Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Great News - It's Only Pneumonia!

Back in mid-summer I started getting some pains in my jaws, left arm and neck when walking.  Of course I should point out that they didn't occur until the 5th mile on a 95 degree day... but a search on Google suggested that the pains could be a sign of cardiac issues.

So I eventually scheduled an appointment with my Doctor to discuss.  By the time the appointment rolled around, I had grown gradually weaker, and was actually feeling like I had the beginnings of the flu.  (But I was still walking everyday...)

Phase 1,  she diagnosed me with pneumonia - at least in terms of the fatigue and flu-like issues.  So I did a round of antibiotics and grudgingly a small dose of rest.  And got better!
Enter Phase 2.  As I rapidly improved, the Doctor begin to suspect that the pneumonia had been in my lungs for quite some time and could possibly be the cause of the other stuff.  To be sure, she set me up for a Nuclear Stress Test.

For those of you who have never had the privilege of such a test, they basically inject (through an IV) you with a radioactive dye and take a CT scan of your heart. at rest.  Then you hop on a treadmill and work your heart rate up, or pass out trying, then go back for a second CT scan.  Ultimately they will compare your heart at rest versus under stress.

I had done one of these about 5 years ago when I wasn't in very good shape and I always felt like the treadmill had defeated me.  You see, its no ordinary treadmill.  Sure it looks like the same kind of thing you would find in a gym, but this one has a mind of its own.  They start you out slow on a slight incline, then the treadmill automatically speeds up and tilts up - a lot.  Of course they warn you when the change is coming and you are instructed to cry "uncle" when you've had enough.  It can get the best of you pretty darn quick, especially if you are out of shape.  And it did... back then.

Oh yeah, did I mention that they have a "crash cart" standing by, just in case the treadmill really does you in?

But today was a new day.  Yes, I was still recovering from pneumonia, but being a guy who now walks 5 miles per day, I wasn't about to let the treadmill get one over on me again. It was personal this time and believe you me, I was going to ride this thing until it cried "uncle".

The test begin at a painfully slow pace, though because it was inclined slightly, there was a slight tug in my leg muscles.  And even worse - they told me I had to hold on to the safety bar for the duration of the test.  How embarrassing!  I never hold on with my own treadmilll - its acutally much more comfortable with walk with my arms swinging at my sides.  I sure hope on one was taking pictures...

I can't stand to walk slow, so I had to just wait impatiently for the speed to increase.  Eventually I got to a moderate but somewhat lazy rate, but at least it felt like walking.   The Doctor wanted a heart rate of 144, but I was stuck down in the 80 range.  Speed up and tilt.  My heart rate barely changed.  Speed up and tilt.  A slight increase up to about 95, but a long way from the target.  

We got to the 6 minute mark and a comment was made that not too many people went past that.  I laughed - now I was getting the upper hand over the treadmill.  We kept going and finally at about the 9 minute mark my heart rate got into the 144 range.  At 10 minutes the Doctor decided she had all the data she needed and that the preliminary results for my heart looked great, so SHE elected to shut it down.

I got off feeling victorious!  I had beaten the machine, I had won and I wasn't even breathing hard.  While the technician un-wired me I asked what the record time on the machine was.  Without batting an eye he said "a 62 year old guy went 18 minutes, but he was in really, really  good shape."


But the good news is - it was only pneumonia!

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