Let me tell a a story of a treadmill echo-stress test…
My tale begins Nov. 19, 2021 at a medical clinic I’ve been to many, many times. It was time for my covid booster, so I called the clinic for an appointment. They got me in that day.
From previous experience, I expected a nurse to weigh me, check my vitals, make small talk while she poked me in the arm, and then be sent on my way with a sucker and a balloon. 😉
What I got was a nurse practitioner I’d never met before who listened to my chest and flatly asked, “When did you have a heart attack?”
I haven’t had a heart attack.
Yes. You have.
No. I haven’t.
Circumstances at the clinic were such that the EKG the N.P. wanted me to have right then couldn’t be done for 10 days or so. I was supposed to return to the clinic before Christmas. My life’s circumstances (critically ill family member) got seriously in the way. I returned to the clinic on Jan. 26, 2022 for the EKG.
The echocardiogram happened on Feb. 10, 2022 at a small hospital 50 miles away. Technician found no concerns, but the official report would come from the traveling cardiologist out of a ‘big’ hospital some four hours away who came to my corner of the state twice a month.
I met with the cardiologist on April 11th expecting to get the results of my two EKGs and first echo. Instead, after he did his check up on me, he ordered a second echocardiogram at our local, and very small, hospital that day, which I did after this appointment.
Let’s pause for perspective…
At no time in my life have I had heart attack symptoms. Yes, I’m aware that heart attacks are often silent killers of women. I have anxiety/panic attacks. I also realize anxiety symptoms can mask a heart issue, but my anxiety attacks started 40 years ago. I don’t have high blood pressure. I take no prescription meds. I’m in the medically approved height/weight range for my age and gender. I get an adequate amount of exercise. I don’t smoke (never have). However, my eating habits are lousy, and I drink wine, spo-dee-o-dee, I drink wine. 😉
Back to the tale…
Before this appointment was over, the cardiologist said he’d go over the results of the two EKGs and both echocardiograms at the next appointment, on May 9th, AFTER A TREADMILL ECHO-STRESS TEST.
WHAT?!?!?! My anxiety shot through the roof. I went into full-blown anxiety-panic attack mode. But not why you might think. I’d already come to the conclusion my heart must be fine, since the cardiologist had admitted I appeared to have taken care of my health and heart, and he didn’t have any pressing concerns.
It was the word treadmill that sent me climbing to the top of my anxiety tree like a monkey on speed. I can’t walk on a treadmill to save my life. Vertigo sets in and WHAM! I’m either flat on my face getting belt-burn on my skin as it rolls under me, or I’ve toppled off the side.
When I could finally convey my vertigo issue to the cardiologist, he said my only other choice was to travel to his hospital for a nuclear stress test. Nope. Not having radioacctive tracer dye shot into my body when there wasn’t a critical reason to do it. I asked for a stationary bike stress test. He said no. I said all righty then. I’ll just die.
He was not impressed. The feeling was mutual.
Ultimately, I put on my big girl britches and followed-through with the treadmill stress test.
The day of the treadmill stress test arrived, and by the time I got to the clinic, I was properly anxietized. Despite focusing on a spot on the wall and not on the belt/my feet movement, I stumbled to keep up with the pace as it increased. I weaved side to side like a drunken sailor. I walked too fast and slipped off the side with one foot. It was not a rousing success.
I had probes and monitors stuck to my skin with wires and gadgets leading to the echo machine. I was naked to the waist and my hospital gown gapped in front. There were two men (doctor and echo-stress tech) and one female nurse in the room, which did nothing to alleviate my ‘whitecoat syndrome’ or whatever it’s called when your anxiety ramps up in a medical setting surrounded by strange people with whom you have absolutely no relationship, and it’s not an emergency, so you have way too much time for self-consciousness to set in.
Result: I couldn’t walk “appropriately” to get a reliable (doctor’s word) heart rate stress reading.
My last appointment with him was May 18th…via phone…almost six months to the day after the N.P. asked me when I’d had a heart attack. Good thing I hadn’t had a heart attack for as long as this took from beginning to end.
While the cardiologist didn’t give me a ‘clean bill of heart health’ (although he protected himself by saying anyone could leave his office healthy and keel over in the parking lot), neither did he say I needed any follow-up or future appointments.
So ends the tale of the treadmill stress test…
Until next time,
writing through history one romance upon a time