Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Mid September, Eh?

 I guess I saw that one coming seeing how August just kind of... came and went.  Never mind still being back in Spring, held back in March all the while half being aware that Fall is coming.  But damn, it's been a hard couple of weeks for me, so maybe that's why I'm a little stunned by the actual date.

At the very start of the month I had to go in to the hospital for a CT of my heart...stuff.

I just tried to search this blog to see if I ever talked about it but I'm not sure that I did and the search didn't help, but nearly two years ago now my brother decided to take his ongoing chest pain (when exercising) to the ER and they discovered that he had some pretty seriously blocked arteries.  They dealt with them and put him on medication and he's changed up his lifestyle and is monitored and getting great care and attention.

While he was in the hospital being observed he was approached by some doctors (or interns, I don't technically know, it doesn't really matter) to be part of a study.  He is young to have had the issues he did (under 50) and they wanted to take a closer look at some possible "why"s.  And they also asked if any other family members would like to join the study and I said sure.

So I signed up and had some blood work done and they didn't love what those results said and they ordered a "cardiac CT" to see where my heart health was.

I can tell you know that it seems my heart health is "good" and the scan didn't show anything of concern, which is great.  Really great.  I do have slightly elevated cholesterol and my sugars aren't "great" and so I'm to exercise more and be mindful of my diet and, well, honestly, those things have not been a priority these last few months with the pandemic.  Or, they've been a lot harder to focus on with "imminent health risk" feeling like it's constantly looming.  Anyway...

I have been really really anxious about the test since it was ordered.  And then even more anxious about it when the pandemic hit.  And I wasn't even really anxious about the possible results.  I mean, sure, I was hoping I'd not have to go on the "serious aggressive treatment" the cardiologist had talked about, but I also knew there wasn't much I could do to change the results if there had already been years of buildup like my brother had.  But I was terrified of the test itself.  

I worked at keeping the anxiety about it at bay until closer to test time, which helped, but in the week leading up to the test I got increasingly agitated.  I was worried about going into a hospital... during a pandemic.  (I don't love them at the best of times, but right now?  Geez...)  I was worried about wearing a mask for that long and if the mask would protect me if I got exposed or if I was carrying.  I was worried about asking Jason to drive me (wasn't allowed to drive self) but a cab is no less worrying, so then I was anxious about Jason waiting.  I was anxious about having to wait in my car until I was allowed in (pandemic protocols) and having to pee (had to load up on water beforehand).  I was worried about having to wake up so early (morning appointment, me not not not a morning person).  I was worried that I might react to the contrast dye they used.  Badly worried.  I was worried about how it would feel, maybe horrible.  It's actually, apparently a trauma thing from when I was a kid and in the hospital and had a bad reaction to a situation like that and, well, PTSD I guess.  I was worried about not being able to wear a bra.  I was worried about the machine.  I was worried about not being able to put my shoulder where it would have to go.   I was worried about the medication I had to take before (lower blood pressure and I already have lower blood pressure).  I was worried about everything. Everything.  The process of the test gave me massive anxiety.  Huge.  It was not good.

The morning of the test I tried to play it cool but my body didn't agree and I had to take something to settle (polite way of putting it) my stomach/digestive system.  And as Jason drove us there I kept saying "I'm fine, I'm fine" quietly to myself.  (Spoiler, I wasn't really.)  I tried to be very friendly to everyone in the hospital (I'm fine, see?  Could I be friendly if I wasn't fine?  Nope!  So clearly, I'm fine.)

They put in an IV thing... and they took my blood pressure and heart rate and EVEN THOUGH I had taken the whatchamacallit to lower my blood pressure and heart rate they were not.  My normal resting heart rate is usually around 60BPM.  With a medication in my system to slow that heart rate, my anxiety still had it pumping well over that.  The nurse said things were borderline not being able to do the test and I didn't understand why it wasn't lower when I WAS FINE!!!! AM FINE!!!

The nurse gave me some... nitro? and then they took me in to the machine.  I did have to take my bra off, by the way, but was able to still wear my own clothes rather than a gown, thankfully (short sleeves for the win).  They kept tucking me in with a heated thin blanket and I kept thinking how no one tucks you in once you're not a kid anymore.  I kept focussing on being calm... calm thoughts, calm heart.  And the machine kept making machine noises and I thought "wow, this is going really well" and then they were about to inject me with the contrast (sometimes people have bad reactions so I was scared) and then nothing happened and I was like YAY no reaction!  But it turns out there wasn't an injection and the machine itself was having issues and so after quite a while the tech had to help me off the table (machine I think was kind of frozen) and was like sorry, it's having issues, going to have to restart it and there was a hint of panic for me because oh no I can't do this again another day and they tucked me in back on a bed with another warm blanket and I waited.  And I had to pee.... but I didn't want to ask, didn't know who to ask, not like anyone was checking on me and I'm so glad that eventually I loudly asked "excuse me is there a bathroom"? because yes, there was in the waiting room and I made my way there trying not to dislodge the IV and I guess I really had to pee (partly all that hydration and partly I figure the saline they "tested" the IV with?) and I felt better after that and I was fine... right?  

And after whatever restart process I went back in and I tried not to think about it  breaking down again and I tried to think calm heart thoughts because you really need clear pictures for best results and the tech said ok here comes the contrast and I thought oh please and it felt weird but no reaction (THANK YOU!) and then the holding of the breath (never for too long and the "machine" had an accent when leading me through that) and more contrast and more weird feeling and more  holding of the breath and machine moving and table sliding and then they were like "you're done" and they took me back into the bed... place and took out the IV (please hold that for two minutes and if it bleeds then for another) and they asked how I felt and I said fine, actually?  I said it was interesting, and the machine was cool and that if I had to do it again I'd be far less nervous and the nurse said "yeah, you're like a whole different person from before you went in" and I thought "oh".  I'd tried to be fine.  I'd really tried.  And I hadn't said "I'm nervous or anxious" or anything.  I just was friendly and polite and apparently my anxiety and nerves showed.  Enough that a nurse noticed... and the heart rate monitors did too of course.  I should have asked what my heart rate was post scan but she'd turned the monitor away from me that time but I wouldn't be surprised if it had fallen.  Significantly.

I'm very grateful that I didn't have any major reactions to any of the medications, and I came home and drank lots of water (to flush out the dye I think) and I took it easy and I told Jason what the nurse had said and he said "yeah, on the drive here you were shaking so much you could have started the car on vibrations alone" (which doesn't necessarily make sense but point taken.)  I really thought I had hidden it you guys.  I thought I was playing it cool.  I really did.  I thought I was a little nervous but pretty good.

Apparently not... 

So that was right at the start of the month.  And then I had to wait two weeks to get the results.  I wasn't nervous about that until the day of, and then I was happy and relieved to hear the good.


Jason Langlois said...

I remember you telling us about the heart issues with your brother and how this now meant you had concerns and things to follow up on, and that it ramped up the anxiety. Don't recall you saying you'd joined a study, though, so I'm guessing that happened a little bit after the event.

Would it have been some nitrous oxide they gave you ("laughing gas") - it sometimes is used to disassociate from anxiety and pain.

Also not surprised people could tell you were nervous - it sounds like you were ratcheted up well over any person redlines. I'm proud of you for getting through that, glade your worries were calmed by the process, and ever happier the results were good.

Victoria said...

It was actually nitroclycerine to er... open up the.. uh... vasodilate things? blood vessels? For hopefully clearer pictures.

I'm glad it's done and glad it's good news :)