“A what?” According to the Holter, the amount of time my heart took to beat once, the length of the heartbeat itself, rather than the delay between beats, was too long. Grant went on to explain that there was a chance that I had a congenital hole between two of my heart valves. “We’re setting up an appointment for an ultrasound for you,” he said.

“Not good,” I muttered.

The next day I lay on my back while a technician spread transmission gel on my chest. A surgical fellow materialized nearby.

“So we’re looking for a hole?” I asked nervously. He assured me that there was probably nothing. A nurse attached an IV to my arm, and the doctor began pumping a small bellows into a tube connected to my vein. “Whoa, what are you doing?” I demanded.

“I’m blowing some bubbles into your bloodstream,” he replied distractedly. “If there’s a hole, the bubbles will slip through and we’ll see them going the wrong way on the ultrasound.” I’d always thought that air bubbles in the bloodstream were dangerous, but it was too late to stop him. The ultrasound technician turned on the machine, placing the cold sensor to my chest. And there it was, my heart, beating on the screen, thumping in time to the tune in my breast. And there were bubbles. Bubbles in my heart. But they all seemed to be going in the same direction. The doctor stared for a few more moments. “Nope, no hole,” he said at last.

Armed with my clean bill of health, I said my goodbyes to the nurses and the doctors I’d spent the last month with. At the time, I was happy to be leaving, glad to have my cash in hand and my foot out the door. I thought it was humiliating and degrading living in an experiment. But was it as degrading as most day jobs? At least experiments end. And though I know I was nothing more than a pincushion to them, at least the doctors understood that I had a life and goals outside the hospital walls. Corporate managers seem to think they’re doing you a favor by letting you work for them. The researchers knew it was the other way around. Someday I hope to find a revenue source that doesn’t need to beat me down to build up my bank account. Until then, I’ll take the fishbowl over the rat race any day.

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