Saturday, February 26, 2011

Have a heart

My wife scheduled herself for a health screening today at Lexington Memorial Hospital. And why not? It was free (what in health care today is free?) and it seemed like a good idea, considering the long trail of heart disease in her family.

So while she went for her screening, I went to the Black Chicken Coffee, one of our favorite hangouts. We solve the world's problems there. Day after day. Only nobody listens to us, so we still have the same problems, day after day. Anyway, Kim said she would meet me there when she was through.

I'd hardly arrived and noticed right off that Kim wasn't there (I'm clever like that), even though it was nearly an hour since her scheduled appointment time had passed. So I was a little concerned.

"Kim isn't here?" I asked one of my fellow roundtablers. I explained that she had gone to the hospital for a health screening, but was told that the process should only take a few minutes. I figured she'd be here by now.

"Great. I'll probably get home and find out she's had quadruple bypass surgery," I said smugly.

"No," said Joe, one of my friends. "She'll call and tell you that you need to make an appointment, too."

I swear to you, within two minutes, the Chicken's barista handed me a wireless phone with a call for me. It was my wife. "You need to come here right now. It's not busy at all. They said they could fit you right in."

There must have been a look on my face because my coffee compatriots were smiling broadly. When I asked Kim if there was a line of people at the screening, that was all the clue they needed. The table erupted in raucous, almost uncontrollable laughter — including myself.

But Kim, I could tell, was impatient. "Get your ass over here right now."

That's pretty serious stuff. "If it was me," said Joe, "I'd go."

So I did.

I arrived at the hospital, registered, and within minutes had my finger pricked for a blood test. Then I got weighed and then measured for height. I'm now 66 inches tall (or short), which means I'm shrinking. And that was with my shoes on. I remember the days when I was 5-7.

I'm also overweight, but we knew that.

Then I went to the blood pressure station. That turned out to be OK. I was 128/78.

Then it was back to the blood pricking table to get my results. My cholesterol is high, significantly over 200, although my good (HDL) cholesterol is 57, which is fine.

But my blood sugar was 58, and normal should be over 70. The nurses acted as if I was going to collapse at any moment, so they rushed me to the breakfast buffet and told me to pick out a danish and drink some apple juice. Oh boy, free food. I really like this health care.

Still, the reading puzzled me, since I had a bowl of Wheaties for breakfast, along with a banana, which I always considered to be essentially a potassium bar coated in sugar. I still don't get the reading on that one. Neither did the nurses, but they probably figured, like Dr. House, that everybody lies. Except I wasn't lying.

Anyway, it was off to the electrocardiogram, which was part of the screening. I'd never had one of these before. The nurse there knew me from my sports writing days at The Dispatch, although I didn't know her. In fact, I had covered her husband when he played baseball at Central Davidson more than 30 years ago. Maybe I need to change my name.

She hooked me up to the ECG machine, turned it on and, instantly, the first thing out of her mouth was "Oh my."

Oh God. I'm the one who needs the quadruple bypass, I thought. Just 20 minutes earlier, I'd been a perfectly healthy male — I thought. Haven't smoked in 30 years, walk everywhere, what happened?

Turns out I have an irregular heart beat, something called atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response. I thought that only happened when the Phillies won. They sent me off to see the cardio doctor.

The doc looked at my ECG, told me what I had, and said, untreated, eventually it could lead to a stroke. But there was something I could do right now to help myself — so she put me on aspirin therapy. Full dose, one coated tablet every day. I can do that. And, of course, it would be a good idea to have a complete physical sometime soon.

I can do that, too. Just watch.


  1. How's that turning 60 thing working out? :) Keep the faith Yank, we've got tests on our journey ahead...let's live to be 90 and fool 'em all!

  2. ...wait a minute! Wehrles' get cancer not heart disease. You always get the good stuff.