Friday, November 05, 2004


Originally uploaded by rightr.
Here's the photo referred to below...

My Angiogram

Okay, so for my 49th birthday, I decided to give myself the gift of a treadmill stress test. I'd just successfully concluded my annual physical (what my MD fondly refers to as a "poke and grope"), and everything looked great. I casually asked, "Shouldn't I take a treadmill test?" My doc says, "Why would you want to do that?" I reply, "Oh... just seems like a good idea at my age," or words to that effect. He shrugs and says, "Sure." So, I scheduled the test.

Now, mind you, I expected to do well on the treadmill. I've been running a couple of miles a day, four or five times a week, for most of the past five years or so. But lo and behold, my doctor saw something on the results he wanted to "study more closely."

Study more closely! I thought. "Am I going to die? Am I a walking heart attack? WHAT'S GOING ON HERE????!!!! (Those of you who know me won't be surprised that I defaulted to Anxiety Mode. It's very familiar territory, complete with family history and everything)

I go to the cardiologist to whom my MD refers me. Nice fellow, personable. He puts me on blood pressure medication. BLOOD PRESSURE MEDICATION???!!! (Anxiety Mode again. Tell you what, let's refer to it hereinafter as "AM." Saves time) He recommended something called a nuclear stress test (or, in the case of our President, "nucular.") They shoot you up with a radioactive dye and put you back on the treadmill, then take pictures of what your heart does with your newly-radioactive blood. "We can possibly use this to eliminate the possibility of coronary artery disease," the cardio tells me. "Less invasive than an angiogram, etc., etc." "Sure," I say, in between the Lamaze breaths I'm taking to counteract AM. "Sounds like a plan."

So, I flunked the nuclear stress test, too. "He wants to do an angiogram," the nice, efficient nurse tells me on the phone, when she calls with the news. "If he fixes anything--" (by now I'm sucking wind like a woman dilated to a 9) "--you might spend the night in the hospital. Otherwise, you'll be done and home in about four or five hours."

Friends and neighbors, this farm boy has never been IN THE HOSPITAL as anything but a visitor since he was two years old. And now, they're talking about poking a camera up my femoral artery (you know, the one that runs past your groin?) and taking snapshots of my coronary arteries. And to top it off, they can't get me in for THREE WEEKS. At this point, I'm popping Xanax like M & Ms (just kidding; but I'd have taken some if I could've gotten hold of it), while trying to cling to my customarily suave and calm demeanor. AM is so counterproductive to my customarily suave and calm demeanor. Bad for my reputation, don't you know. And I believe I clearly communicated all this to the nice nurse on Monday morning, when I respectfully requested a quicker date for my (breathe, Thom; in and out, in and out...) angiogram. Which, lo and behold, they granted me--even without the overt threat of a lawsuit.

Which brings us up to Thursday, October 21. I show up, bright and early, and they hand me the latest in hospital haute couture, complete with the convenient vent in the back so they can access your, um, hinder parts with a minimum of resistance. The IV, the blood pressure readings (not too far out of the normal range, thankyouverymuch), and especially the consoling conversation from my friend and co-worker, Karen, were truly highlights of the waiting period. This is the day after the BoSox did it to the Yankees, after being down 3-0, so I'm maybe thinking the Second Coming is imminent, anyway, and what the heck will all this matter in that case? My cardiologist, AKA, The Photographer, shows up, and we have a little pleasant banter as he assures me he's read the user manual for the procedure very carefully, stayed up late the night before so he could watch the video, etc. etc. Not for nothing is the first syllable of this guy's specialty "card."

They wheeled me into the cath lab, which is maintained at approximately the temperature of a meat locker. Which, in a sense, I guess it is. A very nice orderly shaves my groin, and let me tell you folks, I'd trust that guy with anything I've got. In fact, I did, since I had no choice in the matter. And then, they started the drugs in my IV.

Whatever happened next I've had to reconstruct from second-hand accounts, since, though conscious, I was in no condition to keep a journal. But those are some good drugs, friends. Reeeeeaaaaaallly good. They could've probably put a Roto-Rooter in my femoral artery, and I'd have smiled the whole time.

So, it turns out my coronary arteries were fine and dandy. I've got a "muscle bridge," which means that one of my arteries dips into the heart muscle for a brief stretch. Thus, every time my heart contracts, the artery gets squeezed and immediately released. Which may account for why I flunked the stress tests. Let's see, maybe I can show you some pictures... See the little narrow spot in the picture at bottom left? Now, compare that to the one at bottom right. Taken a quarter of a second later, and no narrow spot! Cool, huh? The cardiologist says I've been living with this thing for 49 years, and I could live with it for another 49. Sounds good to me.

Since then, no AM; my customarily suave and calm demeanor is totally intact.

Right now, my biggest concern is whether I'll have to go through all this again at my next stress test. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 13, 2004

Kids and Community

Last night, our covenant group (what some people would call a small group or a Bible study group, though we don't usually study the Bible, per se) met at Mike Cope's house. We had all the kids there, which we try to do about every three months or so. We each got to talk about our children: what's going on in their lives, what their challenges are, what's ahead for them. And then we went around the circle, and one of the parents of each family prayed for somebody else's children.

It was a great time. I was the only single parent there, so that simplified the division of labor in my praying time.

I was so proud of all our children. They love God, they get along with their siblings (mostly)--they're just pretty great people, take it all around. They will lead such interesing lives, I'm sure.

Sometimes, what we accomplish seems so small, compared to the importance of giving our children a decent chance at life. In the eternal scheme of things, I'm sure things like careers, publications, and vacations won't count nearly as much as how well we did at hugging our kids, showing up at their games and recitals, reading to them, praying with them, and telling them, over and over again, that we love them.

A good reminder.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

My Next Post

I've struggled with this whole thing. After all, I'm a published author. I'm one of the privileged few who get to sell my words to the public. I have ample opportunities to display my ignorance to my readers. Why should I blog? Is it some narcissistic need to gush unedited, random thoughts (like these), some secret exhibitionist wish to be on display for the world to see? I can see why people like Mike Cope blog; they have things to say. Not necessarily things they want to go to the trouble to organize into a book, but good things--stuff people can benefit from. For free.

Maybe that's it; maybe I'm just too mercenary about my writing. Maybe I don't deserve to be in the free and noble company of bloggers.

I'll have to think about this...

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

My first entry

Who knew? I never meant to have a blog. I know people who are bloggers, and I never thought I'd join their ranks. But... here I am. We'll see what happens...