First, it’s official. I do have a heart! (This is a joke between Lee and I, due mostly to my complete lack of a romantic heart.) Again, though, I have a heart. I saw nuclear images of it!
Now, on to the blog…..I am not twenty anymore and if the current list of doctor appointments isn’t enough to remind me of that, a nuclear stress test was a well-played “gotcha” by those above wishing to remind me of said fact. (We will leave out the new aches that seem to pop up daily now.)
“Stress Test” sounds simple enough. No caffeine or chocolate for twenty-four hours and NPO after midnight the night before test…easy. No other prep required. No barium to drink, no cleansing process to deal with….piece of cake. That should have been my first clue-the thought of “piece of cake.” I’m that patient who can and does experience every side effect ever documented…..toss in what a lifetime of surgery does to your veins…and voila…..here comes my day.
My day began at check-in around 8:30. I was soon taken to the back to start the IV that would be used to administer the drugs for the day. I was very forthcoming about my fear of IV’s and the scarring in my veins. I strongly suggested ordering a local to help the process. Thirty minutes later after an unsuccessful attempt to thread the IV and several tears down my face due to pain, we stopped the process. The person placing the IV did a great job-she was in on the first stick….it was me and my scarred veins that presented the issue. Fast forward to the Cardiology RN being called in and finally the light-bulb going off that “we need a local if this is going to happen today”. Call made to doctor for order, wait for it to come up to the office, and five minutes later-IV in. (I cannot express in words the pain that is felt as an IV is thread past scar tissue. Get a local. Give a local.) Next she administered radioactive contrast and I began the one hour wait until first set of pictures (resting pictures). At this point I was able to enjoy some water and wonderful crackers.
Resting pictures are then taken of your heart while laying on your back (very still) for about fifteen minutes. Enjoy the little nap. From there, in my case, it was on to the exercise room where I was given a lovely injection of Lexiscan. (This was a chemically induced stress test.) Before the injection, vitals were taken and I was told of the “possible” side effects. Outside of the sudden cardiac event, I was able to enjoy every single one. (Sarcasm) Imagine running a mountain at full speed, realizing you need to stop for a break and somehow your legs don’t listen and you keep going…..that’s what Lexiscan does. If that is anything close to what a heart attack feels like, I do not ever want one. The shortness of breath, the pounding of your heart, the pain in your stomach, the leg cramps, the nausea (yes, I got a blue bag to hold), the room getting so incredibly hot….and then comes the headache. Not a fan. The bulk of the “stress” lasts about three minutes. I felt pretty wiped out the rest of the day and it took a good while for the headache and stomach pain to fully leave. Again, not a fan.
From there, you are monitored until your vitals return to normal and then you are given some caffeine to drink (and the Angels in Heaven rejoiced) and sent back to wait for about an hour. At that time, another set of images is taken showing the “stressed heart.”
All said, from start to finish, it’s about a 3 1/2 hour process.
To quote my doctor today-“They let you leave the hospital, so there must not have been anything major seen.” So, with that reassuring statement, the wait begins for the official report to be compiled by the cardiologist and sent over to my ordering MD.
There’s a strong family history of heart disease in my family tree, so there is a small part of me that does carry some concern, but I am thankful that this test is done and over and we will soon have a pretty good idea of the condition of my heart. After so many surgeries for RRP, my heart health has been something of conversation before now. What toll has my heart taken due to surgery? What toll has a lifetime of strained breathing placed on my heart? Now, we will have that snapshot.
I’m not a fan of Lexiscan and I hope to never meet her again. She was not very nice to me! I am a huge fan of Northwest and I am more than confident in the level of care we have with the Cardiology group there. It’s nice knowing if something was to be wrong, I don’t have to travel to get a high level of care.
So, that’s my Nuclear Stress Test review and the announcement of the fact that I DO have a heart!!! Now that heart may never be one that wants candles and flowers and all that romance stuff…but it’s there and it is beating!
(PS-how does one follow up a test to show the health of your heart? Why with Freddy’s for dinner, of course.)