Refreshing the hearts other drugs can't reach

WOULDN'T IT be awful to die in the middle of a column, some elegiacal piece about, oh, I don't know, some poor unknowing disregarded tidewrack from the late 20th century, the cruellest p

See? Just like that. Well I could have. I have lived with the fear for years. I first noticed it one morning many years ago. It was a normal morning; I had been up all night, drinking and fretting; breakfasted on seven double espressi and nine Senior Service to unblock the passageways, and then into the lavatory with The Independent.

It was then that fate struck. Everything went funny, a strange feeling of impending doom and the queer sense that rabbits were copulating in my thorax. Thereafter, for the first time, I became morbidly aware of my own fragile pulse. Instead of going lub-dup, lub-dup, lub-dup like Chatanooga railwayman's turnip watch, it was going lub-dup, (???), lub- DUP. Reggae. My heart belongs to Jamaica.

I can never understand people who go to the doctor. It's just silly. I did my brief spell of service beneath the standard of Hippocrates and, like all intelligent and informed people, I know that there are two categories of illness: Nothing to worry about, and Nothing the doctors can do. Things either clear up on their own, or you die. Simple fact, so why involve yourself with doctors, who will only prescribe you nasty drugs, slice you around, bombard you with very dangerous radiation (have you noticed that radiotherapists not only wear huge lead aprons, they also go into a different room? What's that telling us, do you think? Exactly) and then, having reduced you to a wan, shuddering vestige, tell you they've done all they can. They're taking the piss.

But I went to the doctor anyway, because I needed my medical certificate for my pilot's licence, and the doctor said "Dear me, this ECG is very abnormal," and so I went to the World's Greatest Cardiologist Ever In History, my good friend Dr Rodney Foale. They took ultrasound pictures of my heart, and wired me up and made me run, for heaven's sake, on a beastly treadmill, just like a horrible gym, and then connected me to a thing which would monitor my every heartbeat, or not, and off I went. In the next 24 hours I got into two fights, gave a concert, got drunk, was refused entry to The Independent on Sunday Christmas party, got into a brawl with the bouncer, was picked up by two hookers, and suffered a major spontaneous nosebleed due to falling downstairs. "Fair enough," said Rodney, viewing the results, "nothing pathological there. I'd say it's entirely benign except of course there is the possibility of what we call Sudden Death Syndrome." They'd come up with that one since my time. "What's Sudden Death Syndrome?" I said. "Well," he said, "It's sort of a syndrome. Where you ... well, die. Suddenly. Nothing to worry about; you'd be dead before you hit the floor."

I have lived with this interesting prospect for years, but recently I ran up the 10 flights of stairs to my flat and noticed that my pulse returned to its normal rate within 45 seconds. "Not so bad," I thought, giving it a feel, at which point I noticed that it was beating away, steady as a rock. No trace of skipped beats. I monitored it for a few weeks and then rang the Civil Aviation Authority to report that I had experienced a miracle. The medic sucked his teeth. "Better have a cardiologist have a look at you," he said, sounding worried. You're not supposed just to get better. It worries them.

Then I realised a connection. Like everyone else, I have been conducting certain experiments with Viagra recently, obtained from a website. What happens with Viagra is: (a) your nostrils flare; (b) your face goes red; (c) the lights look a bit blueish. Everything else perfectly normal: schlong like a sequoia, endless stamina, women fainting, men gazing on in awe, just a normal evening chez moi.. As a recreational pharmaceutical, Viagra is a frost: makes no difference at all.

Except one. It cures your funny heartbeat. Must be that. Stands to reason. I am going to see Rodney next week and I can't wait to tell him. If, on the sound clinical evidence provided by me, he should find himself deciding to prescribe Viagra for those of his patients with the really rather common premature ventricular beats, then he is going to be a Very Popular Cardiologist Indeed. I imagine that we'll still be popping off with Sudden Death Syndrome ... but for rather different, and altogether more acceptable, reasons.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


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