“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.

“Yep.”

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.

Damn.

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!

And just a reminder!  One more day to bid on this:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Stargate-SG-1-Script-034-Ripple-Effect-034-Signed-by-Producer-and-Writer-Joe-Mallozzi-/141415299954

27 thoughts on “September 25, 2014: ECHO! ECHO…ECHo…ECho…Echo..gardiogram!

  1. I wouldn’t fret too much. My Dad had a heart murmur and eventual atrial fibrillation with a regurgitating valve (basically chronic heart failure). He lived to almost 91 and was still doing his own work on his car a year before he passed away. You’ll be fine!

    Most likely.

    I would perhaps think twice about any further ding-dong probing, though.

  2. Meant to add that after Akemi’s opening quote, that you would tell us that they found some kind of evil, absorbed twin on which you could blame the influence for any past errant behaviour. Um, not that I can think of any, of course…

  3. Hey Joe, Make sure you cast David Hewlett in one of your new show main character roles. I hear he’s just moved to Toronto! And he was crazy funny as McKay on Stargate 🙂

  4. I’m with you there, Joe. Had an anxious few weeks in 2012 when one cardiac test, recommended by my GP, sent me scurrying off to my cardiologist for more testing. “Dr. Cardio”, whom I see twice yearly anyway, confirmed that I was OK. But with a family history of heart disease, I was taking no chances.

  5. Joe,
    I have a heart murmur (mitral valve prolapse) too. I was diagnosed with mine when I was in my early 20’s. It has not held me back in anyway. In fact, I even did a tandem sky dive in my mid-twenties. I am sure you will be fine. These things are quite common.
    All my best to you,

    Barb Wilson (Jeff W’s wife) 😊

  6. Don’t worry, Joe. What’s the worst that could happen? Look on the bright side. If your heart explodes you won’t have to spend the winter in Toronto!

  7. Hey Joe
    I found out about my heart murmur during the physical for the Air Force. Ya, washed those dreams right down the drain.

    Elminster

  8. Ah, we can hardly wait for the colonoscopy episode.

    My BP has edged upward and the doc decided trying out a low dose medicine was a good idea. Okay. By the weekend, I was in the ER with terrible pain, vertigo, and a full blown panic attack. Now I know what the routine is when they think you may be having a heart attack. And if you cannot stand on a treadmill, much less walk/run, they induce a fast heart rate chemically. Holy Mother of Dog, that is three minutes of wanting to die right then and there. Awful experience. Do not recommend.

    Waiting, bleh. When I had breast cancer, they called me on the phone to tell me the biopsy was positive rather than calling me into an office. Gee, thanks. Surgery was two weeks later, and there is no treatment plan until after the surgery. That two week wait was simply terrifying.

  9. You’re currently reading Marry Me? Joe just do it, you don’t have to study up on it. “You have a baby in your heart!”. Stop trying to get me excited with baby talk. Marriage and babies. Hmmmmm….?

  10. Oh, we’re not allowed to say anything,”she said. “We could make an assumption about something and that could change upon further review.”- she cold moonlight as a NFL referee, no?

  11. @Joe:

    Like Barb says, you’ll be fine. You can even skydive if you want!

    @Maggiemayday:

    I had a similar experience where a health professional wanted to get me on a treadmill.

    About ten years ago I came down with pericarditis (inflammation of the sack around the heart), which put me in the emergency room. It gave me all the symptoms of having a full blown heart attack except for the lack of heart attack enzymes. It felt like a giant fist was squeezing my heart to a pulp. It was so bad that I was doubled over, clenching with pain, sweating and almost passing out.

    After they did a blood test in the ER and saw no enzymes, they just parked me in a corner for 7 hours while they handled other “more important” cases. They finally took the time to wheel me into the room with the treadmill and EKG and told me to get up and run on the treadmill, all the while I was in a fetal position spasming in pain. I simply said “I can’t!”

    It was then that one of the nurses suggested a sonogram, so they wheeled me off to the sonogram room and there they discovered my pericardium was inflamed to 4mm (it’s normally about 0.5mm). They immediately injected me with a very strong anti-inflammatory and admitted me to a room. I spent three days in the hospital and two weeks on 800mg of ibuprofen a day.

    The good news was there was no damage to my heart, but the bad news is that once you’ve had pericarditis, it is 50% more likely to reoccur later in life. At least now I know what it feels like.

  12. OT: If any of you in USA caught the premiere of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder”, I’m pleased to report that the lecture-hall scenes were filmed at my alma mater, Ursinus College, outside Philadelphia. According to Twitter buzz, Bryn Mawr and U. Penn were also pilot-shoot locations.

  13. Joe, I think you should be fine. If anything is seriously wrong they most likely will call you right away. Although things may be different in Canada?

    @maggiemayday I remember when they called me at work (I work in a hospital) to tell me over the phone I had malignant melanoma. Later the doctor said I was super calm getting the news, but I had my own patients to take care of and couldn’t really process the news till I got home. Surgery was then scheduled for the next week and so far so good several years later. *knock on wood….

  14. Not sure how I’d deal with bad news, but I do know I hate when there is a call or voicemail to contact the doctor’s office right away. And, if the timing is bad – weekend then you agonize until you reach the office to be told – your (fill in blank) test was good/no problem, etc.
    arrrrrggghhh!!
    thanks for this opportunity to vent.

  15. Aren’t most heart murmurs harmless though? I’m sure you’ll still be around in a good 3-4 decades time. It’s the ones that cause you problems that are the most concerning I would imagine.

    I can imagine though if they found something super serious they would have said something. They wouldn’t keep something life threatening under wraps for a week, especially if you needed treatment.

  16. Ah, I’ve had a so called “murmur” all my life,,,and when, during my power lifting training, I had my heart rate up over 220 beats/minute and survived, I decided this old ticker would probably be ok…that was 25 years ago and,,,I’ll be 71 tomorrow…

  17. Did you really shout “It’s a boy”? 😆 I’m glad the test went well for ya! One more thing checked on your “to do” list. Loved Akemi’s comment!

    Bailey: I have a friend that was just diagnosed with a stage 3 melanoma and it’s reached her lymph nodes. Since you’re a survivor, do you have any words of hope/wisdom I can pass on? She’s scheduled for a CT Tuesday.

    Lots of bad things swirling around these last few weeks and I’m trying to grab hold of something positive. Thank you so much for the blog posts, as usual, you’re a blast to read!

    Next week, I’m considering heading to Destin with a friend, who has a condo on the beach.

  18. Yes! Like Jeff and Barb said, you need to go skydiving. Wear a GoPro camera on your head, so we can share the experience! 😉

  19. @Tam Dixon, fortunately in my case the melanoma was still at a stage I and hadn’t reached the lymph nodes. For your friend – It’s hard to know what the next step is until they have the results of the CT scan back. They may want additional scans (MRI, PET) depending on what they find. It’s extremely tough just waiting and wondering. Once you have some actual answers as to the extent of the CA then you can start planning and strategizing. I wouldn’t put anything off the table, don’t discount modern medicine but use more traditional holistic diets and stress reduction to support what you need to go through. Don’t go it alone. Ask A LOT of questions, talk to friends and family and anyone you know who can help navigate the healthcare system where ever you live. Sometimes the worst part is the bureaucracy. Do stuff you like, make yourself as happy as you can, whenever you can! I am sending my prayers and thoughts to her and you too, having good friends and family to support you can make a world of difference!

  20. Oh! Related to Cookie’s most recent superhero movie review, I found this. Pretty much says it all:

  21. I used to work for a cardiologist and I would help administer those stress tests (did EKGs too). I remember the patient we had who was having ventricular fibrillation and I looked at the doctor and the doctor was looking at me, and I was encouraging them that they were doing well (it was his call to stop it). I really thought we’d be having our first code blue. Scary for me. The doctor’s eyes darted to the crash cart wanting confirmation that it had been checked recently for expired meds I suppose. I shook my head yes. This was a doctor’s office and not a hospital. I also helped process Holter monitor results and pull representative strips of arrhythmias onto a report for the doctor to see (along with the electronic read-out of how many beats of each kind occurred). Also saw a lot of echocardiograms performed so when I had one done of my own 2 years ago, I was looking at my exam being done and I said, “Now THAT is a fine heart.” My valves weren’t floppy at least.

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