I lived through 3 minutes of hell. Pure HELL. Nuclear stress tests are torture. Second only to the prep for a colonoscopy, nuclear stress tests bite the big one.
(A disclaimer: Everyone at Hillcrest Hospital, without fail, was professional and pleasant. All suffering was due to the procedure. )
Today began with a 5:30am alarm. By 6:39 the school copier was blessing me with word searches for my English classes. Sub notes occupy my desk and I am off to Waco.
Last week’s chest pains resulted in a trip to the ER, a doctor’s office visit, and now a stress test. I missed Monday at work due to stress (grades and a new 6 weeks) and today, Wednesday, due to this test. I’ll be out Friday for the funeral of a dear friend’s husband. Stress is part of my life. So are coronary artery disease and angina (chest pain.)
I arrive at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center at 7:55am. Fill in forms and wait. Register and discover this visit is covered by my insurance (!) except for 20%. Why is it covered you ask? I met my deductible last week with the ER visit ($1100 !) I pay a meager $50 and receive my two plastic bracelets, one with my name and info, a yellow one to warn everyone THIS WOMAN MIGHT FALL DOWN! (If I sit for very long, my feet feel sore- I look like a crippled person trying to walk. This goes away in a few minutes.)
Up to the third floor (one flight up from Registration and I take the elevator as directed) where my clear bracelet is checked, I’m given a number and sent to a waiting room. A few minutes with my Kindle and my number is called. No reading for me!
A nice nurse escorts me and a woman in a wheelchair down to… another waiting room! Wait! Wait again! My Kindle and I get together again. For a while. Then… I’m called and escorted to a room with a bed and a treadmill. I’m not running on that! Not me! This fat old lady does not run! My test will be chemical- nuclear. I do not have to run.
A new nice nurse cuts off the circulation in my right arm. No, let’s try the lower arm and stab the back of my hand. No good. Try the left arm. Success!
It looks like this
(This is my left arm. Photo taken with my iPod touch. )
A tech comes in and shoots something into my arm thru one of the blue ends. I can’t feel anything. Then he adds saline or something. This feels a bit cold. I return to the waiting room. Kindle and I go at it again.
Ten minutes and two pages later (can’t concentrate with a needle in my arm) I am called to a new room. I recline on a narrow table (recline because no one knows if the verb is ‘lie’ or ‘lay’). Two nice male techs set up a machine to photograph my heart. The big C-shaped arm is positioned about six inches above my ample chest and set to go. For about 15 minutes it stops and starts in an arc over me.
The easy stuff is over. I am led, like a condemned prisoner, to the torture chamber. Oh, it looks innocent. That room with the bed and the treadmill looks safe, nice even. I have a nurse, then a tech comes in, finally (not a minute later) my cardiologist. The nurse had stuck little tapes to me and attached probes to them and slipped on a pulse-ox and a blood pressure cuff. (That was before the men arrived. We are very civilized in Waco.)
Flat on my back, I stare at the ceiling. Nothing interesting there. Time to poison me. Isotope injected. I feel warm. Too warm. My heart speeds up. The staff, including my doctor, discuss Halloween and possible costumes. Best line: You know, I’m an excellent surgeon. I could do something about that hump. (second person) What hump? (lines from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.)
I, meanwhile, am in distress! Distress, I tell you! This hurts! My head hurts, my chest hurts, my back hurts, my calves hurt! Warm, no, yes warm and in pain. Make it stop! I confess! Whatever it is I did it! Kill me now!
I’m cooling off. Some pain is leaving. However, my legs still feel afire. I’m done. Doc says it went well. Bye, Doc. (I never call him Doc. Seems rude.) Actually, I don’t say much. The tech leaves. The nurse removes many of the additions recently subjected to my body. Three tapes are left. A bandage on my left arm where the needle of torture was removed would later bleed a bit.
I am to go eat! I have had nothing since midnight. And the required foods: caffeine and fat! Caffeine will counteract the pain and I don’t know why I’m told to eat fat but I gladly go. Sticking point: the hospital cafeteria is CLOSED from 10am to 11am. It is now 10: 20am.
Fifteen minutes later McDonald’s is my home. I eat in my car. I think the hospital bracelets and bloody bandage on my arm might turn off other patrons. Eggs, sausage, biscuit, hash browns, and pancakes will supply the fat and a regular large Coca-cola will supply the caffeine. Ah, heaven. The Coke relieves the headache. My legs slowly drain of pain.
Back to Hillcrest, up to the 3rd floor, waiting again. My Kindle out again for 10 minutes. Time for the last photos of the heart. Same room and one of the techs running the very close machine. This time the three probes are attached to a monitor (they weren’t there earlier when they took pictures.) Fifteen minutes later I am done.
I have my arm bandaged again (not one drop of blood gets on the new, larger bandage.) Off to Super-Wal-mart, a smaller Wal-mart, then the grocery store. Now I’m home. Ah, home. It is 2:30pm.
Next week, the RESULTS!