Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Health for Hypochondriacs -- Today's Episode

They sounded like cheerleaders at a football game:

"Go!! Go! Go Mrs. Linklater, you can do it!!! Come on!! Keep trying!!!"

No, I wasn't in the weight room at Gold's Gym. I wasn't at the finish line of a marathon. I wasn't wrestling some guy for the pin ball machine.

I was taking yet another medical test to determine my survival potential during the upcoming surgery for a pair of fancy new hips. Apparently, once the docs sign you up for a surgical procedure, they try to see if they can kill you first. Or at least wreck as many other body parts as they can.

Yesterday they took my heart to the cleaners. Before you go into surgery they want to be sure that your ticker has been UL tested. So they pound on it and kick it around the office to see if it's got the right stuff.

Then they give you a treadmill stress test. No biggie, but since my hips aren't made for walking anymore, exercising on a treadmill was not an option.

Now, however, you can lie down and just pretend you're on a treadmill. This is accomplished by putting a drug into your vein that makes your heart think you're at the gym. Or running away from the cops. I noticed they never mentioned having sex. The idea is to get your heart beating so hard and fast you think you're going to die.

I mentioned my concern over the treadmill drug killing me and I was assured that I needn't worry. I was in a hospital wasn't I?

I had another, more technical concern. During a regular treadmill stress test your blood pressure does something interesting. Normal resting pressure is 120/80. During exercise, while the systolic goes higher [say to 180], the diastolic drops out [to the 60s or 70s]. That just means your blood vessels are wide open for all the blood your body needs while it's exercising. So, I wanted to know if the treadmill drug created that effect too. Otherwise it meant my heart would be pumping like hell, but the blood would be trying to squeeze through spaghettini instead of mostaciolli.

Here again I was told not to worry. But something in me wondered if anybody had actually thought this through, since they didn't have to do the test themselves.

The concept of an alternative treadmill experience feels kind of like being a crash dummy. You can be part of a traffic accident without actually having to run a red light. I could have a heart attack without ever lifting a finger.

There's another problem too. I'm on a medication that keeps my heart from beating too fast. My drug tells my heart to take it easy. And their drug would be telling my heart to hurry up. The drug I take could keep the drugs they were going to pump into me from working.

We were about to find out.

I lay down and the tech hooked me up to the EKG machine with more wires than a Frankenstein experiment. Then she put on a blood pressure cuff. Next, she started an IV and hung up a bag filled with the treadmill drug. Finally the other tech covered me with the goo for the ultra sound.

My heartrate started out at 60. It had to get to 130 something for the test to be considered successful. At this point, I realized that the only good thing about getting old is that your target heart rate gets lower and lower.

Thump thump thump. Thump thump thump. My heart rate went to 63 and back down. It sped up a little when I talked so they told me to talk more. It took another ten minutes to get it up to 70. My drugs were winning, Undaunted, the techs continued to try fooling Mother Nature. Now they had me squeeze a couple of rubber balls. [There's a Remo joke in here somewhere.] I pointed out that squeezing rubber balls was to running on a treadmill as riding a bike was to wrestling alligators.

So they upped the ante again. More of the treadmill drug dripped into my vein, in a vain attempt to make my heart beat faster and faster. After fifteen minutes, my body was just getting confused. My drug was saying one thing. Theirs was saying the opposite. Meanwhile I was doing my best to imagine I was jogging in the country. But if I relaxed for a minute my heart rate immediately dropped back down into the sixties. More drugs. More talking and squeezing rubber balls. After twenty minutes my heart rate was hovering around 75 - 80 when the tech announced they were going to give me atropine. Reaching for that drug told me I had the heart rate of a dead person.

After the jolt of atropine, the cheerleading really got started. Both techs, the ultra sound lady and the IV lady, sat next to me looking at the monitor, yelling at my heart rate, "Come on!! Come on!!" It finally got into the high eighties when I begam laughing at them.

Clearly my drug was beating their drug.

The monitor mocked them again and again. My heart rate never got over 99. Ir immediately dropped back down as soon as they stopped pumping all those pretend treadmills into me.

Meanwhile, my blood pressure got a little scary -- it climbed to 170/100 and showed no signs of bottoming out because my heart rate never got high enough. I had visions of my BP going to 200/140. But the doctor, who was hiding in the safety of another room, finally told the techs to stop the test.

They still managed to get some ultra sound pictures of my heart standing by Niagara Falls and next to the Lincoln Memorial. But it wouldn't qualify for the Boston Marathon, since it was beating at an eight hour pace.

When I sat up, after all the gadgets were removed from my body I was dizzy. The whole room was spinning and I had a headache. That made everybody think my blood pressure was too low or I was hypoglycemic. HEY!! You just dumped a shitload of crap into my veins, you'd have a headache and be dizzy too !! The atropine also makes your mouth dry, so my tongue kept sticking to my teeth as I talked.

Tomorrow, a trip to the OB/GYN -- Look for that exam on YouTube.


Donna said...

Leave it to Mrs. Linklater to stump the doctors and their machines.

David said...

Dad had a similar issue with sodium. He was in the emergency room for some reason and some doctor perscribed a sodium drip. We told the doctor that it causes his blood pressure to spike. To that statement, the doctor responded "that's not possible" and ordered the drip anyway. Dad's blood pressure did indeed spike, and they took him off of it. "That shouldn't happen..." said the doctor.

My personal favorite involved my daughter's birth. She was a bit in the offing, so the doctors thought it would be prudent to put a probe on her head. I reminded them that my wife's water hadn't broken. They suggested I was nuts; and then, when they realized it hadn't, they said "they would have found out eventually."

Take copious notes and speak up, becuase these freaks don't keep track.

emmapeelDallas said...

Yes, David's advice is excellent, and if possible, have someone in the hospital with you, as your advocate, at all times.