Ugh… remember THAT song? Actually this story is NOT about THAT song that I initially liked, then loved, then I just wanted to punch Celine Dion in the face. I digress. THIS story is about MY heart.
Don’t panic. It’s not broken, injured or even bleeding (although some of my conservative friends would beg to differ); it was just a follow-up visit to my cardiologist this morning.
I had what I refer to as heart palpitations last year that culminated this past summer while Daryl and I were on a mini-excursion to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. We cut the trip short on the second day, taking the train home because my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest, and NOT in a GOOD way (like when I saw Barbra Streisand LIVE in concert for the first time in 1992).
As soon as we returned to West Chester, I asked Daryl if he would take me to the Emergency Room. One thing led to another, and eventually I ended up being admitted and eating the rest of my vacation days on the Chester County Hospital cardio floor (well not actually ON THE FLOOR, but the bed WAS hard as a frickin’ rock). After a slew of tests, probes (again, NOT in a good way) and enough blood drawn to start my own “Twilight,” it was diagnosed (by doctors, Hui, Louis and Dewey – DEAD serious) that I was suffering from atria fibulation which is apparently quite common and certainly somewhat treatable in my case. I was prescribed Metoprolol which slows down my heart rate and makes my blood pressure stay low.
I’ve been doing fine since then and I had a scheduled follow up visit early this morning with my cardiologist, Dr. Hui at 8:45 am. WHY do I schedule these things so early on my day off? It sounds SO smart and practical when you set appointments up weeks in advance… I think that I’ll get it done early and have the rest of the day to get other things done, but what happens is it’s usually so early that when I get done the scheduled appointment, I just want go home and take a nap!
Anyway, I got to the “Medical Complex” a few minutes early but had to locate a parking space. Okay… they don’t call these places a “complex” for nothing. By the time I FOUND a parking space (in the 500 car capacity lot) that was 3 miles from the front entrance, I was actually 5 minutes LATE for my appointment! At frickin’ 8:45! I can’t figure that one out.
As I bounced (yes, with the average age in the office, my regular gait WAS a bounce) into the reception area, the song playing on the office music system was “To Sir with Love” from the Sidney Poitier movie of the same name. I smiled and greeted the receptionist with, “Do you remember THIS movie?” to which she raised her eyes from her bifocals, stared blankly at me without cracking a smile and said, “Who are you here to see?” I thought to myself, HOW can people be so miserable in the morning, then I realized that in this profession, they probably KNEW the bad effects of caffeine and weren’t allowed to have any.
After the obligatory scanning of insurance cards, signing a few disclaimer forms with more asterisks than I could count (which I NEVER read because they’re just plain scary when your health is involved) and being TOLD to have a seat, I pulled out my iphone to play a quick game of Bejeweled Blitz so I didn’t have to notice that I was the only patient with hair that wasn’t totally gray.
“Mr. Edwin Williams?”a nurse startled me, and I popped my head up and said, “Let me finish my game first” jokingly, to which she dryly retorted, “NOW. The doctor is VERY busy. Follow me this way please.” I got up and followed her through a labyrinth of clinical hallways, shut doors, and a few open doors… I saw one where a man was “floating” horizontally on some sort of machine that looked like something from the Starship Enterprise. He looked a little frightened.
I joked to the nurse who was escorting me deeper into this medical maze that I should have dropped some breadcrumbs so I could eventually find my way out after my visit. She did not smile. AGAIN I considered the lack of caffeine and silently forgave her.
We finally entered “my” exam room and it was about 300 degrees in there. The nurse immediately said that “it was much colder in here earlier” and that I should be thankful as she ordered me to “Remove your shirt please.” I complied and saw her pulling all the cables out of the EKG machine. While she was getting it set up she told me to lie down. I looked around this steam bath and noticed the primitive and unattractive pictures of flowers that usually line office walls and of course there were posters of close up shots of ghastly diseases and a plastic model of a heart and two boxes of surgical gloves. Why can’t I have posters of the Chippendales, some cute kittens or warm beach shots of the Caribbean? And let me romanticize about heartache, heartless and heartfelt… I DON’T need to actually SEE one with veins and in color!
I ALMOST expressed my thoughts verbally to the nurse then quickly realized that she was in charge of REMOVING those sticky tape things from my hairy body and immediately vetoed any additional humor attempts. If you’ve ever had an EKG, you know that there are about ten “cables” that they hook you up to and they conduct the EKG for about 30 seconds. It costs the insurance company about $500 to do this.
Anyway, as she’s hooking me up, I slipped horribly, smiled and asked “What happens if you have an extra cable left over?” to which she did not look up and typed HARDER on the keyboard of the machine as she continued the EKG.
One thing you DON’T want to hear while you’re having your heart rate monitored is, “Hmmm…THAT’S not right.” Mind you, it wasn’t in a panic-like tone, but still, it’s like the time I was on my FIRST commercial airline flight in the 70’s by myself and the “stewardess” looks at a seam in the ceiling of the aircraft that’s covered in ice and says, “Hmmm, I’ve NEVER seen THAT happen before.” You just don’t need to HEAR this, right? After a few “tape” adjustments to correct the problem (I SWEAR she was ripping it off out of jealousy that I was allowed caffeine) and 3 tries later the EKG was complete.
“Nurse Rached” left as my doctor entered and stated, “You look a little sweaty there Mr. Williams. Are you feeling okay?” “Yeah Doc, it’s from the temperature in here” I said. After the typical taking my blood pressure and listening to my heart, he asked me if I had any questions about the medication he’d prescribed last summer. I instantly chimed up about possible side effects like “always being sleepy” and “putting on extra weight” to which he shook his head and answered NO ,with a grin, to BOTH questions. At least the DOCTOR had a sense of humor.
As I was leaving the “Heart” building after making an appointment for a “Stress Test,” I noted that every other patient was sporting a walker and the music playing was (no lie) “I left my heart in San Francisco.”