He often felt as if his heart had been replaced with a frantic bird.
The frenetic racing of his pulse was abnormal, and he knew it. Physical exercise would leave him breathless, doubled over and struggling to inhale any oxygen that he could, and the tight pain in his chest couldn't be put down to just stress. Yet still, that's what Lukas told himself. Sometimes his chest felt fine and at other times, he could barely drag himself out of bed. He couldn't remember how long this had been going on for.
Maybe it was an underlying fear of it being something fatal that made him stay silent about his pains.
It wasn't as if he could focus on himself. With a mother who threw herself into her work after two disappearing husbands and was rarely home, it was left to him to look after his younger half-brother. Emil was only sixteen, and though he could probably look after himself, Lukas didn't want the opportunity to arise. He was the older of the two: it was his job to make sure Emil has his homework done, give him decent meals and make sure he got to bed at reasonable times. Any flutterings from his heart surely had to be from his worry at the approaching exams. Lukas struggled through them when the time came, the answers making their way onto his papers as he pressed a hand to his chest in an effort to calm his pulse.
Then it came to his final exam. Modern World History- the Norwegian knew it inside and out, but he found his gaze unfocused multiple times during it, and shook himself into scrawling down the answers with a shaking hand. When the bell rang to signify the end, Lukas pushed himself up from his seat and took a wobbly step, trying to make it towards the door and sleep off his pain at home.
He never made it.
The corners of his vision twisted like a kaleidoscope, and his legs crumpled beneath him. Lukas lost consciousness before he even hit the ground, with his classmates gasping and the teachers trying to herd the crowd away to give the blond some space. Through all the raised, frantic voices Lukas was peacefully, blissfully unaware.
"Mr. Nilsen, I'm afraid that you have Cardiac Arrhythmia." The Norwegian stared blankly at the grim-faced doctor, hands curling into the coarse sheets of the hospital bed. The man had wasted no time in telling him the diagnosis when he woke up despite his mind still being hazy from sleep. Not hazy enough to miss what he was saying, though. "Simply, it's a irregularity of the heart. Your heartbeats have been erratic, meaning your ventricles aren't pumping blood throughout your heart. This drops your pulse and cuts off the blood supply to your organs. You collapsed and stopped breathing, and were very fortunate in the fact that one of your teachers could perform CPR. You've been suffering from it for quite some time, and it's a wonder it hasn't seriously affected you until now."
"Right. Okay." Lukas spoke blankly, his face emotionless. "So what do you have to do to cure it?"
"It isn't easy. Right now we're considering your treatment options as we judge the severity of your case but for the moment, it could be anything from medication, to fitting you with a pacemaker, to cardiac defibrillation..." The words passed weightlessly over Lukas's head as the doctor continued, and his gaze drifted down to the fists clenched around his hospital sheets. He didn't have to know his medicine to understand what the man was saying.
He was ill. Very ill.
The rest of the words coming from the doctor's mouth were simply tuned out. Lukas let his head fall back against the headboard, blue eyes sliding shut with his mind in turmoil.Cardiac arrhythmia- irregular heart- pacemaker- surgery-
Without a doubt, these frantic beats now were because of inner panic rather than any kind of condition. Soundlessly, the Norwegian crossed thin hands- when the hell did they get so thin just how long as he been ill- over his chest, palms pressed into the skin below the thin hospital gown. Feeling the beats of his heart. The heart that could kill him at any moment.
Sleep came quickly to a grateful Lukas.
"You should have told me you weren't well." The brothers were both infrequent speakers, yet Emil was perched in the chair beside his bed, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. It was surprising to see him without his puffin- his beloved bird that their mother had decided would be a good birthday present, despite being a ridiculous species to get. Either Mr. Puffin had been left at home, or confiscated at the entrance. Lukas suspected the later, as he shifted in bed while avoiding the various IVs and wires trailing to the heartbeat monitor. At least he had the assurance that if anything happened this time he would be in a building full of professionally trained medics, rather than a school hall full of panicking students and teachers alike.
"I didn't know I was ill. Not like this."
"It's your heart, isn't it? It's too weak? The hospital wasn't straight with me when they phoned." Emil should have still been in school by now, but his brother let it slide. It was acceptable for him to be absent, just this once.
"It's called Cardiac Arrhythmia. Stops the blood pumping around it. I don't know what they're going to do about it, and I don't really want to know either." Lukas closed his eyes, raising his hand to rub along his jaw. "Does Mom know?" He tried to ignore her absence. Surely if she did know she'd be here, finding out what was wrong with him, confronting the doctors and asking them how they could make her son better?
"I think so. They would have told her before me." Emil glanced down, guilt flashing across his face. It wasn't the boy's fault that their mother wouldn't even come to see him in hospital when he was so unwell, perhaps instead duly paying his bills behind the scenes, but Lukas shrugged her absence off bitterly. He had Emil, and his brother's quiet support was all that mattered. "I brought some of your things, though. A few of your books; your phone; sketch pad; toiletries..." Pulling a bag from under his chair, the Icelandic boy handed him the satchel. Lukas allowed himself a rare smile, unbuttoning the flap and peering at the contents inside.
"Thank you. I appreciate it."
"It's really nothing. It was all I could do. I'll make sure the cats are fed, too." By this he was referring to the cat each had, named so wittingly 'Norge' and 'Ice' after their separate father's nationalities. They would have probably taken it in turns to feed them and clear their litter, if Lukas hadn't fiercely insisted on doing it himself. In hindsight, maybe the stress of being the caretaker to the home had helped with the physical destruction of his heart.
"Make sure you feed yourself too. I'm sorry I can't be there for you while I'm here."
"What are you saying?" Emil's usual quiet tone grew to one of agitation, and he stared at Lukas in amazement. "You're ill, it's not your fault! I can look after myself. You don't need to worry about me- you've always been so overprotective of me."
"You're a kid; of course I'm going to worry. That's what big brothers are for." At this, Emil grumbled silently to himself while a smile played on Lukas's lips. "You don't worry about me.I'll be out of here soon enough, once they decide what to do with me." At this, his face grew somber again, his expression mirrored by Emil. "I'll be fine. All I need is some peace and quiet, and they could even let me go with medication. You just have to wait and see."
Emil digested his words slowly before leaning forwards and patting Lukas's shoulder. Physical affection was lacking between the two- simply because neither considered hugging the other, since it would be just strange to start now- but the warmth from his palm was comforting to the Norwegian boy. "Okay. I'll try. Just get better, all right? I'm sure you'll be home in no time." He never said the words I'll miss you, but they seemed to hang in the air. Emil stood up and with another awkward nod he was gone, his fading footsteps the only sign he had been there. Lukas sat silently for a moment, the emptiness of the ward tangible, before scrambling and grabbing his bag, rooting around inside of it and pulling out his smartphone. It was a rarely used Christmas present from his mother- as he had little need to call anyone- but as Lukas settled back against the pillows, he was grateful he had it. It made searching his illness online so much easier.
As he scrolled through the pages, pointer finger poised over the screen, his frown deepened. Much of it was what the doctor had spouted before- the failure of his ventricles to pump blood, causing his heart to stop sending blood throughout his body, in a sense- but it was the treatment that stirred his attention. Most websites- if all- stated that medication was being used less and less as time went on, and in its place-
Surgery. Implanted pacemakers. ICDs.
Sickened at the thought, Lukas quietly slipped his phone into the cabinet beside his bed and settled down, now trying to calm both his heart and his new fears. He had to get through this. He had to survive. He was only eighteen- Emil was only sixteen- he couldn't let go of his life, or leave Emil alone. Their mother wouldn't be able to cope. He was more of a parent to Emil- however much his brother protested, he had to look after him.
He would be in hospital for God knows how long, but he was going to make it through it.
This is the first Norway fic I've ever written, ahh. I hope I've kept him in character. In no way am I medically trained, so I'm using the internet to research cardiac arrhythmia and hopefully keep my information reliable. As I know it's a serious illness, I won't keep things fluffy and cute for entertainment value. I want to portray it in realistic way, so if I've made any mistakes, I'd really like you to let me know.
Thanks for reading! Denmark should make an appearance soon enough.