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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

 

Flunked

I don't recall if I mentioned that since the beginning of summer or so, I've been having difficulty breathing after surprisingly moderate exercise: like walking half a block uphill. I mentioned it to the doctor at the health clinic I've been going to. They have a specialist that comes in once a month who took a look and a listen, then scheduled me for some tests: an echocardiogram, a pulmonary (lung) function test, and a cardiac stress test, where they put me on a treadmill while they take an electrocardiogram. I got about halfway through it when my heart started acting up and my blood pressure went down, and I had a rather heavy, lead feeling as well as being seriously short of breath. Almost before I knew it, they had me on a gurney, were sticking an IV in me to bring my blood pressure back up, and were asking for consent to do more tests. One of them, I'm still not sure what was called, but involved sticking a catheter up the artery in my leg and taking X-ray pictures. Then they kept me overnight to do another test the next day.
After being asked the same questions by three different doctors, spending a night being hooked up to a heart monitor that I don't think anyone more than glanced at and an IV in each elbow, and a thick pressure bandage next to my crotch, and trying to make up jokes, a whole troop of doctors came in the next morning. I listened to the conference they were having outside the door and only understood about half of it. Then about five or six of them came in; the senior cardiologist explained what they had found rapidly in words of at least 4 syllables and a thick accent, said that the medications I've been on wear about right and there was a procedure but it wasn't done here and since I don't have insurance, probably couldn't afford anyway. Then he demonstrated a simple test that the young good-looking woman doctor had done wrong the day before. No one else said a word, and they all trooped out.
Later that day, two more doctors came in to practice their test (which involved pretending I was trying to have a bowel movement and then squeezing two fingers as hard as I could while they listened to my heart through a stethoscope (I still have no idea what that's supposed to tell them), and then they had me down for another tests.
This one involved being made to swallow a tube almost the size of a garden hose which they wriggled around taking an echocardigram from the inside. After recovering from that for a while (I think they did everything except cut me open to take a look!) a doctor came up to tell me the results, which were that there was really nothing wrong except that the left side of my heart is overdeveloped, which I already knew, and I might be just out of shape. Excuse me?
What seems to be clear is that the left side (which pumps blood to the body) is overdeveloped. The technician who did the test on my lungs earlier commented on the low numbers he was getting. Taken together, these results suggest that when I exercise, the overdeveloped left side is interfering with the right side, which pumps blood to the lungs. Since these don't have much capacity to spare anyway, I don't get enough oxygen in my blood, and everything, including the heart itself, gets tired too easily. But a lot of this is supposition on my part.

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