Saturday, October 3, 2009


Every time I get my blood pressure taken at the doctor's office, I'm convinced I'm going to develop gangrene and my arm will fall off. Not really, but the cuff is so tight that it cuts off all circulation (which is, of course, the whole point!).

As I said a few entries ago, when it comes to doctors, I'm far worse than my mother. It has nothing to do with fear of doctors...I love doctors. I work for doctors. I've been watching doctor shows on TV since the days of Ben Casey, Dr. Kildaire and Marcus Welby. Some of my best friends are doctors.

It's embarrassment.

Look at the 20 years I went without dental care. Was it because of fear of dentists or of pain of fixing cavities? No. It was embarrassment because I didn't want the dentist to yell at me again for not flossing. It wasn't not flossing that kept me from a dentist, it was fear of the dentist finding out that I wasn't flossing that kept me from dentist.

Everybody is scared when they get pregnant for the first time. I was too, but my fear had nothing to do with pain. Well, maybe a little bit to do with pain, but not for the usual reason. My mother had such easy labors that I really felt my labors would be too (and basically they were). But my fear came out of all of those movies and TV scenes of mothers in labor, screaming, crying, yelling things at their husbands, etc. I didn't want to be one of "those" women and that was my biggest fear. (Consequently, I didn't scream, cry, or call Walt names, I'm proud to say.)

So if I was nervous about my stress test today, it had nothing to do with worry about what they might find about the condition of my heart, but everything to do with concern that I might embarrass myself on the treadmill.

How could that happen? I can walk on a treadmill. I know what it's like. But for the two weeks prior to my appointment, my concern was strictly concerned with not embarrassing myself.

But today was the day. I presented myself to the cardiology wing and signed in for a stress test. The first thing you are given is a consent for the test. It reads like all of those medicines advertised on television, letting you know of all the problems that can come up, including the possibility of death. "The possibility of certain changes during the exercise test exists. These possibilities include abnormal blood pressure, or very slow heart beat and very rare instances of heart attack with all of its ramifications...." ("all of its ramifications," I knew, meaning "possible death.")

But that didn't scare me. I just didn't want to make a fool of myself by falling off the treadmill.

So I went into this little room with two lovely women, one of whom sat at a computer and took my history, very gently reminding me of the things I should be doing for my health and, more importantly, why I should be doing them.

They attached a blood pressure cuff and took several readings, each one convincing me that I was going to start suffering from gangrene.

StressTest.jpg (34542 bytes)The other woman dressed me in this huge gown, after sticking electrodes all over my bare chest and attaching them to cords that attached to the machine where woman #1 was sitting. She tied the bottom of the gown up around my waist, to prevent me from tripping on it while standing on the treadmill.

Now it was time for the treadmill. With visions of contestants from Biggest Loser, falling all over themselves on the treadmill, sweating like pigs and gasping for breath, I got on the treadmill and started walking.

I hadn't intended to, but I asked the helper tech if she could go into my purse and find my camera and take my picture. Everybody thought this was very funny...but then you have to admit that having a visual makes it all better...too bad the woman who does mammograms doesn't have an assistant!

She started me at 1.7 mph with a slight incline and asked me to walk for 3 minutes. Heck, that was nothing. I do faster than that on my own treadmill all the time. She took my blood pressure again and then increased the speed to 2.5 mph and a significant incline, but even that wasn't bad. Before 10 minutes from the start of the test had passed, she told me we had reached the end of the test. I wasn't panting. I could still talk (with only slight breathing difficulty) and was only just starting to sweat. It was a piece o'cake.

There were more blood pressure readings and then they told me it was all over. They hadn't found anything that would require my being whisked off to the hospital instantly. I don't have the final report but she did tell me that I'm doing OK right now, but she could see that if changes aren't made problems could come along in the future.

It also felt good to hear that she hadn't expected me to last nearly as long as I did (10 minutes??) and was surprised at how little trouble I had with the test.

I don't know why I get so fearful of embarrassing myself at appointments like this. Everyone was wonderfully kind, gentle, understanding and helpful. One more test to go (a nerve conduction study) and a gynecology appointment in a couple of weeks and then I'm finally all caught up on all the health things that need to be take care of and I'm good for the next year.


lrayholly said...

Proud of you Bev!

jon said...

Been there. Did that. That used to be my one big fear. Dentist!! I am glad got over that. It was an unreasonable thing. I am glad you got over it. I still hate getting my teeth cleaned. My dental hygienist was a KGB prison guard, I believe. "Let's see how much more we can stuff into your face?" She rinsed my teeth with a fire hose. I think she put dry sponges in my mouth and then added water. I looked like a terrified squirrel. "Yes, Yes, I kidnapped the lindbergh baby. make it stop."