I’m a Little Stressed

Maybe it’s the holidays.

Maybe it’s that today is the shortest day of the year.

Maybe it’s that it was so cloudy last night that I missed part of the eclipse.

Or maybe it’s that I spent most of the day at the doctor’s office for a Nuclear Stress Test. Oh ya. I’m gonna go with that one.

Oh don’t worry… this isn’t necessarily because there is something wrong with me. (well, not physically wrong anyway) Oh no… this test was because my doctor was astounded at how good of shape I’m in. And you know doctors… the decision was that if he couldn’t find anything wrong with me, we’d better do some more testing!

It’s been nearly 3 years since the infamous heart attack, and I have found so much motivation and reason and distraction this year; I felt it was time to take the doctor’s advice and make sure I was in good shape.

It’s called a Nuclear Stress Test (hereafter referred to as NST, or nasty) because they get your heart all stressed out and then shoot radiation into you. No really. “Don’t worry” they say, “it’s no more radiation than you’d get from an x-ray.” Ya, an x-ray running through your veins! But I’m a big tough guy (no really, I tore my toenail half off the other day and hardly noticed it!) so I was up for the challenge.

The NST was supposed to take 4 hours. A 4 hours test? Yes, a 4 hour test. So I loaded up a change of clothes and some foodages and a book and made sure my cell phone was charged up so I could play Angry Birds (oh ya). I figure if the Howell’s took 5 suitcases on a 3 hour tour, I could take a backpack for a 4 hour test (sing it with me… a 4 hour test)

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew…

Sorry. Distracted.

I was called into the back at just a little after my scheduled appointment time and taken straight into one of the exam rooms, where I was tied to a chair and tortured. (just seeing if you’re paying attention). I had the I.V. put in and chatted up the nurse there. I was hoping that they could get some glamour shots of my heart, you know, with feathered hair. It was determined that nudie shots of my heart would not be appropriate, mostly because it would get my heart rate up too much. 🙂

With a little bit of the isotope in my veins, I was sent to the waiting area to let the stuff circulate. You wanna make the shortest day of the year seem longer? Go to the doctor’s office. :-/

I read. I played Angry Birds. I texted. I built a small bookcase. (well, I had enough time I could have). Finally I was called into a room and told to take off my shirt and lay on the table on my left side. I then had a bunch of sticky pads put on my chest and was attached to a beeping octopus. The lights were dimmed (no, it wasn’t really romantic) and the ultrasound started. Congratulations! It’s a boy!

I don’t know how long the ultrasound lasted, cuz I might have zoned out for a while. All the gentle whoosh-whoosh of my heart and the late, late night I had trying to see the eclipse caught up with me. I woke up to bright lights and assistant handing me a towel and telling me to clean myself up (how rude). And then back to wait in the chair some more.

After waiting a couple of days I was taken back into the room where they did the original I.V. (yes, I still had the tube in my arm) and was put in the big machine to have the pictures taken. Lay there and don’t move for 15 minutes. Hope you’re not claustrophobic (I’m not, I like close).

picture of my heart

And I woke up about half-way through that process because I was snoring. Yes, I wake myself up when I snork. And I’m glad I woke up, because by then the machine had moved enough that I could see the monitors. It was pretty cool to see the pictures. If I can find one I’ll put it in this post. (oh look, I found one)

And then back to wait. and wait. and wait. And finally, after every other person had left, and over 3 hours after I arrived, I was called into a room for the stress test. “take off your shirt” they said. OK. Can do. Some people don’t like guys with chest hair. Sue (the nurse) whipped out a razor and shaved some crop circles on my chest. (I know!!!) It took her 2 razors to hack her way through to the bare skin. Then she broke out the sandpaper. Evidently Sue went to the Bob Vila school of medicine. Easy there Gepetto… I’m a real boy!

She finally got all the sticky pads put on the now roughed-up hairless spots and then attached a billion wires to me, put me on the treadmill, and told me that every 3 minutes the machine would go faster and the incline would go higher until I had another heart attack, or until I reached the desired heart-rate, whichever happened first.

13 minutes later, with the treadmill at maximum incline and with me running like Forest Gump, I finally reached the desired heart-rate. And had way exceeded the desired sweat-rate. (sorry Sue) Every couple of minutes Sue would ask if I could keep going for a couple of minutes. Pshhh. No problem. And then I heard Sue say “oh no”

What? What oh no? There is no “oh no” when you’re looking at my heart!!

Was I about to explode? Did they find a problem? Had my stent come loose and was working it’s way to my brain????

Even worse.

My shoe had come untied. So they called in the other nurse to put more radiation into my veins so they could get some more pictures. Meanwhile, Sue had put her hand on my stomach. Not to feel my awesome abs (you know, the ones I don’t have), but I think to steady me in case I stepped on my shoelace… but maybe to just be able to tell everybody “he flew this far!” should I actually step on the loose string.

If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders.

Here’s your holiday picture of Dee. Sweating like crazy, running up a 16% incline at full speed with a shaved chest and half of Radio Shack hanging off my body, shoelaces flying in the breeze, Sue holding onto my tummy and another nurse shoving tiny x-ray machines into my bloodstream. Not my finest hour.

Just before I turned into the Incredible Hulk (I’m just the so-so Hulk now), they finally had enough radiation pumping through me and let me get off the treadmill. I swear if they had asked “are you okay? no pain?” one more time I was gonna have to hurt someone. (I guess they don’t get a lot of healthy people who run on treadmills every freakin’ day… go figure).

The last bit was another round of pictures. Lay there in the dark and hold still for 11 minutes. But I didn’t sleep this time. I was mourning the loss of my precious chest hair. How would I ever work up a good chest lather in the tub without chest hair?

And, 4 hours after it all started, I was released. I could not get out of there fast enough. I think the most stressful part of the whole deal was… sitting and waiting for that long. I like fast. And I like to be occupied. Also, the partially shaved chest doesn’t thrill me. Not only because it looks weird, but it itches!!! Have you ever seen a partially shaved Moose? Well, it looks a little like that. You should see it (you really shouldn’t).

Thanks for listening (reading, whatever) about my NST day. I like that you listen so well (you are still with me, aren’t you? custom chest-haircut and all?)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go even out this shaving job. Can I borrow a razor?

🙂

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