Return to the Health Gulag

Image of small exercise room with various machines At 5 am, the bed ejected me with a creak of sadism. I have a love-hate relationship with my sleeping unit. It welcomes me with loving anticipation at night but its morning manners suck. I slowly made myself human, grabbed the bus at 7 am and grabbed a breakfast at Buster's. It was a quick feed served by a waitress not particularly bright eyed and bushy-tailed, no doubt still half-dreaming of Eric Karlsson, whose hockey jersey she wore with religious intensity.

I jumped on a crowded 85 bus heading east on Carling Avenue. Along the way I waved to the crowd outside the Royal Ottawa having a smoke break. They wouldn't know me but they would know their friend Wretched Fibbs and give him the credit for a friendly gesture. Soon enough I arrived at the Civic Hospital. I entered, headed for the basement and took the long, winding tunnel over to the Heart Institute. Then, it was up to the second floor and the Cardiac Rehabilitation Clinic. My family doctor had registered me for this 8 week program to boost my physical activity levels under supervised conditions.

As I wandered aimlessly in the Clinic the staff immediately spotted the newby and pounced. It took two of them to wrestle me to the nursing station. One held me while the nurse strapped the Machine That Goes PING to my chest. The nurse had no name but the title of She Who Must Be Obeyed. The one holding me was the trainer, Roxanne - Mistress Of The Shuffling Herd. By this time a number of sad, broken-down old men had accreted in the Clinic and stood waiting for orders.

Roxanne barked the routines at them and they shuffled off to exercise until they shuffled off their mortal coils, or so it seemed to me at first. Roxanne took me in charge and showed me all the torture machines: the rowing to death machine, the perpetual motion bicycle, the roadkill moving mat and one godawful thing that combined all the worse traits of the other machines. It was Roxanne's favorite.

I was forced to measure my blood sugars. My blood pressure was taken and not given back. Then Roxanne said, "Walk in Lane 1 of the track." Off I went, walking slowly, like at the mall avoiding drifting seniors. The thing on my chest PINGed impatiently. After 10 minutes of this "warm-up" period Roxanne shouted, "WALK FASTER FOR 15 MINUTES!". So I did but remained tight-lipped and refusing to huff & puff in front of the wheezing geezers. I soon realized that I didn't need to as I seemed to be getting along fine with simple nose-breathing. I finished my 15 minutes and received a thumbs-up from the nurse. The thing on my chest no longer PINGed and was purring contentedly.

Roxanne called everyone together for a group "cool-down" stretch session with weights. Och, how humiliating that was ... the only weights left were the smallest ones. The other men avoided eye-contact with me and there was whispered snickering. So I stretched this way and that with those ridiculous weights. I discovered new muscle groups.

Soon, it was all over. Roxanne took me over to the nurse for my assessment. The nurse beamed a smile at me and said, "Eh bien, mon bon monsieur, votre coeur a tres bien travaillé." My heart rate had stayed rock solid as had my blood pressure. I checked my blood glucose again and it had risen from 6.3 to 7.0. The nurse said the increase was probably due to digestion of my breakfast.

Looking at the nurse and Roxanne. I said, "I don't agree," wearing a stern face. They looked shocked at my attitude. I smiled broadly and told them, "My glucose level went up because the staff here is so sweet." The nurse giggled saying, "Mon Dieu" over and over again. Roxanne blushed. I get to do it all over again on Wednesday... twice a week for 8 weeks. Before long I expect to be fit to be tied.

Submitted by Jean Brasseur, 30 November 2018