Matters of the Heart

Joe Lanzon

Richard Watkins, known as ‘Watty’, worked hard and was a successful businessman. For many years his construction business flourished and expanded to include turn-key operations, real estate and furniture manufacture. 

Although he loved life, he lived quietly in a lovely countryside cottage just outside rural Rotterham. He was divorced from his first wife from whom he had a daughter Lucy, now fifteen, who lived with him. As it often happens with successful people in mid-age, he fell in love again and married Jennifer who was thirty years his junior. He loved to be seen with his young, vivacious and beautiful wife at parties. He was sure that his friends and colleagues envied him. He drove his staff hard, as he also did himself, but he was fair with them, compensating them with above-average wages and bonuses when a project was completed and proved successful. 

One day while digging the garden on Sunday, he felt a sharp pain in his chest. As it passed immediately he did not think more about it. A week later, however, he felt the same sharp pain again while arguing with his foreman because of delays in delivering an important contract. 

He recounted this to his wife when he got home and she advised him that he must see his long-time friend and trusted medical consultant Dr Rennie Martin as early as possible. “It’s nothing extraordinary”, he scoffed, “I’m as healthy as a bull, it’s probably indigestion, no need to worry.” But Jennifer insisted that she accompanies him to Dr Martin on the morrow. 

When Richard visited Dr Martin at his surgery, it was more like a meeting between friends than a medical check-up. He introduced him proudly to his wife saying that she was the woman who had finally stabilized his life. 

Dr Martin could not but admire his friend’s attractive young wife. She was wearing a tightly fitted white mini dress, accentuating her best body features. She was, undeniably, a beautiful and sexy woman. His friend had made a nice capture. After he had carried out a thorough check-up, his stetiscope dangling freely from his neck, he said “You must have been over doing it Richard.”

No, I haven’t”, replied Richard. “I live a quiet life really; I don’t jump up and down, or climb lamp-posts or play rugby.” “What about the demands of the business?” retorted Dr Martin. “My job is no more a strain than it’s always been”, replied Richard, now buttoning up his shirt. 

Dr Martin sat down behind his desk facing his long-time friend and his wife. “But keep in mind that when one gets older, stress is something to bear in mind”, warned the doctor.  “I mean any kind of stress brought about by excessive personal activity which makes your heart beat faster”, he continued.  He wanted to say excessive sexual activity but refrained from being explicit hoping that his friend, but not his wife, understood what he wanted to imply.  

I’ll admit that I felt tightness in my chest on both occasions. I presumed that it was indigestion. I think that you are now telling me that it wasn’t.” said Richard while holding on to Jennifer’s hand. 

The doctor knew that his friend was fifty five, but with his grey thinning hair and lines around his eyes, he looked older. He suggested that the stress, business or otherwise, could have been largely responsible for the friend’s chest pains.   

You’ve managed to develop a slight hardening of the arteries and the pain was caused by your blood struggling to reach your heart. The pains were not indigestion but warning signals from your body. I’m going to prescribe an aspirin a day to help your blood thin and flow freely,” explained Dr Martin.      

What does it all mean Rennie?” asked Richard although he had no doubt what his friend’s message was. “It means that stress has to be avoided. If you take the daily aspirin and follow a salt-less and fat-less diet, you should keep your condition stable.” replied the doctor. “Come and see me any time you want. It’s advisable to keep your blood pressure in check”, he continued. “I will, I will Rennie”, said Richard. 

Two months passed but the doctor did not see his friend again and he wondered how he was faring. “Probably too much immersed in his work,” thought the doctor. One day, just before closing his surgery after a hectic afternoon seeing his patients, the telephone rang. 

Nevertheless, he picked up the receiver and said “Dr Martin here”. The young female voice at the other end, evidently agitated, said, “Lucy here doctor, Richard’s daughter, can you please come, its urgent. I think it’s a heart attack, seems heart’s stopped beating, I’m terrified!” 

I’ll phone emergency for an ambulance immediately. I’ll be there in a few minutes Lucy. Just don’t move him OK?” he urged. “It’s not Dad doctor, he’s abroad this weekend, it’s Mum Jennifer, I think she’s dead!!