Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stress Test

Getting the machines ready for my stress test

Yesterday morning I went through three hours of a very unpleasant experience.  It is called a stress test.  Seems I have an extra heartbeat.  Well, you all know I have a big heart.  

The last time I had a stress test was two years ago.  This is the followup.  Man, that two years went by fast.


So here is what is involved in a stress test.  It's a bit more (I would say) than walking on that whatever you call it (which I never liked anyway).  


First thing is they stick a needle in a good vein so they can put an IV in your arm.  They need to inject you with a fluid that appears on the X-ray camera (not sure if it actually is an X-ray).  



These last four years I've had more needles stuck into me than the rest of my life combined.  Next week - flu shot!


Then you wait.  And wait.  This is an assembly line process, I was second in line at 8:15 AM yesterday morning.

Then I'm led to the apparatus where you lay down and a humongous camera taking machine descends upon my body.  It is in two parts.  


Left arm above my heard, right arm on arm rest to be injected.  Then DON'T MOVE for TWELVE minutes.  Of course I can breath but DON'T MOVE or else they have to start the whole procedure over again.  And I'm telling you, you DON'T want to have to go through this procedure any more than necessary.  If you have any hint of claustrophobia, you DO NOT want to go through this test. The machine takes pictures at different angles of my chest of this fluid going through my system.


I endure.


It's over and I go and sit down again only to be called to take the (and I can't think of the name) stress test that you all think is the stress test. Getting on that contraption that they speed up.


See how happy I am?



The assistant asks me to lift my shirt (oh, showing my flabby body again, I don't care these days, my glory days are over).  She puts these sticky tags on me that are hooked up to the machine.  Yes, when she pulls them off later some of my gray chest hairs go with them.  I told her "I didn't need those chest hairs anyway." 

I'm hooked up and she asks me to "step up" to the contraption.  She turns it on.  I'm taking baby steps.  She says "Take longer strides, and slower."  Oh, you want the Butch Walk.  Okey dokey, I can do that (I've had LOTS of practice).  


She turns on the machine. Slow at first.  This isn't so bad but I know this won't last.  And it didn't.  She speeds it up.  She asks "Feeling any pain?" My first thought (which I don't say) is "Lady, I feel pain from the moment I get up in the morning.  My body aches all over.  I'm 72 years old and I've taken quite a beating, especially the last few years."   But I let the Professional Ron swing into action and I say "I'm alright . . . . for now."


She speeds up the contraption.  Now I'm starting to huff and puff like the Flabby Old Guy that I am.  "Feeling anything?"  she asks.  "Oh yeah" I answer.  "Feeling a tightness in the chest?"  She asks.  "Yes" I answer.  She speeds it up.


Now I'm working.  I'm huffing and puffing like the wolf that tried to blow down the brick house of the Third Pig.


She continues to monitor the screen and look at me, making sure I don't collapse right there and create an uncomfortable scene on that placid Friday morning.  

I say "That's it."  I'm thinking I better stay alive because right before I went into the Cardiovascular office, I got a text message from my co-worker asking me if I could work for her last night because she wasn't feeling well. So much for me relaxing weekend, stress free after this test so I could tend to my hive outbreak.


I'm needed.


I'm wanted.


I'm depended on.


I get off the contraption (still can't think of the name, is this the first signs of my dementia)?


Up with my shirt again so she can rip off those attachments to my no longer six pack ab, 72 year old hairy chest.  Chest hairs ripped out, never feels good.  


The doctor comes in.  Asks when I had the test before.  She looks at my chart and says "Oh, I remember you."  Well, I am unforgettable to SOME people.  She looks at my chart again and says "Has your doctor talked to you about catheterization."  Uh well . . . . NO.  And he's not going to either.  Sure, my family has a history of heart problems (one younger brother on his second pacemaker and the other has an aneurism as well as my late father).  NO.  


No open heart surgery for this one.  Sure, I get pooped out faster these days.  I don't have the energy that I used to have.  You won't see me playing racquet ball . . . . EVER.  But am I going to go down that medical treadmill?  NO.


Looking at my chart she did say "Well, your chart is exactly the same as it was two years ago."  


Ah ha.  Now I remembered what my cardiologist told me two years ago.  He said one of my lower ventricle valves wasn't opening properly and the extra heartbeat was my heart trying to compensate for that anomaly.  He said this situation was fairly common in someone AS OLD (there we go again with the "YOUR AGE" qualification thing) as you.  He said "After all, your heart has been beating non-stop since 1941, eventually it starts slowing down."  Tell me about it.  So I'm like an old car.  Sure, I am.  Well, I've kept this old car in pretty good shape with only a few lapses (I did smoke for about seven years).  But eventually, no matter how good you take care of the car chassis, it goes.  I'm on the downward slide folks.  


At that time two years ago my cardiologist suggest that we "monitor" my heart since I didn't want to take more drastic measures like OPERATING ON THAT VALVE.  Folks, I would rather die in my sleep of a heart attack than go through another major medical procedure.  I'm not saying never, but I just don't think it is necessary at this time.  Not going there folks,  I'm just not going there.


I got all unhooked and I was burst out the door to my waiting Bill in our car at quarter to noon.  He had been sitting there (he never goes into the waiting room) since I drove up at ten of eight.  LONG DAY.


Drove home, had lunch, took a nap and I was into work at the hotel.  A Friday night crowd.  Busy, of course but all nice folks and some very interesting folks.  That's what I like about my job.  


The red spots of hives on my leg and thighs were in full bloom after yesterday morning's stess test and now another full eight hours of hotel front desk work.  


A Day In the Life of Ron folks. It's all good.  I'm still ticking and taking a licking.  Especially when I got home and I saw a card Bill got from his nephew's children telling him that Bill's 54 year old nephew died suddenly.  We all have a Date of Departure folks.  Nobody gets out alive.  All we can hope for is that we're able to love and be loved the short time we're here on terra firma. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some shopping to do at Food Lion. 




Treadmill . . . . I just thought of the contraption's name.  Actually "treadmill" is a good metaphor for life.  Aren't we all on a treadmill?  For some of us it goes slow and others pretty fast.  Right now mine is just about right . . . for now anyway.

26 comments:

  1. I'm just so glad that they have this method and others of keeping us reasonably health, it's not a really big deal, just inconvenient. Wouldn't want to be living where these tests don't exist, now would you??? Have a great day, I loved hearing about your trip to Toronto! also love your blog!

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    1. Thank you Marie. The stress test is certainly inconvenient but I decided to take it anyway just on the outside chance that I had something serious wrong with my heart other than the usual age related health issues of a 72, reasonably healthy man who hash' smoked since July 15, 1967 (although I realize the damage has already been done).

      Thank you for your kind and generous compliments about my blog.

      Have a great day!

      Ron

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  2. Glad to hear you are still ticking. Stand firm on your personal limits - I see so much over treatment of people our age and older.

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    1. David,
      Six years ago one of the doctors at the VA insisted that I have a very intrusive medical procedure to make sure I didn't have bladder cancer. He said that I had blood in my urine (eight months before) and that "could be an indicator" that I had bladder cancer. I knew the blood in my urine was the night before I passed one of my kidney stones (a very common indicator of passing kidney stones). He didn't want to hear it. He insisted that I have this test which required an instrument the size of a pen with a camera on the end inserted up my penis. I didn't see the need because of the "possibility" that I had bladder cancer. I said "Would you insist that I have brain surgery to see what the cause of my frequent painful occurrences up the back of my head to see if I had brain cancer?" He dismissed my question. I didn't have the procedure, much to his displeasure, and I can say six years down the road I've passed more kidney stones but no bladder cancer. Sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct.
      Ron

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  3. Ron,

    I thought you would remember it was a treadmill when you said, "But am I going to go down that medical treadmill"

    Lar

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    1. Lar,
      My brain cells are dying off incrementally. Little by little, I'm losing the ability to connect the dots (cognitive abilities). I just hope I don't get as bad as my friend Bob M. who doesn't have too long to go now.What a horrible way to die, to lose all your marbles.
      Ron

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  4. each person is in charge of his/her body. NO ONE is gonna do something to me unless I ALONE authorize it. MDs ain't saints or miracle workers.

    spouse has a stress test every year (stent at 42, valve replacement/single bypass at 48). and yep, we never know when our time is up; it just happens.

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    1. Again Anne Marie, you're absolutely right. Each person is in charge of their own body. I've had other occasions where I've turned down the advice of doctors to have a medical procedure that I didn't think was necessary. So far I'm batting a 1,000 because the dire consequences that they advised would happen if I didn't take that course of action, hasn't happen. . . . . . yet. And as you say, "we never know when our time is up; it just happens." For me, any more time I have on this earth is all gravy now. I've had a good, long life and I'm still living a good life. It's all good baby!

      Ron

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  5. I've had two open heart surgeries for aortic aneurysms and disections never once had a stress test. I think they were afraid I wouldn't make it though one. I'm glad your okay. I'm scheduled for knee surgery on Wednesday. I guess it's all part of the aging process we have to go through.

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    1. Stan,
      When I hear of others heart health issues, I again realize how lucky I am just to have this one small problem, which my cardiologist assures me is "normal" for a person my age. As you say, all part of the aging process.
      Ron

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  6. Ron,
    Your stress test was exactly like the one I had 3 weeks ago except I was chemically stressed instead of walking/running the treadmill. I wasn't looking forward to the treadmill and was happy to forego it until AFTER I had the chemical. I'll take the treadmill any day. Long and short, I passed that test along with all the other tests I had to find out why I cannot breathe normally. I have an appointment with a pulmonologist next week, my last resort. Glad to hear you're ok.
    Jack

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    1. Jack,
      I'm always in fear that I'll fall off the treadmill and make a fool out of myself. More of a fool than I've already made of myself than usual.

      I don't have trouble breathing other than I don't have the energy I used to have. A few years back when I had a bad cold, near pneumonia, I woke up at night afraid I was going to suffocate. That's when I went to the doctor for the first time in my life for a cold. Good thing I did because she said "one of your lungs was almost full and the other was starting to fill up." I knew something was wrong. I'm sorry to hear you're having this problem. Please keep me posted how your appointment with the pulmonologist goes.
      Ron

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  7. I have a sneaking suspicion that my doctor is going to order the dreaded stress test for me before too long. Ugh.

    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. Jay,
      I think stress tests are good to detect blockages or other problems. In my situation, my heart is just starting to show wear and tear after 72 years. To be expected. But as I said before,the worse part (other than inserting the IV which I always hate) is the claustrophobia induced by that imaging machine. Twice you have to lay still for twelve minutes while this machine closes in on you closer and closer.
      Ron

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  8. Doubt I've comment on your blog before, got to it through Trainride of...
    As a retired cardiopulomologist I'd suggest you heed the advise of the one who asked if you'd been suggested a cardiac cath. It's possible, even likely, that you have a blockage of one your coronary arteries, reducing your exercise capabilities.
    With current diagnostic abilities, having a coronary cath is minimally invasive. And, many of the issues seen can be resolved with a stint, also minimally invasive. If so, you spend a day or two at the max in the hospital, probably two. Always issues of complications are possible, have to mention that, but you can have some much better years ahead, at little expense. Less shortness of breath, more stamina.
    Your choice of course, just my observations.

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    1. Should Fish More,
      Thank you for your comments. I will seriously consider any recommendations that my cardiologist gives to me. I would like to have more energy and stamina but with minimal invasive procedures. Again, I appreciate your advice.
      Ron

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  9. Not wanting to be an arm chair doctor BUT a catheterization actually would help and is a procedure that dosent involve cutting you open :-)

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    1. Roger,
      II will consider catheterization if it makes sense to me. One thing I definitely don't want and am not going to go through is getting myself cut open. My father went open heart surgery on my birthday in 1999. Ten months later he was dead (lung cancer) after ten months of incredible pain and discomfort.
      Ron

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  10. Ron, I just knew you would make it through like the champ you are! I just hope I age as well as you are, I am not that far behind you. I still don't think you are old! Give my sympathy to Bill over the loss of his nephew.

    Cindy from Sonoma

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    1. Cindy,
      Good to hear from you! I've taken good care of my body most of my life. My brothers (both younger) haven't. They have had multiple medical complications from overeating, smoking and lack of exercise. While I've gain a few years free of medical problems, I'm afraid my age is finally catching up with me. Little aches and pains here and there and now other "things." Just trying to stay one step ahead Cindy.
      Ron

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  11. My first stress test (probably not the last) was nothing at all like yours. No IV, no claustrophobic cameras, and no treadmill. It was a stationary bike, and the sticky patches and wires, of course. I'd rather have a treadmill because I can walk for longer than I can bike. They make that bike hard to pedal really quickly. I felt like such a wimp.

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    1. Walt,
      No stationery bikes but that imaging camera, hated it. Hated the IV and the treadmill. I'm just becoming and Old Grumpy Fart.
      Ron

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  12. So, are you dead yet?

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    1. Nope, I'm hanging in here for a bit longer. Thanks for asking. :)

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  13. Hi Ron, your story has brought back memories of my stress tests -- all four of them! They have not put me on the treadmill since my first one when I could not walk up to the speed they needed to get a usable reading without my chest tightening. It's always been the nuclear chemicals ever since, which isn't bad even with the slight chill effect and the taste of copper which suddenly appears in your mouth. I agree that the holding your arm above your head part while they take your picture is tedious.

    The catherization isn't that bad; I've had two; one with an angioplasty. At that time they entered through the groin and the skin on my thigh turned all sorts of interesting colors from yellow to purple to black afterwards. I believe now they are able to do these procedures through your wrist, which is a huge improvement! Perhaps if you can wait a few more years they might be able to correct your problem without opening up your chest. Of course this is your choice. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and advice Todd. I prefer to minimize invasive medical procedures to my body. I had enough last year (both through the back and front - butt and penis) to last me a lifetime. No more for awhile.
      Ron

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