Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Stress Testing Hijinx

Anyone who's ever run on a treadmill knows it can be an awkward, comical experience. Anyone who's had an EKG knows that there's wires everywhere, and they ask you specifically to be as still as humanly possible. Lastly, anyone who's had an echocardiogram knows that they use sloppy, slippery gel to make the images come out cleaner, and BONUS! there's more wires involved. This is why I think Patch Adams invented the stress echocardiogram, which I had this morning. Only a doctor who is a clown at heart (no pun intended) would dream of combining these three elements into one rarely-conclusive test.

Today's test got off to a great start. The Indian gentlemen who was handling the EKG component of my test lived in PIttsburgh for seven years, so we made half-naked small talk about my hometown while we waited for the Echo tech to arrive. Ten minutes later, The door bursts open and a rather attractive Russian lady comes running in, catches the pocket of her labcoat on the door handle, and falls backwards in what would have been a great prat fall, were it intentional. She's the echo tech, and while pleasant sounding, is rather forceful about my body position and such. "No. No. Arm over head. No other arm. Like this. No, this. Okay." Then, as she did the baseline echo, she would yell rather loudly when I was and wasn't allowed to breathe. "Okay, out, OUT! HOLD IT! HOLD! HOLD! Now. Breathe now."

After fifteen minutes of this, the substitute doctor arrived (my regular doc is pretty awesomely non-conversational), and i started running on a treadmill. Of course he asked what I do, and I told him I'm a comedian, and all three of the people in the room now expected me to make them laugh. I would, but it wouldn't be for another ten minutes, and it certainly wasn't on purpose.

Unlike regular stress tests and regular treadmill running, when you have a stress echo, there's no cool down, no getting used to the ground not moving anymore, no nothing. Basically, you fall off the treadmill, are caught by one or more of the professionals in the office, and thrown back onto the echo table. When my time came, I was quite disoriented and dizzy. I proceeded to do a 360 degree spin, which caused me to wrap all the EKG cables and blood pressure thingy around myself, and fell on the floor. The professionals yelled at me, "Get up! Get Up! NOW HURRY!", because if you calm down too much before they do the echo, you have to exercise again.

After finally guiding me to the table, and experiencing another Screaming Natasha session about how to position my dizzy, confused self, they did the stressed component of the echo, and once they knew the test was usable, they proceeded to laugh at the abject silliness of the whole experience. Then, said the doctor, "Ha ha, ha ha, you have heart disease." And, frankly, since I already knew that and really do appreciate the ironic things in life, I didn't mind.

I hope I'm not the only heart patient in the world with an irresponsible, cavalier attitude about their illness. I honestly believe that if there were more of us, hospitals wouldn't be such a depressing place.

pictured (top): 80's lady performs an echo on an invisible patient
pictured (bottom): an old guy goes for the gold


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