Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Testing the Stress

The other day, I had a stress test. Don’t worry, I’m fine. I had been having some teeny little twinges and such and the doctor just wanted to be sure and so he sent me to the local “heart group.” (Today’s medicine no longer involves going to doctor’s offices. Now you visit “groups.” It’s like kindergarten, but a lot less fun.)

It was an interesting experience, to say the least. When I walked in, I felt very much out of place for several reasons: 1) I was younger than every other patient by at least 30 years; 2) I didn’t have a walker; and 3) I didn’t have a baseball cap with the name of the battleship or fighter jet I fought in during the war. It was one of the few times when feeling out of place was a good thing.

If you’ve ever had a stress test you know that this can be a maddening experience. For one thing, you can’t have caffeine for 24 hours prior to the test. 24 freakin’ hours! Not even decaf anything, because decaf doesn’t mean decaf to the “heart group.” Then, when you finally get there, they make you wait a long time and the only things they offer you to read are Prevention Magazine, or pamphlets that say: “Angina feels like indigestion, gas, or an uncomfortable feeling in your chest.” So then, you are certain that every major artery to your heart must be completely blocked. To make matters worse, if you choose not to read, you can look around at the other patients who seem to be hovering at or near death’s door.

Anyway, once I made it past the waiting room, I was brought into an exam room by a nurse who must have recently had her personality surgically removed. She asked me a series of questions in a tone that implied that maybe I wasn’t as out of place as I thought. She then took out a Sharpie and put black dots all over my chest. I’d like to point out that I spend a fair amount of time lately telling my daughter to stop writing on herself during school. Apparently, in the “heart group,” this is perfectly acceptable behavior. Then, the personality-challenged nurse attached receptors to my chest that must have been coated with black Crazy Glue because I am still washing it off, four days later.

I was then directed to waiting room number two which had a TV and was filled with people that were getting the nuclear stress test. Yes, the people sitting next to me were filled with nuclear liquid that would allow the “heart group” to pinpoint their blockage. At this point, I couldn’t help but be a little concerned. I watch “24.” Should I be sitting next to people that are currently radioactive? It seemed a little counterproductive.

While in Waiting Room Number Two, a man my age walked in all glowing with radioactivity. (Not really.) But he was a loud talker and as he chatted with the man next to him, I found out that he has six children and a family history of heart disease. When he was initially seen for his chest pains, the doctor asked him what part of his life causes him the most stress. He said that he really loves his job, so it must be his home life. At that moment, I wanted to stand up and shout: “Yeah, duh! Did you think that having six kids was going to be a walk in the park?! Your wife should probably be in here too!”

Finally I was called into the treadmill room by personality-challenged nurse who was assisted by a physician’s assistant with a bit more personality. They hooked me and my receptors up to the heart monitor and put me on the treadmill. At first, it was pretty easy. Then every three minutes, they would take my blood pressure, speed up the treadmill and raise the incline. After about 9 minutes, I felt like Spider Man trying to scale the Empire State building. All I could think was: "Do they really make 80 year olds do this, because I can barely stand up straight, let alone walk at the same time." Nevertheless, I tried to remain cool, calm, collected and NOT stressed. When they finally slowed and lowered “the beast,” (my pet name for that treadmill) the physician’s assistant said that everything looked normal. Hallelujah.

As I collected my belongings, I had only one thought: I gotta get me one of those hats.


At 3:03 PM , Blogger kenju said...

Your experience at the heart group parallels mine, except mine did not show completely normal - I have atrial tachycardia (a fancy name for rapid heartbeat). That test is aptly named though, because it is very stressfuland comparing it to spiderman climbing
the empire state is a good analogy!
It is good to know you are fine.

At 3:11 PM , Blogger Jess Riley said...

Yes, we need one of those hats, stat! (That observation cracked me up.)

Glad to hear the stress test went well.

My mom was radioactive when she had treatment for her thyroid condition. She had to use her own silverware, use a separate bathroom, and sleep away from my dad until it wore off.

At 7:30 PM , Blogger Em said...

Yeah, I did the treadmill torture...and everything was okay. But the entire visit to the heart center was enough to make me need a sick day from work just to recover!

At 4:19 AM , Blogger caramaena said...

So the waiting room is actually part of the test then? hehe

Glad all is well and you aren't glowing by association :)

At 7:00 AM , Blogger kenju said...

Michele sent me back, karen, and I am glad. Caramaena's comment was worth the trip! I have to agree with her, too. The waiting room is often stressful; if not for the people there, for the length of time.

At 1:56 PM , Anonymous rampant bicycle said...

Wowie. That sounds Not Fun on a large scale. Though I guess it could always be worse, right? At least everything is normal!

Hi from Michele's and happy weekend!

At 4:38 PM , Blogger utenzi said...

I'm glad to hear that you passed with flying colors even if you didn't end up with a fly-boy hat of your own, Karen. It's always good to hear that your heart is in the right place and quite healthy. We need that critter, y'know?

Michele sent me way, way up to Wisconsin to see you (and your heart).

At 8:27 AM , Blogger Bob-kat said...

It sounds like the heart group is designed to stress you! What a trying experience for sure.

Thanks for visiting my blog :-)

At 4:26 PM , Blogger margalit said...

I have a congenital heart defect so I kinda live in the cardiologist's office (yes, it's a group!). I can't even DO the stress test anymore due to my congestive heart failure, but when I did it, it was HARD. Freaking hard. That uphill part was a killer.

My cardiologist specializes in women and it does make a HUGE difference in the health care you get. If your heart does have a problem, try and find a doctor that only sees other women. Our physiogamy is markedly different from mens.

Glad your tests come out perfect. Heart disease sucks! And oh, I don't have a hat...should I get one?

Here via Michele.

At 5:23 PM , Blogger Begered said...

What an experience you had. Good to hear everything turned out normal on your stress test. It does seem dangerous to have older people on that treadmill.

At 8:11 AM , Blogger Bob-kat said...

It sounds like you had the same nurse I did last time I went to hospital.

Michele sent me back.

At 1:17 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

I'm glad you're OK, Karen. We've had ample experience with stress tests in our family, so it was interesting to see it through your eyes.

Yeah, I want a Navy cap, too! CVN-76, USS Ronald Reagan, the newest, baddest carrier in the fleet.

I'll wear it backward, too. Just because.

Happy sigh.

At 3:09 PM , Blogger srp said...

Oh yes and they have a chemically induced stress test for those with walkers that can barely walk across the street due to their arthritis... never mind the treadmill. My mom has to do that one and she says it makes her feel as if her heart is going to explode. I think I'll take the treadmill, please!

At 11:34 AM , Blogger Blitz Krieg said...

I was at a testing office last week where all I had to do was give a blood sample and it turned into one hell of a visit.

What was normally a five minute visit was almost an hour...

the phlebotomist dropped the f-bomb on me..

At 11:34 AM , Blogger Blitz Krieg said...

I was at a testing office last week where all I had to do was give a blood sample and it turned into one hell of a visit.

What was normally a five minute visit was almost an hour...

the phlebotomist dropped the f-bomb on me..

At 9:47 PM , Blogger Lynn said...

Seems to me that you already have a built-in stress-test...actually two.. living with you. Isn't that the definition of "teenager"?

At 11:00 PM , Blogger Lynn said...

Glad to hear that everything is fine with you. I guess the doctors figure if you can survive the waiting room then it's safe to put you on the machines. Don't know why they can't just hook you up to a "heart monitor" and send you could then complete the test in the comfort of your home...without any unnecessary radioactive exposure. It sounds like you already have built in stessors at home...they're called teenagers.

At 9:54 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

Hey Karen. Just checking in to ensure everything's OK with you. Hope you're staying warm...and healthy.


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