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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Heart Catheterization 

(If you're interested in what has led up to this post, start reading the archives with Stress Test (Part I).)

I had my heart catheterization on May 17.

I arrive at the hospital at 7:30 and sign an agreement guaranteeing that the hospital will be paid, even if I have to sell Wife to a pimp. I am also required to agree that I will not hold the hospital liable if something goes wrong and they kill me.

Presently a cute little gal named F comes out and bellows my name. I follow her a half mile or so through a maze of corridors to the Cardiac Something-or-other Unit. F leads me into a room and hands me what looks like the mainsail from a schooner, then tells me to take off everything but my socks and put on the sail. I eventually get the sail rigged upon my person and call F. She comes back in and announces that she must "start an IV"; she then takes a rather large needle from a drawer. I am expecting the usual unwarranted insult, but instead of calling me a "little prick", F calls me a "big stick" just before impaling the back of my hand with her needle. F gives me the remote for the TV and tells me to "relax, they'll be here for you shortly". For some reason, I think of a condemned prisoner.

Just before I get to see the Cartwrights give the bad guys their comeuppance on Bonanza, a dude with a beard like Abraham Lincoln comes in and informs me that he is my nurse, K. He wheels me across the hall to a room full of machinery, where Dr.C is waiting (ever notice how everyone wears a mask in surgery? That's so you can't identify them later if something goes wrong).

Anyway, Dr.C informs me that he is going to give me a shot to "deaden" (note to self: give Dr.C a thesaurus for Christmas) the area where he will insert the catheter. He then jabs what feels like a harpoon into my groin and chastises me for almost jumping off the table. Dr.C begins a play-by-play as he runs the catheter through my innards. A couple of times, after warning me about the "contrast material", Dr.C tells K to "heat 'im up!". K shoots something into my IV which makes me feel like I am cooking from the inside out. After a couple of "Uh-huh's" and an "Ummm...", Dr.C discovers the necessity of reeling in the first catheter and inserting a larger one. A larger one? The one in there now felt like a garden hose going in (although, surprisingly, I don't feel anything as Dr.C moves it around). Dr.C looks around a bit with his larger catheter, then extracts it and gives me the verdict. The whole thing has taken about 45 minutes.

Dr.C reminds me that he mentioned in his office that the stress test sometimes gives a "false positive". That is apparently what has happened in my case. There is no blockage. My ventricle is pumping happily along, just as it should. My aorta is slightly enlarged, but that is not unusual for someone with high blood pressure and not a problem as long as I stay on my medication. K wheels me back to my room, where I have to lie on my back for six hours to make sure my femoral artery doesn't spring a leak where Dr.C inserted the catheter. Since I can't see the TV, I have time to do some thinking. I have this whole thing figured out:

The "gamma camera" at your stress test is connected to a computer, which is networked with your doctor's checking account. If a payment is due on his Lexus, then you have something wrong which requires further testing. If no payment is due, you're OK - unless there really is something wrong. Problem is, you don't know when his payment is due!