The crackdown on unauthorised battery usage
It is quintessential Hollywood.
The harsh lighting. A row of us, lined up against the wall – anxious, fidgety, bored. Our breath visible in the cold air.
My name is called, and my heart misses a beat. Not a good omen, given the circumstances.
The Interrogation begins.
“How long have you had this thing?”
Dr X is off-hand. He’d done this a thousand times before. And though professional, there is about him a certain air of avuncularity. Reassured, my pulse rate slows just a tad.
“Uh... not sure.” My tongue cleaves to my palate. “Three years? Five, maybe?”
“Which is it – three or five?” Dr Y’s harsh, guttural tones crack the air.
“Uh... five. I think.”
“You think!” I can smell the rancid potpourri of Colgate and catarrh on Dr Y’s breath.
“Let’s call it four.” Dr X’s tone is almost conciliatory.
So this is the game they’re playing – good cardiologist, bad cardiologist.
“Sick sinus, huh?” sneers Dr Y.
I try to look apologetic.
“Did your pulse rate ever fall below 40?”
His tone is loaded with imminent derision. The implication is obvious: Had the decision been his, I would never have been approved for a pacemaker.
“Uh... 42, I think... was the lowest.”
“But not 39.”
My ventricles burn with shame.
Dr Y looks across at his colleague as if to say “Why are we wasting our time with this bozo?”
“Battery’s running a bit low,” observes Dr X, his features betraying concern.
“What’ve you been doing with it?” snarls Dr Y. I can almost taste the mucus in his flared nostrils.
I try to assume an air of innocence, but the monitor reveals a sudden tachycardia, and Dr Y smiles a smile of malevolent vindication.
There are rumours that some pacemaker recipients have been running toasters and other household appliances off their battery.
“What do you eat for breakfast?” Our eyeballs actually touch.
“Uh... bran. With cold milk.”
Dr X nods approvingly, but it’s not enough.
Apparently, there are even reports of some pacemakerteers who have plugged their devices into the power grid in order to obtain electricity rebates.
“Show us your power bill!”
I perspire in the cold air, scrabbling around in my document folder. Contrary to expectation, I am able to produce the requisite document.
Unimpressed with the exorbitant amount I shell out for power, Dr Y snatches the folder from my fingers and ransacks it.
Birth certificate, Medicare card, Driver’s Licence, Citizenship papers, Herald Swimming Certificate – much to his disgust, it’s all there.
He leans so close that he is now standing in back of me, a lone cold sore glistening in the harsh light.
“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
They’ve called a Code Red.
“I want you to name names!” Dr Y snaps a riding-crop against his thigh. “Does the name Wenckebach mean anything to you!?”
My pacemaker breaks down under the strain.
Weeping pitiably, I have succumbed to third-degree block.
Dr Ron Elisha
Melbourne GP, playwright and author.