Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Heart Test

Went and had my heart tested today and what I learned first was that I have got to do something about my hair. It doesn’t affect the functioning of my heart, but it makes me flinch when I look in a mirror. Fortunately I have a lot of hats now.
The heart test had a couple of parts, and ended up taking about three hours.
First I was injected with an isotope, and sent back out to the waiting room to wait for my heart to light up. Tech Kristen told me that I would be radioactive until sometime tomorrow, and she would give me a little card saying that I was radioactive because of a medical test in case I ran afoul of Homeland Security when I went on the ferry. She forgot to give me the card, but I did not run into Homeland Security, so it was all right.
I sat in the waiting room while waiting for the isotope to circulate and counted cranes – the construction cranes hovering over building sites in Seattle, at least the ones I could see through the west-facing window. I counted eleven. It’s amazing to me that more of them don’t fall over, like the one in Bellevue last year. They are so large, and so unwieldy.
In the fullness of time I was called in to be photographed. This involved lying in a chair that tilted back, putting my left arm up over my head, and my right arm at my side. I broke my right arm up by the shoulder a few years ago, and can’t lift it up over my head any more. Kristen wrapped me in a blanket tightly to hold my right arm secure.
Then the camera hovered over me. It had two screens at right angles to one another, so that when it was over me it was like being under a tiny pup tent. A tiny pup tent that probably cost tens of thousands of dollars, I’m guessing. It was a “LEHR (Low energy, high resolution) Collimator.” This means it was a nuclear camera that takes really, really good internal pictures. I memorized the name because I had lots of time to stare at it while lying still for the camera. I learned this evening when I looked it up that this is not a brand name. It’s the kind of camera it is. The really, really good kind.
I was supposed to keep perfectly still while the nuclear camera moved around me. The camera began in a position straight above me, and then moved every minute or so about an inch counterclockwise.
The first series was blurry. Kristen told me I had a bowel in the way. Did you know that your bowel cozies up to your heart? I didn’t. Anyway, they sent me back out to the waiting room to drink water and walk around, and then I went back and they did another series.
Now it was time for the stress test. Whooptie! On to the treadmill! But because I have terrible knees I didn’t have to do the running treadmill test; I just had to walk while they injected adenosine, a drug designed to make my body stressed as if I was exercising.
Another tech named Leo fitted me up for this, putting those sticky snaps around my ribcage and collar bone, and then hooked me up to the EKG machine. Kristen started the injection and the treadmill, and we were off. Or I was.
An ARNP named Chris (a guy) ran the readout machine while Leo watched me and took my blood pressure every minute or two. It was a good blood pressure: 120/70 to start, falling to 110/60 as the stress drug took effect and dilated my veins. The EKG was pretty good, too.
They were watching me closely because it is, after all, a stress test, and one of the effects I was warned about was possible heart attack and/or death. I had neither of those, though the drug made me feel weird and unpleasant, as Chris told me it would.
When the test was over the drug quickly dissolved and I felt better fast, and Leo and I got to discussing last night’s American Idol show.
Yes, I sometimes watch American Idol.
Then I went and had some post-stress test pictures taken. Back to the chair, the blanket, the immobility, the pup tent. I spent my time wishing I’d pushed my glasses up on my nose before the test began because everything was blurry, and eavesdropping on a discussion the techs were having about how to make pie crust.
Pie crusts are a challenge. I’ve made crusts that were flaky and light and melted in your mouth, and then again I’ve made crusts with the consistency of a hockey puck. When I found out about ten years ago that my mother, the queen of the pie-makers, bought the ready-made kind at the store, I switched to those and haven’t looked back.
Again the pictures weren’t good enough, and I was told to go down to Starbuck’s and get something to eat, and come back in 20 minutes. I heard and obeyed, and went down and had a blind date with an egg salad sandwich and a cup of black decaf (not good – tossed it after a few sips).
One more time under the camera! By this time I had used up all my ability to hold still and was grateful when the tech told me, “We’re finished!” and I could leave.
So I did, and headed down to Costco to get dryer sheets and olive oil, and ended up getting that and a lot more, then headed for the ferry, where no one came near me with a Geiger counter, and came home to watch the second night of American Idol.
I’m supposed to hear about the test results in three days, which puts it into next week. I’m feeling better than I was over Christmas, and I’m glad this process is underway. I’m also glad I’m not in my 20s and dreaming of going on American Idol. I wouldn’t make it past the audition, if I dared to make it that far.

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