My electrophysiologist needed some more tests done before he could confirm my need for a pacemaker, so I did the tests. The three we had planned were:
- Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart)
- Treadmill Stress Test
My cardiologist wasn’t sure the treadmill test was necessary but thought it would be prudent to do it “just in case.” I agreed and I went in for the Echo.
The Echo (September 4th)
The trip to my echo was just about as interesting as the procedure itself. I received a call from the nurse technician to confirm I was coming in. “Yes” I said, “I’ll be there at 2!” she paused “Actually your appointment is at 1.” This was not great news considering it was 12:55 and I was at least 15 minutes away. I assured her I would be there by 1:10 got off the phone, ran to my car, texted Bethany about my mistake and broke a few speed laws to make it on time. To add insult to injury the location of my cardiologist is also the location of three other doctor buildings and I went into two mistakingly before running over to the correct building. Like I wasn’t stressed out enough, this should be great for my blood pressure… The echo was interesting in that I got to visually see the inner workings of my heart in a series of red, yellow, blue and greyscale images. Some images showed the blood pumping in and out, others focused on the opening and closing of the valves. The most difficult was the constant holding my breath so they could get the images they need. Sure, I swim, but when they tell you to take shallow breaths and make you hold it for 15-20 seconds even I get tested. Overall, It was all very interesting and didn’t take much time at all.
The Treadmill (September 16th)
After placing sensors all over me I hopped on the treadmill and started walking. The goal was to get my heart to 140, not a simple task these days. As the speed and incline increased so did my heart rate, as expected, but along with that came the erratic nature of my heartbeat, this was not expected. After about ten minutes my cardiologist stopped the test, asking how I was feeling “Can you feel that?” she would say, “No” I responded, which was slightly disconcerting. “These beats I’m seeing are making me a little uncomfortable.” Is my heart going this crazy every time I exercise? Could I just collapse or pass out while riding or swimming? These are not questions I wanted to find an answer to. Consequently, I’ve decided to cut out my exercise until we get this figured out.
The MRI (October 5th)
The road to the MRI was littered with bureaucracy. It was scheduled, then it was unscheduled due to insurance mistakes, then it was rescheduled a few days later after calls were made. I talked to more “big wigs” in those two days then I am likely to ever talk to for the rest of my life. I’m thankful for all of their help and the comfort they gave to my parents as my parents were out of country during this test.
I was ushered into a backroom and told to change into the surgical clothes. In the room I went there was a pair of shorts so I put on the shorts and sat down in the waiting room. I felt weird sitting there shirtless but figured I would have to be shirtless for the procedure so they were saving me a step. I was wrong. When the MRI tech came back he asked me if I was trying to go “all natural.” Then he looked in the room and realized there were no shirts in there. He grabbed me a shirt and handed it to me “We don’t need to give the nurses any ideas” he joked. He was a very nice guy with a similar, but less complicated heart condition to my own.
We chatted about that while they got me ready and put on the cool prismatic glasses that allowed me to look down the length of my body, out of the machine, while starring straight up. This was nice considering they had a stock photo of a beach on the wall that I could gaze at, presumably to put me at ease. Though, when a loud machine is clicking, buzzing and shifting somewhere between 85-130 decibels it’s hard to feel “at ease.” If you’re curious of why it’s so loud read this. I was pulled out after an hour and twenty and surprised I was already done. It didn’t feel so bad and it gave me plenty of time to wax philosophic about life, love and my situation as a whole. Though, I’m told if you’re claustrophobic it can almost be to much to handle and they will often let you have a loved one in the room with you or give you music to listen to, so ask about that.
These tests will be the foundation for my final diagnosis, so I’m thankful that I could get them done. I’m also told that they will be beneficial to have on file in the future as well, especially the MRI, considering that becomes a non-option once a metallic device is implanted in you.
I think the hardest thing about these tests has been the patience it requires to wait for them. Most things we deal with on a daily basis we have some kind of say on when they happen. At least that’s been mostly true for me, but medical stuff? We rarely have a say. The catch 22 is your personal health seems to be the area you want to be in control of you’re most but in the end you just aren’t. That’s been a hard pill to swallow. When eating well, exercising regularly, taking vitamins etc doesn’t do it, what are you left with? For me it’s boiled down to Hope. Hope that I receive from God and His promises, from my immediate and extended family and their love, and my close friends compassion and the normalcy they offer when everything else is cascading out of control. For that, I’m thankful.
Now to wait for my follow up with the electrophysiologist. Hooray, more waiting…