November 14, 2009

Matters of the heart.

I sailed through my cardiac catherization yesterday, thanks to a fine doctor, my motherly daughter, and my best friend. And some very kind nurses and techs. Nothing to it. No pain, no discomfort, just some yummy drugs and it's over! Again in my life, something I feared turned out to be no big deal at all.

After five hours of lying still on my back to allow the wound to heal, my new cardiologist came in to send me home and my friend asked about proper heart diet. The doc isn't one to give short answers, so we were treated to a lesson on what to eat to keep our hearts healthy. Only two egg yokes per week, no cheese, only occasional red meat,and no chicken skin. Only healthy fats like canola. Breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day, and dinner should be a very small meal, as food takes eight hours to fully digest. One 81 mg. aspirin daily. 1000 mg. of fish oil twice a day. And lots of exercise. I sure didn't know that eating salt causes high blood pressure which harms the arteries! What he told us were all things I have known to do or not to do but didn't, and now I'm quite motivated to do them. By the way, my arteries are only slightly clogged, nothing to prevent or impinge on blood flow, and proper care will keep them that way. Yeah! (You can check out what Dr. Oz has to say about heart health)

So what did I learn? That I have a second chance to get healthy. That sometimes we have to let go and let others take care of us. That maybe the tightness in my chest is due to bad diet choices, like dairy and chemicals. That I'm pretty lucky to have lots of friends who checked in to see if I was OK. That my best friend is truly a saint. That my daughter is a wonderful nurturer. And that my heart is pretty healthy. Not a bad day after all.

November 3, 2009

Scanners, hearts, and a nice guy.

Ventricular tachycardia. Yep, VT. I had a few beats of that on my recent stress-echo test, and now I'm a patient. I don't like being a patient. I've worked for doctors for forty years, always taking care of patients, and I don't like being one. I've been placed on a low dose beta blocker, which is supposed to prevent those unhealthy heartbeats, so that's good.

Just to make sure my cardiac arteries are open and pumping nicely, today I underwent a CTA. It's a computer tomography heart scan, using a special CT scanner to visualize the heart and the arteries. It's less invasive than the conventional angiogram, which uses a catheter into a vein or artery using a small incision. Just a CAT scan and some dye, but I'm not thrilled.

Ya gotta know I'm not happy to be a patient. I get to the imaging facility thirty minutes early, as requested, having had no food or water for four hours, fill out three minutes worth of papers and then sit. I'm thinking this is not so nice, bringing me here so early to just wait for twenty-five minutes. And the front desk people were civil, but not exactly my best friends. So finally, someone calls my name and takes me back to prepare for the test and right away I tell him that I think being a patient sucks. He just looks at me politely and says in his slow drawl, "we'll just try to change your mind today." So he's tall, dark, and good-looking and treats me with obvious kindness and I realize it's gonna be tough to be a cranky patient with this guy. He takes me into a little room, proceeds to slowly and quietly tell me all about the procedure, what to expect, what I'll have to do, what meds will be used, and how it will all feel. He says that there isn't a tech better than him, and by now I'm believing it. So this is nice, I think, being cared for so respectfully by someone so skilled and I just sit back to let it happen.

The actual procedure was easy. I'm in the CT scanner with my arms overhead, IV in place, leads on my chest, and a warm blanket across my body. He turns on the scanner and I can see some of its mechanism going around and around my the table and I'm thinking how amazing it is that a machine can take pictures of my beating heart, reconfigure them, and create a picture of my heart and arteries, all in a few minutes. I take a breath, I hold my breath, I breathe again, he puts contrast into my IV, I feel the heat all through my body just as he said I would, and then it's all over. I'm thinking to myself it's just magic, it's all just magic, when he says, "Technology properly implemented is indistinguishable from magic." Aaaaahhhh.

And then he talks about what it takes to be good at something, that it takes skill and attention to detail both. He says that some people have one or the other, but not many have both. He says it's important to listen to the patient, to really hear the patient, and then proceed with consideration of who you are treating. A real gentleman, this man.

So I write today to thank Michael for his kindness to me when I was frightened and alone. That I appreciate your tenderness and concern for my well being. That I wish more people were just like you. And yes, you made being a patient not so bad, after all.