“Ah! You have a baby in your heart!”
– Akemi today after I told her about my echocardiogram.
Yes, today I went in for an echocardiogram, a procedure that uses sound waves to produce an image of the working heart. Sort of like a pregnancy ultrasound – but different. Still, that didn’t stop me from shouting: “It’s a boy!” when my heart came onscreen.
“You’ve had a heart murmur since you were thirteen,”said the sonographer, seeking to confirm what I’d already told my doctor.
I remember running a gauntlet of tests in my early teens after complaining about my heart’s penchant for “skipping beats”. At first, the doctors were dubious, initially dismissing my self-diagnosis as “gas probably” – so that when the results came back, “He’s got a slight murmur”, I was elated. Yes! Heart murmur! I was right!
But, apparently, nothing to worry about. Throughout most of my life, I hardly gave the occasional pause and staccato beats a second thought. Then, enter the age of the internet and the ability to do a google search for keywords like “Arrhythmia” which lead to links like “Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia” which, in turn, leads to symptoms like: 1. Irregular heart rhythms (check!), 2. Dizziness or lightheadedness (uh, check?), 3. Sudden cardiac death (uh…I think I would’ve remembered that one).
So, a couple of months ago, I went in for a comprehensive assessment survey that included a full physical which was comprised of, among other things, a stress test that involved me being hooked up to a heart monitor while I ran on a treadmill. Twice. Well, officially once but they misplaced the results of my first test so I had to go in and do a second one. Anyway, I’m no stranger to a treadmill workout so, all in all, I did pretty well. We started at a brisk walking pace and incline, then increased the speed and steepness every three minutes. I managed just under twenty-five torturous minutes (which was well above average by the way), and my test results showed “an excellent cardiopulmonary fitness level”. BUT, just in case, I did mention my concerns to my doctor and he set up an echocardiogram for me.
And today was the day. I lay on my side, my chest slathered with (probably) ectoplasm, while the sonographer prodded me with the probe (wand? ding-dong?) and I tried to comprehend the incomprehensible onscreen images – and, when that clearly wasn’t working, shifted focus to scrute the inscrutable sonographer.
“So, what happens next?”I asked once we were done.
She informed me that the results would be sent to the cardiologist who would contact my doctor within a week with the results.
“And how do things look?”I tried.
“Oh, we’re not allowed to say anything,”she said. “We could make an assumption about something and that could change upon further review. Imagine me telling you something and then you finding out something else from your director.”
I told her I understood. Completely. Then threw her a change-up with a casual parting: “I’ll be hitting the treadmill tonight!”
“Sounds good,”she replied without missing a beat.
In the months -long lead up to this test, I wasn’t at all concerned. But a week is a LONG time to wait for – and think over those possible – test results!
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