Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Critical Mom's Heart (Or: When to Listen to Your Doctor--and When Not--Part Four or Five

So finally I found a good one.  A really good cardiologist.  The kind of doctor who spends time talking with the patient.  It was only ten minutes, but nothing was rushed and I could have talked much longer if I'd wanted to do so.
The attentive reader knows that around 15 months ago one Dr. Med. Herr Alarmist of the local university hospital--a playground for medical students--examined my Mitral Valve Prolapse and harrumphed me into a stress test.  Okay. The medical student who did it, on his cell inquiring, "Uh, what does it mean, like, when, this value is, uh?" and the one who did the EKG seemed eager to please the head honcho, who said, "These are abnormal rythms!  You should get an angiogram."

"Wait a minute," I said.  "I have no symptoms.  I have no diabetes.  I have no high blood pressure.  My LDL and HDL are exactly what they should be--"

"They've improved, yes," grouched Dr. Alarmist.  That part irritated him.

"This is an invasive test.  How long would I be unable to go to ballet and tap and go places with my kids?"

"You'd have two weeks of rest required . . . no activity."

"Is this really necessary?"

"You have abnormal rhythms!!"

"Please, tell me--if you were me, my age, my weight, my general health, my level of activity, would you take this test?"

Then Dr. Alarmist's finger wagging began.  Literally.  As his metronome-like digit invaded my space,  he raised his voice at me:  "The point is, that heart muscle could just stop working!"

I turned down the test, saying I needed to look into such tests.

"You should listen to your doctor!" he yelled.

I went home.  On the way, really bad chest pains developed . . .  the very first chest pains of my life . . . on the right side of my chest, where, guess what?  There's no heart!  But I forgot that.   I made an appointment with another cardiologist, a nice old guy who did an ultrasound, but had no equipment for the other tests the university hospital had performed.  He said I was fine, but that if I wanted to make absolute sure I could have this test where they run dye through your veins for 6 hours
. . .  no thanks.
Every time I saw my internist, she wondered if I should go get that angiogram.  I got more and more nervous. 
Finally I asked a friend studying cardiology to recommend someone and she did.  I had to get to the tram stop a few minutes after seven in the morning and spend an hour and a half getting to Düsseldorf, but it was worth it.
The new doctor did an ultrasound and a stress test.  Results:  The Mitral Valve Prolapse is "so small I might not have mentioned it."  According to the stress test, my heart is performing at 112% of what is expected for my age.  He recommends no tests at all.  See ya in two years, if you want, was his attitude. 

So now I know:

(1) Never trust a doctor who refuses to answer the question, "If you were me, would you have this test?"

(2) Never trust a doctor who says, "This is the only way!"

(3) Never trust a doctor who says, "You should . . .  .!"

(4) But you'd never trust anyone who said those things, would you?   Except maybe your mother.

I spent more than a year worrying I could drop dead like Tim Russert or J. Rodale, the one who said, "I never felt better!" on the Dick Cavett show before suddenly snoring--and Cavett knew he was out like a light.

 I'm delighted to have seen a doctor who, when I asked about abnormal rhythms, cheerfully informed me that "nobody knew!" why women have more of them.  Nothing like a doc who tells you the truth.  They're gold, those docs.
This comes to you from my heart.

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