The Waiting Game

I think all of us have played ‘the waiting game’ in one way or another and I realize… I suck at it! I’m playing it right now, waiting on the results of my recent Stress Test. I certainly didn’t plan to do the Stress Test, we should but rarely do, none the less, I had one earlier this month. Ironically, I find it very stressful waiting on results.

This all began the day after our off-grid vacation, oh so typical for my life. I had a routine appointment with my Mental Healthcare doctor. The nurse took my vital signs and I was so busy talking about our vacation, I didn’t ask what they were. Besides, they always seem to be the same anyway. When I was called back, the first thing my doctor did was take my vitals again, which has never occurred. I sarcastically asked, “What’s the matter? Am I dead?”. He just looked at me like a deer in the headlights and took it again… and again… and AGAIN! He sat down and asked if I felt faint or light-headed. “No…why? What is going on?” I asked, panic quickly setting in. He said my pulse was ‘dangerously low’ at only 40 beats per minute. This was really odd because I have a benign type of tachycardia (P.A.T.) which is a very fast heart rate that hits out of nowhere.

My visits with him are, in general, around 15 minutes because he is the doctor who ‘medically’ manages my issues of PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and Insomnia with drugs. I would have to go elsewhere to talk with a psychologist. If this sounds stupid, it is but this is what our insurance pays for… Anyway, within a matter of minutes he tells me, ‘As a Geriatric patient, your body has built up the Xanax (anti-anxiety med) and I want you off of it by next week…’ First off, my brain shut down when he called me a Geriatric patient. I will fall into this category soon enough but I’m certainly not there yet! He asked if I thought I could do this and I said yes, I thought so. I did say, “You remember I’ve been on this forever, right”? My Geriatric brain was still stuck on my ‘classification’ and I forgot to ask any questions. Better yet, he told me he was going to be ‘gone’ most of the month. I shuffled out of his office. Now it was me looking like a deer in the headlights.

The first thing we did was purchase a blood pressure cuff and I made a call to my regular doctor. Sadly, I just went off and he got the brunt of my frustration. “My heart isn’t beating right! The other doctor said…”. This is what I love about him, he’s calm, soft-spoken, knowledgable, and he listens. Even when I sound like a fool! He’s in excellent health and has a resting pulse in the 40’s. I reminded him how unhealthy I am… He gave me a schedule to titrate me off Xanax. Dang, I was totally stressed out now!

The next day, I made an appointment with Mike’s Cardiologist. I still felt like nothing was truly wrong but that new blood pressure cuff verified something was wrong with my heart. My readings either gave a low heart rate (still under 50) or it said ‘Irregular Beat’, not reassuring at all. Oh, yes, Mike was taking his blood pressure with me but his reading were clear, definitive. I actually got into the doctor within a few days. My first visit was what I expected, a detailed history and an ECG (Electrocardiogram). He informed me there was an ‘irregularity’ and he wanted to do a Stress Test and have me wear a Holter Monitor (a portable loop recorder ECG worn for 24+ hours). I’d have to wait (again…) two weeks for the testing. This is the type of waiting that brings anxiety to me. Sigh…

Doing a Stress Test, has been something Mike has pushed me to do since he was forced to have stints placed a number of years ago. I really doubted my ability to physically do a Stress Test. I was ready to give it my all on test day. It was just the doctor and I in the room. I reiterated my Vestibular issues and he was unusually understanding. He also made a point to show me where I had an Emergency Stop button and we began. The treadmill faced a window which I thought would be a plus, it wasn’t as it made me see a ‘false’ horizon. I’d just acclimated to this illusion as he sped it up. I was concentrating so hard on this, I forgot a quick head turn can be a trigger. He asked me questions throughout and I answered him staring straight ahead. So, when he asked me something (I don’t even remember what), I turned my head and WHAM! A full-blown Vertigo attack hit me, I tried holding on tighter when it suddenly stopped. The doctor knew immediately what was wrong so he hit the button. “Dang it! Oh, I’m so embarrassed, please let me try this again…please, I know I can do it when I get over this”! I was pleading to do something I had resisted for years. “No, I have enough information…”, he said as he left the room. I felt like a failure. Before I left, the nurse put the Holter Monitor on me, I just wanted answers AND assurance, I am okay.

It was almost another two weeks before I got my answer, a very stressful and anxious two weeks. He began with, “There is definitely something wrong but it’s not life threatening”… Uhhh, good news? He told me I have PVC’s (plastic pipe, what?) Premature Ventricular Contractions. We all have a ‘battery’ in our hearts called the Sinus Node. It puts out an electrical signal but in my heart, the signal gets ‘confused’ in the Ventricle Chambers. I know, I don’t fully understand it yet but the oddest part of this is, my heart is beating ‘normally’ but if you take my pulse, it will never be accurate. You have to listen to my heart itself for accuracy. Oddly enough, they don’t know the cause, it’s most common in ‘white women in their 60’s’, oh good Lord! I’m on a very low dose of a medication to help with electrical function, time will tell… I go back in another month and will write an update then. Until then, I will be meditating more…

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