Friday, August 28, 2009

Troubles of the Heart, Part 4

In the previous 3 posts, I described my heart arrhythmia, my hospital stay, Rachael's kung-fu prowess, and some amazing friends. If you haven't read those posts, you'll want to start on part 1 and work your way here.

After getting out of the hospital and spending Father's Day at Denny's with my wonderful friends, I thought many times in the next few weeks about what incredible friends I truly do have.

Meanwhile, my follow-up appointment was getting ever closer. Doctor Ash Jain had scheduled me to come in and take an echo-cardiogram, stress test, EKG. Kind of a 3 for 1 package. While we knew I had some issues with the electrical system in my heart, Dr. Jain wanted to be sure there were no other problems.

After some nervous anticipation, the big day arrived.

I was a little concerned, and not just about the results. I was also afraid I'd have to take my shirt off in public.

One should always remember to just check their modesty in at the door when visiting the doctor. I try to do that, but normally fail.

I should mention that I am not a guy that feels comfortable walking around with no shirt on. I'm one of those weirdos that even wears their shirt while swimming. This has been true ever since I gained more weight than I am comfortable displaying sans shirt. I don't think anyone other than my immediate family has seen me without a shirt in the last 5-10 years, or so.

Until this day.

The nurse comes in and tells me I'll need to take off my outer shirt and T-shirt. I was halfway expecting this, but still was not happy.

I became less so very shortly.

The nurse came in and told me we needed to go into another office. I guess they keep rooms segregated according to purpose, I don't know. Here we have the disrobing room, that one is the Waiting Nervously for Results Room, here's the Questions for the Doctor Room, and that room on the end with the padlock across it is the You Might Get To Regain Some of Your Pride and Dignity Room. Judging by the padlock, it didn't look like many people entered that one.

We were apparently going to leave The Disrobing Room, in search of The Treadmill Room.

She opens the door to an open (and empty) hallway. So far, so good. I'm thinking we're just going to sneak in unnoticed into one of the doors leading off of this hallway, the one right before the one with the padlocks.

Not a chance.

She leads me clear down the hallway. "Oh, hi there good-looking nurse. I'm sure glad you're the first one to see my bare belly."

I think when you see someone that has obviously attempted to stay in shape, it makes you even more conscious of your own lack of doing so.

We continue down the hallway. Before I know it, we are walking through the backside of the waiting room where approximately 2000 people are sitting. I am pretty sure every one of them stood up just to get a better view of the bare belly walking through the back of the office.

We then go out into a PUBLIC hallway that connects this office with another one. I'm still walking with no shirt on. I walk by many people. Many being defined by at least 4. We finally get to The Treadmill Room and I try to duck in as soon as I can, only to be confronted with the fact that I am now alone in the room, with my shirt off, with 3 women. Not one. Not two. Three.

Ahh, but it gets better.

The reason there are three women in the room is because one has to monitor the equipment. Typically, the other nurse attaches the electrodes to approximately 48 locations on your chest and belly. Not today.

Today, (lucky me) the 3rd nurse is in training. What this means to me is that she puts one on wrong, the other nurse has to look at it, it has to be pulled off, and then redone. Additionally, when the Nurse-In-Training is completely finished, the training nurse has to step over and they both scrutinize every square inch of my upper body. Oh, the joy!

It's finally time to get on the treadmill. Weirdly enough, I'm actually looking forward to it, just so I won't be under such close scrutiny.

I ask if I can wear my shirt while on the treadmill.

Stupid question.

I begin.

Within about 30 seconds the nurse over on the equipment makes her first observation. While she says this in a totally detached nurse voice, it still doesn't make me feel better.

"Guess you don't work out much, huh?"

"No, I have to sit behind a desk all day, and only have time to walk about a half hour each night after work."

"Yeah, well you really should make it a point to find a way to work out more."

I tried to answer, but by this time I was breathing so hard I couldn't talk much more if I even wanted to hope to persevere on the test.

The treadmill I was on would increase the incline and the speed every minute or so. Within no time, I was jogging.

Until the nurse on the controls came over and told me that I really didn't need to jog, as it was still on walking speed.


About this time, I could see the other two nurses talking quietly. I'm not sure, but I think they were making bets concerning whether my heart or lungs would explode first.

The nurse on the gadgets saved either of them from having to pay up. By this time, my heart rate was around 130 or so and my blood pressure was over 200.

She told me I could go lay down on the bed.

Now, when you get an echo-cardiogram EKG stress test, you are being monitored the entire time, while exercising. However, as soon as you're done exercising, they want to use the echo-cardiogram machine to look at pictures of your heart, kind of like an ultra-sound for a pregnant lady.

To accomplish this, you have to run from the treadmill to the bed.

I did as requested.

She looked at my heart rhythms and told me that my heart was beating irregularly again. However, she said that is not too unusual with the exercise I'd just completed. I told her about the irregular beating that had originally brought me in and how I'd went 28 hours in that condition before it converted back to a normal pattern.

"Well, you were lucky. Most people that happens to never convert."

"Really? What do they do?"

"We can usually give them medication to keep their heart rate down, but they learn to live with it, many of them for the rest of their life."

I thought that was the bad news.

Fortunately, my heart began beating normally again. I received the even worse news after I got dressed and went down to talk to my Doctor, who'd already had a chance to look at the results and was in The Waiting Nervously For Results Room.

"We've got a potential problem here. The one test came out fine, but the one that's typically the most reliable shows evidence that you may have blockage in your arteries. I'm going to have to schedule you an angiogram."

"That sounds like fun."

"It is, but we have to do it."

In all honesty, I had no idea what an angiogram was. I knew 'angio' had to do with the heart, and 'gram' had to do with conveying a message (like telegram), so I figured it would be something that they used to take a picture of my heart.

It was.

But it was a little more involved than I originally thought it would be.

For the fifth, (and I believe the final) post on this, be sure to check back tomorrow.

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