For the past year I’ve been experiencing some shortness of breath and minor chest pain. At first I thought they were a result of being horribly out of shape. So, I spent the past year working on getting in shape. I transformed the clothes rack in the corner of my bedroom back into a treadmill and started walking every night. At first it was slow and steady. Recently I’ve been up to walking 3 miles each night at a speed of about 4 miles per hour. Not winning any races, but definitely generating some sweat.
None of that helped the shortness of breath or the pain. Sure, I can walk for 3 miles without usually getting winded, but putting on my shoes results in some gasping. The Wife says that I’m the only person she knows who gets winded going up in the elevator. I talk to my doctor about this, he sends me off to the local heart specialty place for a couple of tests.
First up is the Stress Echo test. This test consists of being hooked up to a bunch of wires, taking a sonogram of your heart, hopping on a treadmill set to a ridiculous angle, ramping up the speed and incline until you reach a target heart rate, then hopping back on the table for another heart sonogram. They want to compare the before & after images to see if your heart is working properly when engaged in physical activity. Takes about 30 minutes or so to complete, depending on how long you can last on the treadmill from hell. Did it and the results were totally normal. Yay! My heart works just the way it should when put through stress.
Next I go in for a Coronary Calcium Score, which looks at the amount of calcium built up on your arteries. The best way to describe this test is like an MRI for your heart. They have you lay down on a table, slide you into a big machine, it makes lots of noise, you hold your breath a few times, then you slide back out. Afterward they mail you the results. It takes a whopping 10 or 15 minutes and is one of the easiest tests I’ve ever taken.
My doctor had said that a score of 0-100 on the Coronary Calcium test is okay. Over 100 is cause for concern, but easily manageable. Scoring over 400 and you’re fucked. Okay, he didn’t say “fucked” but the sentiment was there. Over 400 and you have a big problem. I fully expected to have some calcium, I’m over 40 and don’t have the absolute best eating habits. Couple that with my history of high blood pressure and I figure I’m going to score around 50 or so.
The letter with the results arrived yesterday. The first page summarizes what the test is, how it’s scored, what the score ranges mean, etc. Just Give Me My Damn Score! Scanning the first page was totally useless. Sure, I should probably read it at some point, but all I care about is seeing my 48 or 53 or whatever. Finally, page 2 starts off with “Your total calcium score is….” Drum roll please
Yep, mind totally blown! The interpretation states:
“High risk of cardiac event over next 3 years.”
Basically I’m totally hosed! I am having significant trouble dealing with this mentally. I barely slept last night and cannot wrap my head around this. I have so many questions and don’t really know where to start. I know that I have to meet with my doctor and, I guess, find a cardiologist. After that, what?
I tried using Google to research the results but all I can find are descriptions of the test and medical studies illustrating how the scores are accurate predictors of heart disease and heart attacks. Great, just FUCKING great!
What sort of cardiac event should I expect? Is the three years any time between now and 4/20/2019? Should I expect to die in that timeframe? How serious of an event are we looking at? My father-in-law had 3 heart attacks in the last few years and is looking better than ever. The man still runs a cattle ranch. By himself!
I made the mistake of telling The Wife about this. Since that conversation she has been treating me like a China doll. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. When she hugged me before I left for work this morning, she hugged much longer than normal. Is that what I should come to expect? I can’t process this on my own, much less have any concept of how to help her process the information.
No way am I sharing this information with The Kids any time soon. I am not up for that.
I’m sure this will become a frequently written about topic here. I hope the readers don’t mind the subject and my ramblings on it, but this does take center stage in my life right now.
What in the hell am I going to do? When will I hear back from my doctor?