Friday, January 9, 2009

Back from the Brink, Part 3...Sorry to disappoint you Doc

Continuing the recap of my recent medical adventures, so far we've determined that:

* I've been sick for the last couple of months, with headaches every morning, shortness of breath at the slightest exertion of effort, and just being ridiculously tired all the time.

* I eventually go to the doctor, who immediately suspects that I have sleep apnea. A diagnosis that I, based on my years of watching M*A*S*H and House, completely disagree with.

* My doctor schedules me for a sleep study, to confirm his completely incorrect diagnosis of sleep apnea.

* In order to rule out other possibilities, he also refers me to a Neurologist. Those other possibilities being brain tumors and/or aneurysms, which he seems to find amusing.

* Almost on a lark, he decides to perform an EKG in his office. I guess the machine was just sitting there, and he had some time to kill. That test shows some sort of "issue" with my heart. He doesn't feel that it's anything to worry about, but he refers me to a cardiologist anyway.

You know, I'm really glad I spent the last 8 years going from 260 lbs to 190 lbs, and getting healthy, or I might really be sick. Figures though. I could have spent the last 8 years sitting on my behind, eating pizza and hot dogs, and been just as healthy as I now appear to be. I'll be the most well conditioned corpse you've ever seen.

One other thing that my doctor said, was to stay off of my bike until the cardiologist says it's OK to ride again. As a matter of fact, I should try to avoid any activity that would put any stress on my heart. I'm certainly glad that there's not anything to worry about.

So the first specialist I see is the cardiologist. After reviewing the printout from the EKG at my doctor's office, and talking to me for all of 5 minutes, he states that he doesn't believe that there's anything to worry about either, but he wants to run some test anyway. Sure, just for fun, lets go ahead and run a resting Echo-Cardiogram, as well as a Stressed Echo-Cardiogram. You know, just for fun.

As it happens, they just happen to have time to do the Stressed Echo-Cardiogram right then and there. For those who don't know, this is the test where they wire you up with electrodes, (still strangely arousing when done by a nurse), make you run on a treadmill till your heart rate gets going really good, then they basically do a sonogram on your heart.

When I say that the application of the electrodes is somehow strangely arousing, I should clarify that that is true when done by the right nurse. I of course refer to the type of nurse that you'll usually find in any movie seen on Cinemax after 10:00pm. I am not referring to the type of nurse that they apparently have doing the Stress Echo's at my cardiologist office.

I'm not sure what her real name was, but for our purposes here, we'll call her Helga. It would seem that Helga recently immigrated to the U.S., either from one of the former Soviet republics, or from East Germany. It would also seem that the development of a gentle bedside manner is not a subject that was particularly emphasized in nursing schools behind the Iron Curtain.

"You, you vill take off your shirt, and lie on ze table, now!"

I'm so intimidated by this point, that I immediately rip off my shirt and jump up on the table. Helga then proceeds to shave my chest. She probably could have been a little more gentle about it if she had just ripped the hairs out of my chest with her bare hands. Then, for some reason, and I'm not kidding, she rubs my chest with sand paper. I'm not sure why, but I think she felt she didn't do enough damage during the shave.

"I vill now attach ze electrodez to your chest. Do not move!"

I reply with an obedient, "Yes ma'am".

Helga applies the electrodes to my chest. The alcohol wipes were a particularly nice touch after the shave and sandpaper scrub.

"You vill now get up, and get on ze treadmill. Now!"

"Yes ma'am". I, like a whipped dog, dutifully get up and stand on the treadmill.

"As ze treadmill begins to move, you vill begin valking. As ze treadmill increases in speed, you vill jog, zhen run, yes? If you have difficulties in breathing, you vill let me know, yes? Now you vill begin!"

So, the stress portion of the Stress-Echo now begins. I begin at I nice gentle walk, but seeing that Helga is clearly disappointed in my lack of "stress", the treadmill quickly increases to a jog, then a run. As I'm at a full gallop on the treadmill, another nurse comes into the room. I later find out that this is the person that will be performing the "Echo" part of the Stress-Echo. It takes about 15 minutes for my heart rate to rise to a point where Helga feels that we can proceed to the next portion of the test.

"You vill now stop running, and quickly get on ze table. Now! Shnell! Shnell!"

I literally jump off of the treadmill and onto the exam table. I would later learn that once they have my heart rate up, they only have about 90 seconds to get whatever information they need. The sonogram lady, as she likes to be called by her friends, now squirts a rather large amount of goo on my chest. Any woman who has ever had a baby is familiar with this goo. It actually felt rather nice, given the shaving and alcohol burns that had previously been applied by Helga. The sonogram lady then rubs the sonogram thingy around on my chest for about 90 seconds.

(My vast knowledge of medical terms, is impressive, isn't it, i.e...sonogram thingy?)

The sonogram lady then leaves without saying another word. It is apparent that she is deathly afraid of Helga. Not without good reason. I now believe that Helga is planning on killing me.

"Ze doctor vill be in to review ze test results in a few minutes. You vill put on you shirt. Now!"

With that, Helga turns and leaves. I cancel my call to 911, that I had been secretly dialing on my cell phone.

A few minutes later, the cardiologist comes into the room, and begins to review the test results. As he's going through the printouts and sonogram results, he seems genuinely disappointed that he can't find anything wrong.

"Nope, I'm sorry Mr Miller. I don't see anything wrong here."

"That's OK doc. I'm sure you did your best." At this point, I'm so happy to have escaped Helga's evil clutches, he could have told me I was pregnant and that would have been just fine with me.

As I'm leaving for the day, we schedule the non-stressed echo for the next morning. It's more of the same, just without the fun of Helga's death march on the treadmill. That test turns out just fine as well, and I get the OK from the cardiologist to resume riding my bike.

I didn't see Helga when I came back the next day. But believe me, it wasn't for a lack of looking. It's funny though. I can't look at the scars on my chest now without thinking of her, and smiling. When you stare death in the face like that, it makes you appreciate life just that much more.

In my next post, we take a trip to the Neurologist.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

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