Gettin' the Lowdown...


on my health, that is...

Having gratefully acquired health insurance after 4 years I'm finally in the position to get caught up on all the tests that a post-menopausal woman of my age requires. Which is a LOT. (this is being written down mainly for my own info, but anyone of you who received it may find it interesting to continue reading...)

Back in February I started the ball rolling with a normal physical. Almost in an undertone during that exam the doc mentions that I have scoliosis. Great, I think to myself. That's what I get for not taking hormones after my hysterectomy.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg...

I finally get to mention to the doctor things that I've been concerned about but unable to look into while I was uninsured. Foremost was the event I had on the plane in 2011.

So the follow-up tests ensue. Mammogram, overdue by 3 years.  Bone density, also overdue by years.  Labs, of course, to determine cholesterol, check glucose levels, etc.  

I can view my test results on the internet so I don't have to wait for the doctor to tell them to me.  If I can decipher their meaning, that is.  So I go look at my cholesterol numbers as soon as they're available.  High.  Dang!  I research how to lower that and take immediate action. Mammogram - fine. Bone density? The doc wants to talk to me about that. Uh oh!  But wait - I'm scheduled for an echo-cardiogram and treadmill test. I'll wait and discuss the outcome of all those at the same time.

When I go in all psyched up for the echo and treadmill test they tell me I won't be doing the latter after all. My EKG indicated I have a "left bundle branch block" and that form of stress test won't work.  

This doctor is interesting. My visits with her are very much like a professional ping pong game:  I ping and she pongs right back, then I quickly ping again and she's right there to pong it back at me. (Unfortunately she doesn't remember a lot of what I ping to her) She gives me a referral for a chemical-type stress test, a Dobutamine type.  

When I get to the imaging center to do that test, as well as an ultrasound on all my organs (to determine gallbladder health specifically but, hey, if you're looking why not just check it all out?), they inform me that I'll be doing a different stress test due to my asthma.  

This was a lengthy, interesting test which, for the most part, was simply that - interesting. There was one part that was downright creepy, though.

They started out by shooting nuclear isotopes into my blood, waiting an hour for them to find their way into my heart, then using a Gamma Camera to take pictures while my heart is at its resting rate. Then I was asked to go eat some fatty food to clear the bulk of the isotopes out of my liver (where they eventually move) so the next pictures of my heart would be clear.  
Here's where it got creepy. They got the director of medicine in there for him to witness the introduction of the drug Lexiscan and my reaction to it.  It opens the blood vessels to artificially imitate the effects of stress or exercise on my heart, the increased blood flow.  But, of course, it doesn't open just those vessels, it opens ALL my blood vessels, from head to toe. Creepy, I was flush, lightheaded, tingley all over. Not a nice feeling.  Fortunately it only lasts about 2 minutes, then coming back down to normal takes about another 2 minutes. In the meantime more isotopes are injected and as soon as I can stand I'm back at the Gamma Camera for a nap while they shoot pictures again for another 15 minutes. The lights in the room are dimmed, I'm laying comfortably and they're playing classical music. ZZzzzz...

That was Monday. Yesterday I was leaving for my also long-overdue colonoscopy and saw that those test results were available. The ultrasound showed my organs all look normal. As for the stress test, I'm no doctor but it sounds like it's saying that there is evidence of a heart attack and some residual damage.  

In readying me for my next procedure a nurse is asking all about my health. When she gets to questions regarding my heart I tell her about the test and the results and that she should go look at them herself. She goes back and confirms what I suspected.

We attempt the colonoscopy but for some odd reason I've just in the last week or 2 developed a low pulse. They sedate me, start the procedure, then abort it because my pulse dropped into the mid 30's.  Grr... the prep for that test is AWFUL!!!

I get a call from the doctor's office that afternoon and the nurse relays a message from the doctor: the test results "came back normal". WHAT!?!?! The very first word in the notes is Abnormal.  I think that means it's NOT normal.  I pretty much jump down that nurse's throat and start reading her what I see in the results and she tells me the doctor will call me.  I get another call later - another nurse with no real news either. But she says the doctor is standing right there and, after mediating between the 2 of us, finally gave the doc the phone. So the doc starts talking about heart movement, etc and throws in the words "the old MI". I stop her and ask "So I had a heart attack?"  Yes.  I reminded her that I didn't know that, that the reason for these heart tests were to determine if the event I had on the plane in Sept 2011 was my heart. She forgot, she thought I knew I'd had a heart attack. So the tests, she thought, were to check for the current state of my heart. Yeah, there's damage, a dead spot, you didn't know that? Do you carry nitro with you?  No! Why would I? I didn't know I'd had a heart attack!!!  Do you have a cardiologist? Again - Why would I? I didn't know I'd had a heart attack!!!  She was so glad that she finally took the phone into her own hands. Then I filled her in on how my colonoscopy went - or rather how it didn't go.  So now she's all hep on getting me a nitro prescription and a referral to a cardiologist. Yay!

Not that I wanted to have heart trouble. But I wanted to know, if I did.

So here, in a nutshell, is my health situation over the course of my life thus far:

1961 tonsillectomy to help with constant ear infections, age 4 (why I'm somewhat hard of hearing)
1968 I acquire asthma as a real issue, not just when I get sick, age 12, continues til now
1972ish I start noticing a pain in my upper spine which is now causing me bone spurs in my neck, possibly damaged in a car accident in early 1960's
Allergies and hay fever present themselves in my teens, continue to this day although much milder
5 pregnancies, 5 healthy babies
1991 tubal fulguration (5 babies is enough!)
1991 gallbladder attacks.  I start doing at-home flushes, attacks continue til now, although diminishing.
2002 hysterectomy for cervical cysts, fibroid tumors, endometriosis, adenomyosis, age 45
2011 at least 3 heart attacks, age 54
2013 mild osteoporosis & slightly high cholesterol diagnosed

Let's not forget the depression that crept in somewhere in the late 90's

And I always thought of myself as fairly healthy! Haha!

2 cats hacked up hairballs:

Rick Williams May 5, 2013 at 4:49 PM  

You did a great job with the dialogue and exclamations in this one. One of your best!

Now, stop with the failing body parts and eat your vitamin.

Judy May 11, 2013 at 6:49 AM  

WHAT???!!! Three heart attacks?! Sue!! Are you ok to fly to Ireland? I'm going to call you soon girl!

About Me

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After 2 unsuccessful marriages I spent 12 years as a divorcee, only to fall prey to another man's wiles. We had a fun 5 years together and then he decided he wanted more freedom so once again I'm single.

So I'm freshly divorced at 57 and have 5 great kids and now 7 grandkids. My kids are still a major part of my life but I'm busy helping my aging parents on Kauai.

I've lived in California, Hawaii and Oklahoma before finally settling here in Washington. I love Washington and come back to visit family, friends and take care of my garden often but will be temporarily a resident of Kauai.

I've moved 30 times in my life (no, my parents weren't in the service, at least not since I was about 2) and finally planted roots when I got my little house that I've owned since '91.

My family are Jehovah's Witnesses, I've been one since '72.