Stress Test

Medical treadmill and testing control equipment

OK so here’s how it went down. You remember that scene in “The 40-Year Old Virgin” where they tear off all his chest hair with tape? Pretty much me as they tore off about a dozen ECG contact pads. They had me wired up like some kind of cyborg. Only not a cool cyborg. More like a bald, overweight cyborg. Like, you’d design your cyborg that way if you wanted no one to ever guess…

After they got an IV set up, the technician brought in a tiny, battered metal case and opened the lid, which was lined with an inch of lead. She lifted out a hypo with a lead shield around it and lit me up. Then I had to go sit in the waiting room and irradiate other people while it perfused through my circulatory system.

Then they packed me into some kind of scanner I’d never seen before (with no room to move) and took 5 minutes of radioactive heart video. OK, it’s stress test time now!

Cardiologist: (watching, giving orders)
Me: (walking along like a normal person on a white GE treadmill hooked up to their system) It’s cool, I feel fine.
Nurse-tech: “OK, now we’re going to turn up the elevation and speed. You sure you’re OK?”
[Repeat several times]

Cardiologist: “More, more! I’m still not satisfieeed!”
Nurse-tech: “Are you OK? Any chest pains? Any pain in your arm?”
Me: (at full ‘running-from-wild-boars’ level of exertion, have my undersized lungs near bursting, sweat building up)
Nurse-tech: “Are you OK? You can’t just step off, we have to ramp it down, any chest pains?”
Tech: Injects something into the IV that burns like hell
Me: (between breaths) “Pile it on, I’m good”
Treadmill: (doubles)
Cardiologist: “Almost got it… 30 more seconds”
Me: (feet pounding, hallucinating the hyper-drive scene from 2001, a Space Odyssey)
Nurse-tech: “Can you make it 15 more seconds?”
Me: “I’mgoodgetthedata”
Nurse-tech: “5 more seconds”
Time: (slows down tremendously at light speed)
Nurse-tech: “That’s it! We’re slowing down now.”
Me: (walking slowly, lungs on overtime for another full minute)
Me: “Did you get the data? Did we get it?”
Cardiologist and nurse-tech: “We got it. We got good data.”

Then there was some other stuff about studying the readings and the radiologist’s report and my doctor and something…

Another scan, this time lying on my stomach, a position in which I am not comfortable.

OK all done! So we went home.


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  • Test machine is running Windows XP
  • *(I never saw that movie, but I saw that clip. Since it was in the trailer I figured most people would remember it. If I do this again I’m giving my chest a buzz-cut first.)

Sliding on the ice

Some of you may remember I did a joke post a couple weeks ago, where my doctor called me and said “We need to talk” and I said that was never a good sign. I posted a Star Wars reference where Han Solo says; “Never tell me the odds!
Well they told me the odds anyway. My left anterior descending artery is badly clogged. Cardiologists playfully refer to this artery as “The Widow Maker” because the human heart goes haywire when that artery doesn’t make its delivery schedules. I have a big test this coming Friday to help determine the best treatment. (Oh man, will it be multiple choice? Essay? Will there be math involved?)
Dear friends, several things. This condition is well-understood in medicine, and of course I have already read extensively about it. While it is true a whole lot of people die every year from this condition, it is also true that a whole lot of people get treatment and _don’t_ die. I hope to be in the latter group. Thanks to the diagnosis my odds are now better than even. At the moment I am still very much alive.
While everybody has their own approach to danger, I prefer silliness. I would rather receive reassurances in the form of inappropriate jokes and movie references. When the guy in the dark robe and the scythe finally shows up, there is no more defiant response than laughter.
It’s the weekend. Go outside and enjoy the weather, even if it’s bad weather. Read a good book. Watch a movie YOU like even if someone told you it was too silly or sentimental or whatever. Clean something or mess something up. In the words of Sidney Freedman; “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants, and slide on the ice!”
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  • Extra points if you read that last quote in the voice of Sidney Freedman, the psychiatrist on M*A*S*H