pulmonary hypertension, and other things i have learned


my sister has taken to talking out loud.  the signs of final exams week are obvious in our apartment: stacks and stacks of study cards sit clumsily along the window sill making a skyline of the city of Academia.  she’s studying for her “care of the acutely ill patient” class, and while she commits her lessons to memory by discussing them outloud to herself, she doesn’t notice that i am quickly slipping into coma just listening to her.

i was never inclined towards the sciences.  it was only yesterday that i learned that the right side of my heart pumped blood into my lungs while the left side of my heart pumped that oxygenated blood to the rest of my body.  i thought it was merely an in one way, out the other type deal – like the heart was one of those spinning doorways you might find at a fancy hotel — but alas, it’s a clever little bugger.  and while i’m sure it seems like trivial stuff to those of you who already knew the heart anatomy intimately, i can attest that whether you learn it at 5 or 25, it’s all pretty amazing.

the complexities of the human body are astounding.  whether you believe we evolved from nothingness and single-celled organisms, or were formed out of the clay of the earth or the rib of a man will determine whether it’s Mother Nature or God who’s an absolutely genius; and crafty, at that.  the most i can make is a sandwich, and even then: not so great.

i find i’m much more interested in things when i’m not forced to learn about them, like i was in school. freshman year of high school i took biology with a man named Nat that i thus lovingly dubbed “Small Fly”.  when he gave lectures, he exhibited a nervous tick that involved shaking a piece of chalk in his fist.  easily mistaken for a lewd gesture, it elicited hushed giggles from us, his all-female class, especially when paired with the small holes he always seemed to have in the front of his trousers.  his spelling was terrible, so we never knew whether the scientific terms he wrote on the board were ever represented correctly; when he was out sick on test day, we hid the exam and told the substitute he must have given her the wrong instructions.  he got angry at us, and tried to punish us with yelling, but it only resulted in the chalk being shaken much harder, and our hushed giggles now significantly louder.  Small Fly left the year after my class breezed through.  despite the hell we had put him through, we missed him when he was gone.

i managed to weasel my way out of chemistry junior year.  don’t ask me how i did it, but it was done; and when i could have entered advanced chem my senior year, i opted instead to take physics.

why? i have no idea.  nothing about chemistry interested me.  formulas and equations bored me and seemed to me to be of little use to a girl playing music who was in AP English and AP History.  physics seemed a bit more applicable to daily life, at least that’s how i rationalized it.  for the first time in my academic career, i failed miserably – and i say that quit literally.  most of the other students in my class were in advanced math classes, another subject i was more than inept at.  the teacher made sense and made the book make sense, but when it came time to take quizzes (which were every week), i was lucky to walk away with one point in a 20-point quiz. his quizzes were complex and out of context from the lessons he had taught us that i had understood.  after a particularly ridiculous quiz, i emailed him my own quiz that consisted of questions like “a ball, initially at rest at t= 0 seconds, rolls with constant acceleration down an inclined plane 10 meters long. If the ball rolls 1 meter in the first 2 seconds, what color is my neighbor’s car?”  and despite my strengths in the Humanities courses, i found myself in Mr. Thies’ classroom every day after school working on my physics homework and preparing for my next exam.  by the end of the semester i had raised my grade to a C+ which, while in great contrast to my other classes, was greatly welcomed.  you see, physics taught me that it’s not about doing well, it’s about understanding what you’re doing.

so where was i going with this?  nowhere, except my sister has just asked me to help run through her study cards.  i’m glad i’m out of school, but i must remember that just because the classroom is gone, the lessons have not.  every day gives you something you must learn, whether it’s not to drink coffee on an empty stomach, that you shouldn’t have worn those shoes out dancing, or that often times it’s the little things that go a long way and make you feel the best.  or maybe you’ll even learn how your heart works, and that even though it might break from time to time, it’s stronger than you could ever imagine.

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