Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Music of my Heart

"Good morning Mr. Jasper. How're you feeling with the new pacemaker?"
"Horrible, I want you to take it out."
"I'm sorry?"
"I said, I want you to take it out. I feel horrible."
"Well, your EKG came back perfectly normal and all of your post-op tests are good. How are you feeling horrible?"
"I feel physically fine, that isn't the issue. The issue is that I can't play."
"What do you mean you can't play."
"I'm a pianist, right? I need to be able to play piano in order to be a pianist and I can't play."
"Okay. I'm confused as to how the pacemaker prevents that."
"Have you ever played the piano?"
"Not since grade school, I'm afraid."
"Well, remember when you very first learned and your piano teacher or the school music teacher would start up the metronome so you could play in time?"
"Metronome- that's the little wooden thing with the upside-down pendulum?"
"Okay. Go on."
"Well, when you start playing, that's what you need. You can't feel the rhythm yet so you need the pendulum to keep you on time. But when you start to get good, you start to feel the music. Not like you feel the keys or the petals or the vibration of the strings, but actually feel the music."
"Well, I felt the music. I lived it. I was it. Ever since I got the pacemaker it's like I'm playing to the metronome again. I can't feel a goddamn thing."
"Well, how can you be sure it's the metron- the pacemaker, I mean?"
"Because that's the only thing that's changed."
"Well, that's not true. Your body's been through a pretty big shock with the heartacttack and you've been laid up for a while. Are you sure you're not just out of practice?"
"I'm sure."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I've been playing for 47 years, I'm sure."
"Alright, that's your opinion but-"
"It's not my opinion, it's the truth. If you played you'd know what I was talking about."
"Listen, I don't doubt that I can't understand what it's like to feel the music, as you say. But what I do understand is your risk of death if you don't have that pacemaker. That's the whole reason we put it in. We discussed the risks before the surgery."
"The risk to my health, not to my career. This isn't just a hobby for me, doc. This is my life. This is who I am. I can't live if I can't play music. I want it out."
"I'm afraid I can't do that. Your heart wouldn't take it. You've already put a huge amount of stress on your system with the surgery and now it's adjusting to the pacemaker. If we take it out now it's highly unlikely that your heart would be able to take the strain and you'd probably go into cardiac arrest right there in surgery."
"Probably, not definitely, right?"
"Not 100% definitely, no. But I have to advise you against taking that extremely slim chance. It's my duty as your doctor."
"Look, I know my rights- I have the right to refuse medical treatment if i'm in my right mind, and I am. I'm aware of the risks and I want it out."
"Listen, it hasn't been that long. Two months is not a long time when you're talking about that kind of adjustment. Your body needs time to heal. Who's to say that with a little practice it won't come back to you?"
"You don't know how this feels, doc. I play every single day. It's how I greet the day in the morning, it's how I think through everything that's wrong, it's how I say goodnight to my wife, it's my very soul. If I can't play I can't live. I've been dead for two months already."
"You're telling me that you would sooner die- never see your wife again, never play with your grand kids, never do any of the other things your pacemaker allows you to do than to wait six months for your ability to come back?"
"Yes, that's exactly what i'm saying. You may think i'm nuts. Maybe if I was in your shoes i'd think I was nuts too. But I know what I need and I want it out."

After signing more legal disclaimers than one signs before entering boot camp Mr. Wallace Jasper had his pace maker removed. He did not die on the table. He did not die in post-op care. And a month later he was not only still alive, but he did his first concert in a year and performed to standing ovations.

The critics claimed that his near-death experience brought a new level of 'soulful empathy' to his music and hailed the performance as 'the most moving of an already remarkable career' as a performer. Although his health suffered tremendously he told interviewers that he had no regrets.

He died two months later after suffering a stroke.

1 comment:

  1. You know what, the Bev? I think you wrote this for me. Thank you so much for sending me the link. This story actually brought tears to my eyes.


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