Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Comedy of Errors

Today I had my six month work-up. For me this was to entail an echo cardiogram and a pulmonary function test (PFT) on a bike. I don't get six minute walks at this point because they don't like that I burn up the floor and walk too far. (Kidding... but they really are kind of useless with me at this juncture).

No matter how long I'm in this (working on five years - wow!), I still get the jitters the day before and of these tests. For a long time I was steeling myself for more bad news, or at least no good news. When that changed to getting good news I now keep hoping for more good news, or at least no new bad news. Kind of a never ending cycle.

So, after a restless night I dragged myself out of bed about 45 minutes late, which meant no breakfast because I wasn't supposed to eat after 7am for the PFT. Got my son off to camp and headed to the hospital.

The echo was fine. They are really no big deal and I spent the time chatting with the tech about right heart enlargement and some cool new technology I looked at during the recent PH International Conference. Usually it is my husband who embraces being the geek in our family, but I now get all sorts of interested and excited with medical technology, so the nice tech played with the 3D echo machine for me a bit too, just so I could see it. Cool stuff.

I had a few minutes to kill on a sunny terrace and then it was back in the hospital for the PFT. I was greeted by one of my favorite medical techs. He often did my six minute walks. Nicest guy, and we always have the same conversation. He asks how my "baby" is, and I politely smile and tell him my baby is now almost 6, and thanks for asking. He always looks shocked and convinced the timing is wrong. And I always have to do the math with him on how long he's been working at the hospital and how long I've been coming there... and, oh yes, it's true, my kid is almost 6. It's actually kind of endearing because he just means so well.

I get into the echo room and there's another tech, a lady that I also like. I am informed they will do the PFT together because the regular girl is out and they are "new" at this. Um... okay. I can roll with that. So it's a bit of a production getting all hooked up to the wires and such, and before I can do that, I have to clean off with some alcohol prep pads.

When asked to do so, I comply. And then I look at the female tech (the guy having high tailed it out of there in embarrassment since I had to lift my shirt... again, endearing) and I said, "This shit stinks!"

Yes, I said that. Somewhere around my second or third right heart cath I realized that things like half brazillians and painful (physically or emotionally) procedures were pretty much here to stay for me, and I lost both my dignity and my inner filter.  I actually decided to start telling medical people just how it felt when they did something to me because, "This is going to sting a bit" was constantly an understatement and sometimes you just need to say, "Oh holy hell! Stop that and give me some good drugs first." Or something like that...

Anyway, that shit DID stink. And when we looked at the package it became clear why. It was nail polish remover I had just spread all over my torso. Nail. Polish. Remover. I was not wearing nail polish anywhere but on my toes, which doesn't count in this test.

So, I got to give myself a sponge bath, because you know, that's what you do in hospitals, but isn't it supposed to be done by a cute nurse? THEN to the alcohol pads, then to the wires (or leads) being attached all over.

It's a long ordeal, and at the end, I look like this:

MISSING: The lovely nose clip so I can only breath through the tube, and also a pulse oximeter.

So I get all hooked up, hop on my sweet ride, and the test begins. Except it doesn't. First, they can't get a reading and one of the leads must be off. I feel around inside my shirt and find the loose one which at first I think is popping off because it was around the curve of my rib cage. But then we figure out the tech just never took the sticker off so it is sticking to... nothing. Easy fix.

Then they can't get a breath reading. But I promise, I was breathing! And we discover (ah-hem, I discover) that since they didn't plug my nose I was using it to breathe, silly me, so the tube wasn't picking up the air.

All of that gets straightened out and we begin. I peddle, and peddle, and peddle. And nothing. There's no resistance. It's easy. Too easy.

Now I have a little claustrophobia and a gag reflex that would kill a cat. Shoving a tube in my mouth and plugging my nose does not go over very well for me. Heaven forbid I ever need a ventilator and I'm certain I would be terrible at scuba diving. But I really try hard to power through it. And I did manage for a while as I peddled uselessly and the two techs and the doctor fussed over the machine, which clearly was not working. For nine whole minutes.

I finally got to get off the bike while they figured out what was going on.

Back on. Everything is fixed. The test begins in earnest 45 minutes after it actually began.  And it gets challenging fast. Every time I take a good breath, the belt holding all my leads to me pops apart and everything starts to fall. So I'm trying not to gag, trying not to panic (claustrophobic feeling in full effect!) and trying to gesture and make some noise so they can hook me up again. By the third time it pops off I give up and just let the darn thing hang there. So not my problem!

All of this extra distraction takes my attention away from concentrating on my breathing through the tube, the bike resistance is getting harder and harder, I cough, can't take a recovery breath, and then chest tightness and a full blown panic, like I'm drowning, takes over. I just lost my focus. I broke out in a full sweat, my eyes watered, and I spit the tube out of my mouth to draw a real breath. And gag. And almost threw up on the doctor.

The mouth tube collects spit. And I let it fly. If you ever sat next to the trombone player in middle school, you can guess what the floor below me looked like after that. Whoops. Like I said, dignity out the door.

Yup, failed that test! Well, pretty sure I did. With the false start, there was also a lot of talk of there being false results because I had been exercised before the real data could be taken. And then there was the whole spit flying gagging thing. So I may or may not have to go back and do it again. Yipee.

But, I am a good patient. Which means I smiled at everyone and told them all the little snafus were no big deal. And then I took myself out for lunch. And a large glass of wine. Because I earned it! And, well, because that's what I always do after a test.
The World's Best Turkey Burger (with goat cheese and roasted tomato)