Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stress Test

"My idea of exercise is a good brisk sit."
Phyliss Diller
(Could just as easily have been said by my father)

I said it in a few previous posts but it bears repeating, especially in light of the stress test I had today, that my daughter's physical prowess comes from her father's side of the family not mine. I could say that "this apple doesn't fall far from the tree" - with the tree being my father who let anyone who asked him to just think about a little exercise know that he gave that up after he graduated from college. Except for a couple of years in my anorexic stage, most of my exercise has been in the form of thinking about it.

So today I went in for part 2 of my cardiology workup. First I had an echo cardiogram which was, shall I say, a piece of cake. Lie back, undo my hospital gown exposing my upper half, and close my eyes while a woman rubs cold gel under my boobs and takes pictures of the inside of my heart. Pregnancy sonograms came into fashion way after I had my babies, but I've seen still photos in different shades of gray that proud parents tell me is their child. That's pretty much what I saw on the computer screen when the lady told me to look at my aorta. Seriously it could have been a big lipped sucker fish in an aquarium so I had to take her word for it. I could see that it was beating at a regular pace so I didn't get too alarmed.

That took all of about 10 minutes, start to finish, which meant I still had an hour and a half to wait, i.e. stew, about walking on a treadmill. I tried to keep calm, but I kept getting visions of Fred Flintstone doing backwards circles on a stone version of high tech exercise equipment. Someone I talked to, obviously a woman paid to scare the patients who were about to have a stress test, thus upping their stress level to one that can be measured easier, mentioned the word "run" as opposed to walk briskly.

Run? Me run? Maybe it's just a coincidence but I was just telling my daughter the jock that I have forgotten how to run. When I was young, in shape, with long, lithe legs, I never ran fast, or gracefully, but I could run. I realized the other night when Suzi thought she'd treed a possum that my running days were over. I have a brisk natural walking pace, but don't ask me to stretch that out to a run.

I sat in the Chik-Filet waiting and worrying and writing. I smelled the fried chicken. I watched people stuff themselves with artery clogging greasy french fries. I almost made a deal with the Divine Exercise Guru that if I survived this test, I'd never eat fried food again. Then I rationalized it's not a good idea to make deals with the One in charge of keeping your heart beating if you really have no plan on keeping your end of the bargain. Then it was time. With a bravado I didn't feel at all I took myself into the doctor's office, smiled at the woman who checked me in, then sat down to await my fate. It didn't take long in coming.

"I'm not athletic," I told the woman who was instructing me to take off my shirt.
"I can't run," I whined as she hooked me up with electrodes.
"I'm uncoordinated," I confessed, "please don't let me fall."

Just relax, I'll get the doctor were her only words of advice. While she was out of the room, I read the release form I had just signed that indicated that sometimes people actually have heart attacks while doing this test but I needn't worry because there were doctors with equipment standing by. I also took note of the fact that the paper said I could quit the test at any time and no one would be mad at me. (Except maybe the insurance company who would still have to pay whether the test was completed or not.)

"Hail Mary full of grace," I prayed, crossing myself and feeling the need to genuflect before stepping astride the treadmill that had taken on mammoth proportions.

"Don't look down," said the nice lady, "it will make you dizzy." As if the whole test wasn't throwing my un-exercised body into a tailspin. I heard the machine start before I actually felt it move.

"I'm not coordinated," I reminded the doctor as he instructed me to put my hands on the bar, stand up straight, take a longer stride, move forward. All that, and look at the picture on the wall of some serene lake that I could only guess was supposed to calm me down. For the record, it didn't.

"Do you feel any pain?" they asked as if they also expected me to utter an answer.
"Hold your arm out so I can take your blood pressure," says the helper lady. Visions of Fred Flintstone danced in my head, as I timidly released my left hand from its death grip on the padded bar. What do you know, I could stand, walk, and look at the lake one-handed. Who knew?

Okay, now we're going to crank her up a bit. I don't think that's what the doctor actually said, but that's what I heard somewhere beyond my heavy breathing. Seriously I thought I was going to die. Not because my heart wasn't up to the task. But my lungs and legs were about to go on strike. I could feel them plotting against me like I was a hated union boss. "Look," I said to them in a message delivered by nerve endings already on fire," this wasn't my idea. When I told the doctor I had chest pain, I meant a kind of tightening in my chest from anxiety not a faulty valve."

"Ten more seconds," she said. The doctor had already left the room. I can only assume he did not expect me to have a heart attack. I was praying he'd gone to get the oxygen tank. Ten seconds on a treadmill when your legs are on fire and your lungs feel like they are going to explode feels like being 5 years old and waiting for Santa. But even as the nurse counted down, I could feel myself cheering me on to the finish line. I had a tiny, eency, weency, taste of what people who run road races must feel as they near the end of their course. Except I had no one to hand me a drink of water, or pat my back, or do the happy dance in my honor. Just me, sucking life sustaining air into parched lungs as the woman took one more blood pressure.

"Maybe you should think about starting an exercise program," said the doctor as I walked on shaky legs to the exit.

Maybe you should stick your head in a big bucket of doo doo, I thought in response.

"I think I'll take a nap," I told him, feeling like I really deserved that and maybe even a chicken nugget on my way out.

He stopped dead in his tracks. "A nap? Naps are for old people."

I may be old, Sonny, but I just set my own personal best record. Woohoo!!!!!

Today I'm grateful I don't have anything wrong with my heart. I'm grateful for finding one of the very last parking places in the gigantic hospital parking lot. And I'm grateful for my ability to blow a simple little test out of all proportion. It really is an art, don't you think?

Wishing for you good results to whatever test life throws at you,
Merry ME


Anonymous said...

Good Tuesday evening to you, dear Merry.

Glad that all is good with your heart.

And I have to admit to being seriously impressed. I used to walk six miles a day - AND I QUITE THE TREADMILL TEST EARLY BECAUSE I WAS SO OUT OF BREATH!

So woman, I honor you!

And you'd think they could have a warmer for the ultrasound gel, EEK!

You cracked me up with not making a bargain with THE MAN UPSTAIRS when you have no intention of keeping your end of it:)

Sorrow said...

oh merry!
it all sounds scary to me!
I need to walk more, it's just when the temperature is 100+ in the shade, I wilt like the southern bell I am!
So glad your heart is a beautiful on the inside as it is in your eyes!