Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Another Medical Scare With A Happy Ending

Having had a number of serious medical issues in my life, I’m careful to take ‘health-signals’ seriously.  As such, I visit my collection of doctors regularly, and for the most part, do as they tell me.

Possibly the only exception to their recommendations comes in the form of food intake and exercise.  I do enjoy eating good food.  And over the years I have taken up cooking as a hobby in order to at least try to prepare the most enjoyable food I can get.  I’ve become quite good at it too.

And I don’t mind exercising when I feel like doing them.  Sometimes I just can’t muster the strength to do the exercises.  It really has more to do with my lifestyle and energy levels.  But I do stay busy doing work that could be equal to or greater effort than just routine exercises.

And therein lies the problem of my being somewhat overweight.  And, as we are constantly reminded, being ‘somewhat overweight’ lends itself to potential medical issues.  So I try to do right by my diet in spite of the many temptations far and wide, and from my own kitchen.

During my regularly scheduled quarterly visit to my primary care doctor, he went over all the blood test numbers, weight, blood pressure, my own logs covering daily blood pressure and weight readings, and the results of my own self-administered tests for blood-sugar levels.  He is always complementary of my record keeping and efforts, and was quite pleased with my blood test results.

That, along with the usual listening to my heart/lungs sounds, resulted in his giving me a ‘thumbs up’ evaluation.

Then he asked if I had anything else we needed to discuss.  So I casually mentioned some chest pains that I had been having over the past couple of days, which I attributed to a possible muscle strain while repairing our fence (I lifted a very heavy air compressor to move closer to the project).  Or perhaps due to indigestion.  The pain was generally in the area of the heart but down and over a bit, so neither he nor I thought it was my heart.

But, knowing that I had a heart attack in the past (9 years before), he took the precautionary step of recommending an EKG.  I was, as always, receptive to his suggestions.  I’m not going to take any unnecessary chances with my life, especially when it comes to my doctor’s advice.

The EKG showed an irregular heartbeat.  Not much but noticeable.  He suggested that I see my cardiologist before the month was out just in case. My wife quickly replied that we would see him today if we could schedule the appointment.  So he gave us a copy of the MRI chart to take with us.

We went straight to my cardiologist’s office.  He was out but expected to arrive later.  They called him and he quickly agreed to see me at the end of the day after his other appointments.  Four hours later, we were back.

He first said he has known about my irregular heartbeat since my heart attack nine years earlier, but it was not all that unusual and was not causing any problems, so it wasn’t likely to be the problem of my chest pain.  But he could not precisely determine the source of the pain and strongly suggested that I undergo further testing to make sure it was not heart related.

So he made the arrangement s for me to check into Memorial Healthcare’s Woodlands Hospital that very evening.  He instructed them to perform a variety of tests during the night, with more complex tests the following day, if warranted.  The additional tests included a stress test.  It was not a ‘treadmill’ test as before, but a chemically induced stress test which basically caused my heart to go into a simulated stress that is very similar to the stress of the treadmill.  I found this fascinating, to say the least.

There were X-rays, injections of isotopes and sonograms and constant blood samples, followed by my being heart being ‘imaged’ by a giant machine similar to an MRI machine. 

By then I was starting to worry that perhaps he wasn’t telling me everything.  But as the test results began to come in, it was becoming increasingly clear that there had been no heart attack, and that I was fine and could return home as soon as the paperwork was finished.

What a relief! Now to Denny's.  I was hungry...

He called me later and we talked about it.  He said for me to enjoy my weekend in Salado Texas where we would be joining a number of our friends to cook for a large crowd of people to demonstrate the Big Green Egg, our favorite cooking device ever. 

There’s a lot to be said about taking care of yourself.  But in my mind, it’s even more important to have doctors who genuinely want to help you have a good life.

Update: 3-21-16

As instructed, I had a two-week follow-up visit with my cardiologist.  He checked me over good and said everything was "perfect."  My heart is strong, and although my blood pressure was up when they checked it, he wasn't even the slightest bit worried about it.

He laughed and laughed when I told him that Judy is telling everyone there's absolutely nothing wrong with me that a good bowel movement couldn't fix.  He agreed with her...

So we came home and tore down two more sections of the fence we're repairing.  It's good to be able to do some physical work without the fear of having a heart attack or something.

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