Well, not really. But I thought I would share what went down with the cardio tests I had on Friday. But first, a story from last week’s hospital visit that I forgot to tell. It’s a good one!
After spending several hours in the emergency room, I was admitted to a regular room on the 4th floor at Baylor Garland. This is the telemetry floor, where they can wire you up to a portable device that allows them to track your heart beat and rate while giving you the freedom to move about. The male nurse (who was very nice and personable) attached the portable EKG device and told me that technicians would be monitoring my heart throughout the night. About an hour later, my daughter Erin and I were watching the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson when a tech came in to take my vital signs. I muted the TV volume while she took my blood pressure and oxygen levels. Then I glanced up at the TV and saw that one of Craig’s sidemen was dancing around on Craig’s desk wearing nothing but a speedo with a batman logo on the crotch. I tried to get Erin’s attention, so she could see the insanity happening on the TV. When she finally looked up, she and I started giggling about it. I didn’t realize that the hospital tech was trying to get a thermometer in my mouth, and finally the tech had to say, “Ma’am, could I please get your temperature?” She sounded more than a little frustrated! Well, that embarassed me so much that I started to really laugh, but I was trying to hold it in because I had the thermometer in my mouth. And Erin was laughing so hard, she was nearly crying. Suddenly the nurse ran in from the hallway. Apparently, my suppressed laughter made my heart rate go up so drastically that the nurse thought I was going into cardiac arrest! When he saw what was really going on, he called in a false alarm. They were ready to bring in the crash cart! I was so embarassed. A grown woman should NOT be giggling about dancing men in speedos when they’re in the hospital for heart problems! 🙂
Well, a week later I was scheduled for a nuclear stress test, to see if there’s something going on in my heart that caused the distress that sent me to the hospital in the first place. I had never heard of a nuclear stress test before, although it seems to be very common. When I mentioned it in choir practice last week, it seemed like over half the choir members had already had one. But nobody warned me about how awful it would be.
The first part wasn’t bad. I was not allowed to have caffeine for 24 hours prior to the test. This proved to be much harder than I would have thought. I didn’t realize how much I depend upon caffeine to keep me going. When I got to the doctor’s office I felt so run down and dreary. The first thing they did was insert an IV into the top of my hand, which is always really painful. Then they injected me (through the IV) with a radioactive isotope solution that had been prepared especially for me. The technician, a cute girl named Elda, told me that I would be radioactive for a month! She said that if I planned to travel, they could give me a note, because I would set off the “dirty bomb” detectors in airports and at border crossings!
Next was a resting heart scan. I had to lay on a table, with my arms over my head, while a machine automatically moved over my chest, getting images of my heart with the isotopes circulating through my blood. This took 15 minutes, and I had to be completely still during that time. Now I can probably sit still for a long time while I’m reading or watching a movie, but when I know that I can’t move, suddenly I feel that I MUST move!! There was nothing to really look at or listen to, except a couple of lame cartoons on the ceiling and the soft clicking of the machine as it slowly moved from my right to my left. I thought maybe I would go to sleep, because without the caffeine I was really drowsy, but Elda told me to resist falling asleep because you tend to twitch in your sleep and that would contaminate the test results. It took all my concentration to remain still during that extremely long 15 minutes.
After that came the really awful part. I was moved to another room, where I sat on a tall seat. It was sort of like a doctor’s examination table, but with the back part folded up to lean against. Through the IV port I was injected with something that would stress my heart by dilating my blood vessels so that my heart would be forced to pump harder in order to circulate the blood. The test only lasted for four minutes, but it was probably the worst four minutes of my life. Elda told me that I might experience some bad side effects, but that they might not be too noticeable or I might not even have side effects at all. So I was not expecting the extreme discomfort I felt when the drug began to take effect. I suddenly felt like I could not breathe at all, my heart was pounding, I felt dizzy and disoriented, and the room looked dark, like someone had either dimmed the lights or put a dark gray tint on my glasses. I was really afraid that I would pass out and fall off of that high table on to the floor. I struggled to breathe, and there was pressure, hard pressure, on my chest and neck. I thought that I was finding out how it would feel to be strangled to death. Elda asked me how I felt, and all I could summon was one word: “dark.” I don’t think she knew what I meant, but it just seemed that I was on the very edge of tipping over into the permanent darkness of death. I remember thinking that I would probably have to call someone to come pick me up, because I wouldn’t be able to drive myself home after that, if I survived.
After four minutes, Elda injected another solution through the IV port to counteract the effects of the drug. Almost immediately, I began to feel better. After about a minute, I could breathe easily again, and in another minute I was no longer light-headed or uncomfortable. The room seemed to brighten. I couldn’t believe how quickly the change occurred! I got off the table, and to my surprise I was able to walk around as though nothing had happened. I was truly amazed.
The next part of the procedure was fun! I was instructed to leave the office and go have a greasy meal. I’m not sure why, but I suppose the idea is to see how greasy food would affect my heart efficiency. (That may not be it at all, though – I’m only guessing.) Anyway, since I only had about 40 minutes and my car was valet-parked, I decided to visit the hospital cafeteria. I had a cheeseburger and some fries and a Diet Coke (my favorite). It was surprising how much better I felt once I had some caffeine coursing through my veins again! Refreshed, I returned to the doctor’s office for the final test.
This time Elda placed some EKG leads on my chest, and then I had to lay still on the table again while the scanner took images of my heart. Elda told me that the leads were connected to the machine, so that every time my heart beat, the scanner would take a picture. This time the process didn’t take as long – probably 8 to 10 minutes – but once again I had to stay completely still.
When it was over, I left and went home. My mother was convinced that I was going to need her to come over and take care of me, but I was perfectly fine. There were no lasting side effects from any of the tests that were done. In fact, I ended up going over to my friends’ house that evening to hang out and watch the Library Movie. And the next day I worked all day – that was yesterday – and I’m working all day again today. Church in the morning, and library from 2:30 until 9:00 tonight, with no ill effects whatsoever. It’s almost like the 4 minutes never happened, but I know they did – and I hope they never happen again.