I was thinking recently about the time I had heart surgery, and being aware that – well, not really aware, because I was asleep, which is a good thing when they’re operating on your heart; otherwise, you’re awake, and it’s like “What are you DOING!!!”
Anyway – I don’t even know if that was a sentence, but moving on – there was a time – okay, this is a “Squeamish Alert.” I will write the following in blue and if you’re uncomfortable with certain specifics related to heart surgery, when the writing turns black again, you can jump back in. (I don’t know if that’s a sentence either; the subject matter seems to have jolted my grammatical scrupulosity.)
When you have heart surgery – I can put this no other way, as much as I’d prefer to – they literally…stop your heart. They just stop it from beating – I don’t exactly know how; can you unplug a heart? Anyway, for the duration of the “procedure”, your vital functions are taken care of by a heart-lung machine. (I have to rest a second; I’m getting a little queasy myself. (A DEEP BREATH, A LONG EXHALE) Okay, I’m fine.)
This is an understandable arrangement. They cannot work on your heart when it’s flub-dubbing around. Operating on a beating heart is like trying to eat a chicken while it’s still alive. You stick the fork in, and they jump away.
They “still” your heart – which is, I imagine the same thing that happens when you die, only this time, it’s deliberate – and they take care of business. Then they start you back up again, and off you go.
At least, that’s the plan. (The alternative being crying and lawsuits.)
Okay, I’m finished with the medical stuff. The question that came to my mind recently – maybe it’s a philosophical question, maybe it’s a statistical question, maybe it’s a stupid question – that question, nonetheless, is this:
The period during the surgery when my heart was stopped – Should that time be counted as part of my life?
I know it’s “pennies” – two-and-a-half hours in an entire lifetime, but during that two-and-a-half hours – and this is more than metaphorical – I was in no way “present” in my own existence. Therefore, a persuasive argument could be made that that “down time” should, in all fairness, not be charged to my account.
This issue is not entirely without precedent. In soccer games, when there’s an injury on the field, unlike other sports where they stop the clock to take care of the injured participant (including the gurney procession to the ambulance), in soccer, the “time clock” continues to run. Then, at the end of the (first and/or second) half, that “injury time” is added onto the playing time, allowing the game to proceed past that period’s designated end-point.
So I’m wondering. There was this two-and-a-half hour period where I was – more than technically – anatomically “not playing the game.” Would it not then be fair to have that unexperienced chunk of time tacked on at the end?
Or is life not soccer, and it’s just my “Tough luck”?
This is more than a personal question; my inquiry into this matter would have minimal value if it were only about me. There are others in similar, or even more troubling predicaments.
What about the people who emerge from comas? They were gone for five years, and now they’re back.
How old would you say they are? I mean, let’s be fair about this. Is it really appropriate for those five years of “coma time” to be counted as actual years?
Those “coma people” weren’t really around for those five years. Sure, visitors were bringing flowers and reading to them. But that time shouldn’t be charged against their tally. That should only be counted against the visitors.
If you can change the channel on the television, you’re alive. If you can’t, I mean, it’s bad enough you have to watch the same channel all the time. At least, you deserve a break on the aging.
Which brings me to – expanding beyond heart surgery patients and coma victims – a more universal situation. Almost a third of most people’s lives is spent sleeping. Why should that time be charged against your life? I mean, really. You’re just lying there.
You know how they figure “dog years”? One “dog year” equals seven “human years”? (I’m not sure there’s any biological veracity to this assessment. I’ve always wondered if this idea weren’t invented so that dog owners would be less upset when their pets died. “He was only nine years old!” “In ‘dog years’, that’s sixty-three.” “Oh, well, then. That’s not so bad.”)
Maybe we should re-calibrate human longevity in a similar manner, adjusting our calculations to accommodate the “Sleep Factor.”
“How old are you?”
“But in ‘awake years’, I’m sixty-six.”
“Well, then. That’s not so bad.”
Okay, I’m starting this. A personal crusade, though you are all welcome to climb onboard. From now on, when the question of age comes up, I will be exclusively using my “awake years” number. Ask me how old I am, I’ll say, “I am Forty-four and two-thirds.”
“Minus two-and-a-half hours for surgery.”