Ever Had a Cardiac Stress Test? I Have!
Starting in mid-December and continuing over the holiday season I was having periodic pains in the left side of my chest. Not sharp stabbing pains, nothing radiating into my left arm, no weakness or shortness of breath…just a nagging ache. It was usually in the same spot, but occasionally occurred in different areas and usually resulted in tightness in my upper chest. The weird thing was that it didn’t occur or worsen during exercise…to be perfectly honest I thought it was simply stress related; the holidays are a busy time and we were running around trying to fulfill obligations etc. so I wasn’t exactly relaxed. I tried changing my diet a bit, getting more sleep, relaxing more, but the pains persisted. Eventually I got an appointment to see my Doctor, and after some discussion she prescribed me a stress-test.
Monday I arrived at the Cardiac clinic unsure what to expect and probably a bit stressed. After being escorted into a room with an ancient treadmill and a computer, the wooden respiratory tech. asked me to lift my shirt. I assured him that he had NOT in fact bought me dinner OR enough drinks to warrant such an advance however he assured me it was for science, and so the procedure continued. I’m pretty sure he applied about 2 dozen sticky pads to my chest in various places, each with a small button snap on them to which he applied a coloured wire. I thought about switching a bunch of them when he went to get the Cardiologist just to mess with him but I suddenly had visions of being pushed to the floor and shocked “back to life”. I decided to pass.
The Cardiologist, a white-haired man that looked a lot like my 88 year old Grandfather, walked in, mumbled his name and took my blood pressure. Maybe it was because I was the last appointment of the day or maybe they are just used to dealing with crippled/deaf geriatrics trying desperately to get their walkers to work on the treadmill but this was turning out to be one of the driest medical appointments I’d ever had. My jokes fell to the floor, and my smiles met with dull polite nods. The staff seemed competent and all, but if I’m going to have my heart explode on your treadmill I’d like a certain amount of hospitality dammit. Would providing some pleasant conversation kill you? How about a cocktail? And where are the hors d’oeuvres? Waiter? Waiter?
Three, 3-minute intervals of walking (increased speed each time) later the light running started. The goal was to get my heart rate over 160, and after some more increased speed and incline we finally got down to business. As I held my pace my mouth dried out and I feared that I’d soon be choking on my own swollen tongue (I hate treadmills for this very reason), but soon the test was done and I was asked to sit so they could continue to monitor my chest rhythms.
Once the test was complete, the Cardiologist instantly warmed up and asked me if I was fairly active. I smiled and bragged about my weekly running/weights/hockey regime and explained that I was training for the Around the Bay 30km in March. I nearly shit myself when he mentioned that he’d used the ATB as a warm-up for Boston which was a very special race, and that I should try it sometime. I explained defensively that it’d be a while before I could qualify with my PB marathon being 3:53, to which he replied “oh, you can do better than that!” and walked out of the room.
Have a good one kids, and take care of yourselves, Results coming in 8-10 days.