Thursday, August 10, 2017

Have a Heart

“I saw those results online and noticed the same thing.”

It all started innocently enough … I made an appointment to give blood at the Memorial Blood Center, ( as I’d done many times ), went to the appointment, went through the preliminary questions, blood pressure check, temperature check, pulse check, and was stunned to hear, “Well, I am afraid I have to send you home; we cannot take your blood today.”

“What??” is all I could muster.

“Your pulse … it’s 105; our limit is 100. I cannot take your blood.”

I was stunned. My pulse rate had “always” been on the high side … I expected it to be upper 80’s to mid 90’s whenever I measured it … and to be sent home now unsettled me. Particularly, perhaps, because nobody there had ever suggested that my pulse might become too high for them to take my blood.

A little research confirmed what I thought I knew … 60 to 100 is the normal range for a healthy adult. I checked my fit-bit, which provided me with a graph of my pulse rate over time. This showed pretty much what I’d expected to see … an average in the mid 90’s, a low rate while sleeping, a jump when rising and lower variability when sleeping compared to when not.

I decided this would be a good topic to discuss at my already-scheduled, annual, usually uneventful physical with my primary doctor. It was.

She did an EKG on the spot, which looked normal. “But let’s include some blood work that will give information on your heart’s function, and an echocardiogram, which will give us an ultra-sound picture of your heart at work.”

She called the afternoon after the echocardiogram. ( When I saw the clinic name on the caller ID, I knew the call wasn't about the weather. ) “Well,” she said, “all your blood results are nearly normal. Some are on the high side, just below the upper limit and some are just over the upper limit. I would dismiss any of them, by itself. But there are half a dozen ( perhaps ten … the details are unimportant here ) of them.”

“Yes,” I said, “I saw those results online and noticed the same thing.”

“And the echocardiogram is similar,” she went on. “There are several things that don’t look completely normal, any one of which I would ignore. But, again, there are a small to medium sized handful of these things.”

This conversation unsettled me. Suddenly I realized I was unsure if it was my Doctor who called or Her Office. Acknowledging this, I said, “To whom am I speaking?”

“Dr Lozenge,” ( name is changed ) she replied, “your doctor.”

I was surprised. “Ah … I wasn’t sure if it was you or your office. I missed that detail when I answered the phone. You sound different on the phone and I’ve forgotten what your phone voice sounds like.”

“Well,” she said mischievously, “you never call.”

Returning to the subject at hand, I said, “So, about my results. Please continue.”

“I think it’s worth seeing a cardiologist and getting an expert opinion about this … further testing, wait and see, go home and forget about it. Or what? What do you think?”

I didn’t think it took long to mull this over … some blood test results hinting at an abnormality, and an ultrasound with a similar overtone. This was about my heart … my life force. I had never previously had reason to doubt my heart’s strength and vitality.

I must’ve mulled longer than I realized, as she said, “See a cardiologist, that’s what I’d do if it were my heart.” And then, playfully, “So that’s what you are going to do.”

“Yes,” I responded, “let’s do that.” Her playfulness helped.

“Good. There are cardiologists in our office right here; any one of them would do you well.”

I made an appointment for two and a half weeks later … “Do you really want to wait that long?” Ellie asked, “Aren’t you anxious about this?”

“I am eager, perhaps anxious, but I want to go to that office. That’s the earliest date that was open. I can put up with the suspense for that long.” And I hunkered down to wait.
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