Friday, August 15, 2008

There's nothin' to it but to do it

After my little fake heart attack/ambulance ride/ER adventure last April—where the ER doctor determined that the excruciating pain radiating up my neck and down my left arm was probably temporary nerve damage from a microscopic rib crack—my regular doctor recommended that I get a stress test so we could 1) rule out some kind of cardiac event with more certainty and 2) put me through even more excruciating pain.

Thanks to my last false cardio alarm, I knew what a miserable experience a stress test is. So I told myself I should get some marathon training under my belt before I scheduled this test. So I waited. For four months. And a week. And one day. But I finally went yesterday after work. So I get some props (whatever the hell “props” are) for my conscientiousness.

Once I got checked in—after sitting in a waiting room that uses those carry-around restaurant buzzers that buzz and vibrate so loudly that they ironically get your heart kind of racing—a very cool technician who laughed at my jokes got my chest all dolled up with stickers and tape and wires that ran through a little Jetsons fanny pack secured at my hip. And I was kind of excited that I'd be going through the childbirth-like pain of a stress test with someone fun in the room. But then she introduced me to the other technician. The one who ran the ultrasound machine. And he gave me nothing but cardiotude. Or maybe it was heartitude. (Which is funnier?)

Anyway, when I gave him my ER adventure backstory, he arched his brow and stabbed me with the question “In April?” THREE TIMES. Yes, I know I took a long time to schedule my stress test, Mr. Sarcasm Pants. But the more you ask me to clarify what month I rode in the ambulance, the more it sounds like you have comprehension disabilities. Then when he started looking at my heart with the ultrasound wand, he didn’t even crack a smile when I asked him if I was having a boy or a girl. The man’s sense of humor is clearly not as evolved as mine.

But I got to watch my heart beating on the monitor. Hell, I got visual proof that I do indeed have a heart. So I can safely skip track 8 on my Damn Yankees Broadway revival CD going forward.

And the two technicians told me that it was actually not a good idea to have a stress test so late in my marathon training. Since my resting heart rate is so low, it would take longer to get my heart rate up to where they needed it (meaning more time on the treadmill for me). And since my heart was conditioned to recover quickly from exertion, they’d have to move extra fast to get ultrasound readings before my heart rate fell once they got it up. But even though my procrastination kind of screwed things up, I felt like a total stud hearing what a specimen of physical perfection I’d become. Or something to that effect.

And after all my dreading, the stress test was far easier than I remember it being. It took 18 minutes to get my heart rate up to 177, but getting there was no worse than the hill sprints I do every Wednesday to get to 177, and those take 24 minutes. And my heart rate did indeed plummet quickly once I got on the table. Which was a very nice reward for all those 6:00 am runs. (For those of you who’ve never experienced the carefree magic of a stress test, here’s what happens: They put you on a treadmill to get your heart rate up to levels of gasping-for-breath exhaustion. Then they put you on a table and tell you to stop breathing so they can get a clear ultrasound picture of your heart. Which is kind of a bitch. But when your heart rate drops fast, the stop-breathing part is suddenly pretty easy.)

And when the doctor came in to read my results, he informed me that there was nothing wrong with me. Except for my sense of humor. But I think the second technician put something on my charts to make him say that.

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