture seemed very informal, more like an embrace between people who had known each other for a long time. Dr. Miller stepped over to clap Ethan on the shoulder. “Hi there, Ethan. How are you feeling?”
“Uh huh,” Ethan mumbled.
“Let’s all sit down, shall we?” Dr. Miller went to the set of chairs in front of his desk and sat down. Elina took Ethan by the shoulder and they sat together in the semi circle of chairs, so that Ethan was in the middle chair.
“Do you have any questions for me before we start?” Dr. Miller asked.
“How bad is it?” Ethan blurted.
Elina’s grip on Ethan’s shoulder tightened, but she didn’t say anything.
“I guess we’ll just get started then.” Dr. Miller sat forward in his chair. “Ethan, your Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy has started to show what’s called refractory symptoms. This means that the medication is no longer helping your heart beat the way it’s supposed to. We ran some tests, and the results are not as bad as they could have been.” He paused with a somewhat cheerful expression for Elina, and then looked back at Ethan. “There are two categories of HCM when the medication stops working, obstructive HCM and nonobstructive HCM. With nonobstructive HCM, there isn’t much that can be done, but with obstructive HCM like what you have, the heart can benefit from a couple different options.”
“It’s obstructive,” Elina said with a smile on her face. “That’s excellent news, Ethan.” She jostled his shoulder slightly, and Ethan managed a strained smile. “So we have some choices for treatment?” Elina asked.
“Not really choices,” Dr. Miller explained. “There are options to choose from, and I will advise you on the best option at any given point in time. Right now, it’s best to save surgery as a final option and try one of the alternatives. There is a procedure called septal ablation which is helpful in relieving the obstruction so the heart can beat correctly.”
“How does the procedure help?” Elina asked.
Dr. Miller put his hands together with steepled fingers. “Essentially, the procedure thins the area in the heart that has become thick so the blood can flow from the heart correctly.”
“How?” Ethan blurted.
“It may sound serious, but the procedure is very safe. The portion of the heart muscle that causes the obstruction is reduced by inducing a heart attack to that small part of the heart which kills the obstructive heart muscle.”
Ethan sat up straight in his chair. “You want to give me a heart attack?” He glanced at Elina, who did not look nearly as concerned with the idea.
“The procedure has very few complications and successfully relieves symptoms in ninety percent of patients,” Dr. Miller said, but Ethan talked over him before the doctor could finish his explanation.
“I don’t want part of my heart to die, that’s stupid,” Ethan said. “Can’t I just stay the way I am? So what if I run out of breath easy and my chest hurts sometimes and I get dizzy.” He was rambling. “I can live with that.”
“No, Ethan, you can’t,” Elina interrupted.
“It’s no big deal, really,” Ethan continued.
Elina grabbed his hand and tugged hard, and Ethan stopped ranting. “Look at me, Ethan. You can’t live without doing something, and Dr. Miller wouldn’t suggest this procedure if it wasn’t safe. He’ll keep you safe.”
Ethan bit his lip and his eyes trailed away.
Dr. Miller cleared his throat. “Actually, I won’t be performing the procedure. There is an interventional specialist in Orlando who has had the specific training to do the procedure. His name is Dr. Sam Turner, and I have already confirmed with him that you are a strong candidate for the procedure.”
Again, Ethan began talking over Dr. Miller before he was finished speaking. “No way. I’m not doing it, not without Dr. Miller.” He jumped up from his chair and went for the door. Before Elina or Dr. Miller could even stand, Ethan left the office.
“I’m so sorry, Dr. Miller,” Elina said. “I’ll go get him.”
“No, Elina,” Dr. Miller said. “The boy just needs some time. I understand. Let him think it over and call me when he decides what to do, okay?”
“Thank you.” Elina nodded and stood to leave. With her hand on the door knob, she half turned to look back. “You really think septal ablation is a better option that DDD pacing?”
Dr. Miller smiled. “I forget sometimes how much research you do on your own, Elina.”
She managed a strained smile in reply.
“I assure you, septal ablation is the right way to go. You just have to convince him of that.”
“Thank you, Dr. Miller.” Elina pulled the door open and left the office.
~ * ~ * ~
As soon as Elina pulled into the driveway of their home, Ethan hopped out of the car and ran to the door garage. He quickly entered the code into the digital lock and ducked under the garage door as it slowly rolled open. Not even stopping to see if Elina was following him, Ethan tugged open the side door of the house and ran straight through the kitchen, to the living room, and up the stairs where he slammed his bedroom door.
Elina parked the car in the driveway and pressed her forehead against the steering wheel. She inhaled a deep, shuddering breath and remained still for a moment. After a few minutes, she sat up with watery eyes and a frown on her lips. She ejected the key from the ignition and exited the car, pulling her purse along with her.
As Elina entered the house, there was a loud, hollow thump. Its source seemed to be somewhere upstairs. Elina placed her purse on the coffee table in the living room and began walking towards the stairs. Two more of the hollow-sounding thumps came from upstairs. Elina placed one foot on the first stair and held onto the banister. She looked up the stairs with her lips pursed and twisted in thought.
While her eyes stared up the stairs, her thoughts seemed to be elsewhere; there was a somewhat unfocused, distant look in her eyes. The hollow thumping noises grew louder and faster. Elina released a sigh and turned to walk back to the couch. She sat down and opened the laptop already resting on the coffee table.
Pressing the power button, she focused her eyes on the blank screen of the laptop for a few seconds. The Windows 7 logo flashed, and Elina’s eyes wandered.
She looked up at the ceiling as the thumping continued. Then she leaned back and folded her arms, staring down into her lap. As the noise continued, Elina quickly stood to her feet and walked out of the room, heading for the kitchen.
Upstairs, Ethan was constantly tossing a tennis ball against the wall adjacent to his bed. Small frown lines creased his forehead and his eyes were filled with tears. His mouth was turned down into almost a scowl as he forcefully tossed the ball against the wall again and again. After a while, he collapsed into a frustrated heap on the floor. He buried his face in his knees and pounded his fist into the carpeted floor.
Just then, Ethan’s cell phone rang. Ethan remained on the floor, wrapping his arms around his knees and ignoring the ringing of his cell phone. The phone continued to ring, then stopped for a few seconds before commencing again. The pattern went on for a number of times until Ethan finally stood, grabbed the cell phone and answered the call.
“What?” he loudly asked.
Owen was sitting on the floor of his living room, watching a football game on television with the volume muted. “You alright, man? What’d your doc say?”
“Mind your own business,” said Ethan. Without saying another word, he disconnected the call and picked up his tennis ball from the floor again. As he prepared to toss it against the wall, his cell phone began ringing again. Ethan grunted in annoyance and picked up the phone.
“Leave me alone, Owen!” he yelled. “Stop calling me!”
“What happened?” Owen quietly asked.
Tears came to Ethan’s eyes and he didn’t respond right away. He bit his lip and turned to toss the tennis ball at the wall again. “I can’t right now, O,” he quietly said. “Just… don’t call me okay.” He turned off his cell phone and tucked it into his pocket before he picked up the ball off the floor again.
Elina came out of the kitchen with a glass of milk and a pack of Oreo cookies in her hands. Walking carefully, she turned towards the staircase. Just as she lifted her foot to begin climbing the stairs, she heard footsteps upstairs. She paused and looked in the direction of the footsteps. To her surprise, she saw Ethan, carrying a tennis bag across his shoulders and a racket in his hand, coming down the stairs. “Ethan?” Elina called, moving out of the way as Ethan ran past her.
“Sorry, Aunt Elina!” he said, sounding rather cheerful. When he turned towards Elina she got a good look at his face. His eyes were slightly red, as were his cheeks, but there was a hint of a smile on his face. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”
“What?” Elina walked to the coffee table and placed the cookies and the glass of milk down.
“I’m off to play some tennis.” Ethan quickly opened the door and began walking out of the house. Elina ran to the door just as Ethan was about to close it.
“Ethan, we need to talk,” said Elina.
“Later,” Ethan responded, waving over his shoulder at his aunt. As he continued down the walkway, he turned to Elina and smiled brightly at her, but Elina continued to frown. She slowly shook her head and watched as her nephew walked away.
“God, protect him,” she muttered as Ethan disappeared down the street.
Ethan's Heart is an online story written collaboratively by Kaltopsyd and ACSutliff. Hubs will be published on Thursdays alternating between ACSutliff's hub and Kaltopsyd's hub. To make sure you don't miss the next installment, go follow ACSutliff today! And as always, thank you so much for reading our online stories. Comments are most welcome!