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Annotations Some Days in the Life - Daily
Waiting for Stress
April 28, 2000

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I got up and ready for the stress test. I did all the different bits you need to do to prepare for it. I went to the hospital, signed in and waited. It was quarter of ten, the time I was told to be there by, because they needed to take me in spot on at ten, to be done no later than ten-forty-five. There were other stress tests scheduled, you see, so we needed to make sure everyone would be accommodated.

At five of ten, the nurse practitioner who administers the test came out with my paperwork. This wasn't the paperwork I need to fill out for the hospital in general when I go in to have a procedure being done. This was the standard "if you keel over dead on this treadmill, you can't sue the hospital" paperwork. I had to fill this out the last time, too.

I was hopeful. I was hopeful I could last longer this time on the machine. I was hopeful I wasn't so crap any more. Hopeful I was ready to do the ten or fifteen minutes healthy people can do, instead of the few scant moments of the ill.

I am ill, mind. But I'm better and I want to get better still. Doing well on this stress test is the key to my full exercise program, and that in turn is the key to my whole body getting into better shape -- not just my crap heart. But even that should do better, given a certain amount of time.

I filled out the form and gave it back to the R.N. "Great," she said. "So, as soon as they see you for your check-in paperwork, come on down. I'm the first door on the right.

Ten minutes passed. It was now ten-ten. I was late. Except I wasn't late, they were. They finally called me in to take my insurance information. Information they have a dozen times over, of course. I'm in that hospital a lot, these days. I have standing orders for my bloodwork and everything. But you have to do things by the book.

I went in, and took off my shirt. The R.N. took my blood pressure, then taped the B.P. cuff to my arm. They need to take it several times during the test. She clipped the belt unit onto me, and began to attach the electrodes and pads to my body.

I have hair on my chest. It's very manly. But it's also highly inconvenient to such testing. So, getting wired involves being shaved as appropriate. This is not the most pleasant part of the process. By the end, my manly tufts of he-man chest hair looked like a Rorschack test.

"What do you see when you look at the man's chest, Billy?"

"Gosh, Doctor Walters, I see a pretty butterfly!"

Being shorn is something you endure, naturally enough. And then I was fully wired, and sitting down. The machine began counting. At three minutes, they took a paper EKG as a baseline. I watched the running EKG scroll by, and amused myself by moving my arms, or standing or the like, and watching the lines skew -- not because my heart was skewing, but because the machine wasn't designed for such things.

At fifteen minutes, according to the machine's tally, the R.N. and I had exhausted small talk. We kept revisiting computers, me having "Technology" in my job title meaning I'm someone she can ask advice on what computer to buy. This happens often. At this point, Doctor Fleet is about ten minutes late.

At twenty-seven minutes, we debate the usefulness of the picture on the wall. It's of a path in the woods, to fool you into thinking you're not in a doctor's office walking on a treadmill -- you are instead in the middle of the woods, walking on a treadmill inside a glass cube so you get no fresh air and go nowhere. I don't see the appeal. Neither does she. But the picture predates her so others in the hospital beg her to keep it. It's tradition, they wail to her. She and I laugh over this.

I'm getting anxious. Dominic is due in at noon. There is still no sign of Doctor Fleet. She goes to call him again.

At thirty-eight minutes, according to the machine, we're making deals with the Doctor who's got the machine next, for a stress test of one of his patients. We're running late, the R.N. explains.

The Doctor is the one who did my echocardiogram, doing the initial diagnosis of my cardiomyopathy. I don't think he remembered me. He agrees to be as flexible as he can be. Doctor Fleet, we're told, is on his way down now.

At forty-seven minutes, we give up and cancel. Doctor Fleet is nowhere to be found, apparently. According to his staff, there wasn't an emergency keeping him away. So I don't know the snafu's origin.

Doctor Fleet is an excellent doctor -- one I recommend to folks looking for one. I'm sure he saved my life, back in November. But that doesn't make unnecessary shearing any more pleasant.

So, the new Stress Test time is next Thursday. We hope. I'm told the Doctor will be there for that one.

Dominic and I went down to Dover and had lattes at Café on the Corner. Dominic looked well, as he always does. We talked about many things, not the least of which was the Mariners, who we both learned to love dearly during the 1995 series where they got within inches of the pennet.

The Mariners lost their ace pitcher two years ago, and recently lost Ken Griffey, Jr. -- the greatest ballplayer currently in the game. Naturally, their pitching is solid for the first time maybe ever, and they're in first for their division, where last year they were in last. As I recall, Griffey was out for several months in 1995, too. Maybe they play better without a superhero on the bench. In either case, it's a good time to be a Mariner's fan.

Dominic and I are going to try to make it down to Fenway for a Red Sox game before he goes back, and Annie should be coming to visit, too. Both will be fun things.

Today I'm tired, despite sleeping quite a lot. I'm beginning to get concerned about these fatigues -- perhaps they're the illness creeping up on me again. It's hard to know. It has me scared.

Also, I have heartburn. But that I can cope with.

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