Musings of a Marfan Mom

Stress Test: Dressed to Impress

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Today I got to look like an alien. Or maybe an astronaut. I’m not really sure which, but either way you should be Totally Jealous!

A few weeks ago, my cardiologist told me I needed to get a stress test done, to see if it’s my heart that’s causing me to be short of breath, or if it’s my lungs, or if I’m just a complete crazy person (my choice of words, not his). “We’ll even do it on the brand new, high-tech machine!” he said. His excitement was palpable. [I started to type I’m not so nerdy that I get thrilled over a piece of medical equipment, but then I remembered how I’d gotten the same look in my eyes when our band director let me be the first to try out our high school’s new vibraphone. Guilty as charged.]

Anyway, I don’t know if any of you have ever had a stress test, but I think it got its name from how much it stresses you out ahead of time to know you’re getting one. Seriously, in all the medical tests and procedures that I’ve had, this is the first one I remember signing a consent form for that read in Big Bold Font: YOU MIGHT HAVE A HEART ATTACK AND/OR DIE. Typing this out now it’s actually pretty funny, but this afternoon it was vagually unsettling.

First, I had a quick echocardiogram to get a baseline reading for how well my heart is functioning. Unlike my normal echos though, I had 13 stickers placed all over my chest and belly, upon which 13 leads were placed, which all went into a box that sat on a belt, which went around my waist (got all that?). Because I would need to rush back from the treadmill to the bed for a 2nd echo, I couldn’t wear my robe normally, so the tech tied it around me toga style. Then I got a fancy blood pressure cuff that had a speaker attached to it so that the tech could hear my heart beat. And after that came the “ET” oxygen sensor (you know, the one that goes around your finger and glows red like ET?). The crowning glory? The oxygen mask. Only problem is, I have a ridgeless nose, so none of the masks would fit me without creating leaks. This meant that instead of a mask, I had to have a series of hard plastic tubing in my mouth and a clothespin-like cover over my nose. The tubing was rather heavy, so it protruded from my bottom lip…making me look a bit like a chimpanzee. And did I mention I was so busy with Menininho this morning and trying to get out the door that I forgot to brush my hair?

Ladies and Gents: I’m bringing sexy back.

Last to do before starting the test was for me to tell the tech the maximum amount of activity I could do without being winded. Their chart left something to be desired. I mean, is social dancing really easier than pushing a lawn mower? And is carrying a small child up a flight of stairs more difficult than lifting 60 pounds? Have I ever actually pushed a lawn mower?

Finally she started the treadmill. I ended up having to hold the oxygen contraption in my mouth with one hand and hold on to the handlebar of the treadmill in the other as I walked faster and faster. I’ll spare you the details of how it felt to keep going till it felt “very, very hard” (#17 on a scale of 20, in case you were wondering). When I couldn’t go anymore, I signaled to the tech to stop the treadmill, then stumbled back onto the bed for my 2nd echo. I finished out the round of exams with some quick pulmonary function tests and the promise that if I’m a good girl, maybe I can come back in a few weeks for more (dare I hope?!).

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  1. That sounded stressful just reading it. I hope everything turns out okay. Too bad you didn’t get a nurse to take a picture of you or something. That would have been funny…kinda. :)

    Totally off the subject, how old is your mom’s dog Sammy?

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