We’re visiting Markus parents right now. It’s been pretty cold and windy, but just being here makes it feel like a proper summer holiday. I love this place.
On Saturday Markus dad took us berry picking. It’s a good berry year this year and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. I plan on going hunting for blueberries myself when I get back home. Saturday though, the target was cloudberries:
Apparently cloudberries only grow in the northernmost parts of the world, like northern Europe, Russia and Canada, so I don’t know if you’ve heard of them before? They look kinda like raspberries, but are bright orange and grow in marshes and similar wet areas. They are very rich in vitamin C and you can make a seriously delicious jam from them.
I like them very much, but they can be a pain in the ass to pick as they grow on wet ground. It can be unstable (and, you know, wet) to walk in and you will most likely be surrounded by a million mosquitoes. I could definitely feel it in my feet the day after, and the hat I wore still smell of mosquito repellent.
Typical cloudberry bog
Markus mum cooked jam of the berries, so now I have a whole jar of cloudberry jam for the winter. Win! You can buy it from the store too, but it’s usually pretty pricey. In my opinion it also tastes SO much better when you’ve picked the berries yourself.
And tomorrow we’re taking the train to Stockholm! Whee!
The weather hasn’t been warm enough to allow for a swim in the sea, but we went out there anyway. It’s not far from where we live (this is a coastal town after all, I tend to forget that sometimes) and it’s nice to just walk around and look at the pretty scenery and take pictures.
Unfortunately the coordinates on the bench doesn’t quite match where it’s standing… I tried them on Google Maps and the needle pointed to a spot south of there. Somewhat of a bummer.
The dogs camouflage colours work quite well it seems, even in this setting.
To my surprise BOTH of them voluntarily walked into the water. The big guy had to go first though, and then the little guy followed. And afterwards they both complained about sandy feet…
A little more than a week ago, on June 21st, was the summer solstice. Midsummer, the longest day of the year. So this means it’s summer for real now and I for one just started my 4 weeks long summer vacation!
Freeeedoooooooommm!!! as William Wallace would’ve put it (sans the decapitation)
Our only plans this year is to go visit our parents and also a short trip to Stockholm, which will be fun as I’ve never been there as a tourist before. Other than that I’m just going to be as lazy as possible.
Is anyone else doing anything fun this summer? Or maybe you live on the other side of the equator and is in the middle of winter right now..?
When Markus was born back in 1987 he, according to his mother, came out with blue skin. This was because of a serious congenital heart defect, a syndrome called Tetralogy of Fallot. He had his first surgery at only a couple of months old when they took a large vein from his right arm to make new tubing. This was only a temporary solution though, and at 3 he had the “real” surgery when they patched his heart up for good.
The operation was successful and he went on to live a fairly normal life – until he was 18 when he had a serious episode of Ventricular Tachycardia. It’s like a heart attack (closest example I could think of) except it’s caused by the heart freaking out and starting to beast incredibly fast, to the point it’s not really beating as much as cramping, preventing the blood from passing through. That is not ok. And yes, he could’ve died.
After that they put an ICD in his chest. It’s sort of like a pacemaker except it only activates in case of emergency. Like if he has another VT, then it will send an electric shock to his heart to neautralize it. In the meantime it just lies there, registering his heart rate. In the 7 years he’s had it it has never activated or registered anything abnormal, which is awesome!
But machines doesn’t last forever and every couple of years the ICD will need replacing. Wednesday last week it was time for his first ever “service”. It was only minor surgery since they didn’t need to replace the cables going into his heart, they just needed to change the actual machine.
The surgery went fine. He just needed local anaesthesia and light sedatives and the actual cutting and sewing only took 45 min. The new machine is a bit smaller than the older but more advanced. Apparently it can be connected to a printer at home and print out reports about his heart rhythm, or connected to the Internet and send the reports directly to the hospital.
Another cool thing about ICDs is that the hospital can actually control his heart. He can be laying on a bed all relaxed and the nurse turns a button and suddenly his heart will start beating faster and he will start sweating and getting short of breath as if he’s been running. Apparently it feels super weird.
While we were at the hospital we asked if there were any other functions, like could I get a remote to force him to do the dishes or turn him off when I need him to be quiet? The nurse thought it was a great idea and promised she would look into it.
Markus says he’s a real-life Terminator/RoboCop and will probably live forever considering he always have an extra life on him.
Markus post-op at the hospital
I don’t really think about him as “sick”, so it’s a little weird that he needed surgery. I was like “What? Why? Oh, right. That.”
Despite having a literally broken heart he lives a normal life and if you met him you’d never be able to guess it. He plays sports and have a job and hang out with friends. Just a regular guy with a regular life.
Only thing restricting him is that he can’t go through metal detectors or be near powerful magnetic fields. For example, when we’re flying he needs to show his ICD patient card at the airport so they can take him aside and do a regular body search instead of sending him through the metal detectors.
He also takes 1 pill a day that helps lowering his heart rhythm, but taking daily medicine is hardly unusual. It does give the strange side effect of making his nose cold though. Like, it’s always cool to the touch. Bodies can be so weird sometimes…
Also, I’m afraid I can’t keep my mouth shut on this: I am so glad we live in a country with public healthcare! We spent about 6 hours at the hospital that Wednesday. Most of it was waiting, but it was also various drugs, heart monitors and other machines, the actual operation, x-rays afterwards to make sure everything looked good and of course the ICD itself (I don’t even want to know what an ICD costs). And for this whole party we paid a sum total of 300 SEK, the standard fee for a doctors appointment. That’s about 45 USD.
Markus is almost 26 years old and have had his heart defect since birth, imagine how much money he must’ve cost in his lifetime. And it has never been an issue. No insurance bullshit or talk about the cost of treatments or if they can afford it or not. He gets whatever help he needs and only have to pay a teeny tiny fraction of the total sum up front. I for one will gladly pay our high taxes to have a system like this.
TL;DR: heart defects suck but modern technology/medecine is really cool and public healthcare rocks!
My name is Karin and I'm a Swedish scatterbrain who loves all things artsy, especially pixel art and traditional drawings. I also have a burning passion for strange animals, fantasy books and heavy metal. This is my blog and creative dumping ground. Hope you enjoy your stay!