JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Murmurs of the Heart -- Part 3

Extract from JT’s email from Dec 3, 2013:

My blood test results from my annual physical came in showing no significant abnormalities. My cholesterol has gone down a bit (both HDL and LDL) even though I'm eating more bacon and whole milk products. Go figure. In his email my doctor mentioned that he has now spoken to the cardiologist, something that the cardiologist had promised me he would do. No new information there though.

I'm trying to avoid reading anything about operations, etc., because I'd rather get my information from my doctors at this point. Last night, however, I started reading a book about clergymen who no longer believe and what they are doing about it, and in the introduction the author mentioned (quite gratuitously, in my opinion) that anesthesiologists often use memory erasing drugs to have the patients forget the pain of the operation rather than putting them too deeply into sleep. The last thing I needed to hear! I deleted that ebook immediately.

Today was the stress test at 7:15am. I planned to take an Uber ride, but it was 40 degrees and no wind, so I walked. About a half hour walk.

The technician (Mary Lou, the same one who did my echocardiogram) asked if I had ever had a stress test before.

“No,” I replied, “although I sometimes think my whole life has been one long stress test.”

She laughed.

Once she had me hooked up and had taken the “at rest” info, she called in the nurse practitioner to monitor my vital signs. She said that for a person my age, the goal was six and a half to ten minutes, but that I could go as long as I wanted; I just had to say when I couldn't go any more. The treadmill started slowly, too slowly, as I couldn't walk that slow and she kept saying I was marching rather than walking. Every three minutes, the pace picked up.

I felt pretty good at the first speedup, as it was now my regular pace; at the second speedup, it was my fast walking pace. I felt I could last quite a while.

However, at 8:33 the nurse practitioner stopped the test because my heart was beating its maximum for my age, or so she said. I protested that I wanted to keep going, but she wouldn't let me. She said she would make a notation that I wanted to keep going. What a spoil sport she turned out to be!

Then I got wired up with the heart monitor. Nothing much to report there. I'm supposed to keep a diary of my activities (any physical exertions, etc.) and whether I have any symptoms like heart palpitations. Uh, what does a heart palpitation feel like?

Here's my diary so far:

8:22am------Start
8:22-9:00am-Walked home, pausing @ Reading Terminal
9:33am------Swallowed the wrong way, leading to coughing fit
2:00pm------Got frustrated with iPhone
2:05-3:05pm-Ran an errand
4:00pm------Checked market; Apple closed up 15 points; did victory dance
4:40pm------piano practice

Extract from JT’s email from Dec 6, 2013:

Sarah, the nurse from Dr. M____’s office (that's the cardiologist, and no, I don't know if she spells her name with an “H” or not), just called.

She said that Dr. M____ had reviewed my heart monitor results and wanted her to give me a call.

My mind instantly went into hyperdrive. If the news is so important that it can't wait until my Tuesday appointment with Dr. M____, it must be pretty bad, right? Or at least that's what was going through my mind. And why does she sound so cheerful?

Did I know what PVCs are, she wanted to know.

“Uh, polyvinyl chloride?” I thought but didn't actually say.

“Premature Ventricular Contractions,” she went on. “According to your heart monitor, they are occurring only rarely and Dr. M____ doesn't think any treatment is needed at this time.”

“No treatment?”

“No treatment at this time.”

“So no open heart surgery?”

“He didn't say anything about that.”

“Am I still supposed to see him on Tuesday?”

“Let’s see, you're scheduled for two o'clock on Tuesday and yes, he wants you to keep that appointment.”

Now I'm just a wee bit confused. I think that “no treatment” means “no open heart surgery” but I'm not sure. It's possible that the PVCs would be treated separately from the mitral regurgitation. On the other hand, if Dr. M____ recalled my near-fainting spell when he mentioned open heart surgery, perhaps he wanted to let me know as quickly as possible that surgery would not be needed after all.

Cautiously optimistic here.