When the Covid shutdown began in March, I did not know if I would ever see a heart doctor or technician in real life again. Other than my brief drive-throughs to pick up my heart study medication, my communications with my heart medical providers were on-line or in e-mails.
But that changed this week when I went in for an echocardiogram. I don’t know how much you know about an echocardiogram, but it’s impossible to do this test on-line. Fortunately for me, the hospital where I go to have this procedure was all set up for visitors and things ran very smoothly.
When I walked into the lobby of the Heart and Vascular Institute building, I came to a table where an employee was wearing a mask. She asked me who I was going to see. I told her I was going to have an echocardiogram. She asked me if I had any symptoms of Covid; or if I had traveled outside the country; or if I had been exposed to anyone with Covid. I said no. She gave me a visitor’s badge to put on my shirt and then directed me to the nurse’s station. The nurse took my temperature, which as usual was running about a degree below normal.
I told the nurse I was having an echocardiogram and she directed me to the cardiac diagnostics area. I checked in and a few minutes later the technician who would be performing the procedure came to get me.
For those of you not familiar with this procedure, the Mayo Clinic advises that an echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of your heart. This common test allows your doctor to see your heart beating and pumping blood. Your doctor can use the images from an echocardiogram to identify heart disease.
The American Heart Association provides these additional details as to what the doctor can learn from the echocardiogram:
About the only good thing I can say about the procedure is that according to the American Heart Association, there are no side effects. You just are positioned on a hospital bed for 30 minutes while the technician runs a probe over the body area covering your heart, briefly around your stomach and then under your chin.
The best tip I have during an echocardiogram is to ask the technician to silence the sound so you don not hear the spooky “wooshing’ noise as the technician probes the area. But still, even without the noise, it is a bit unnerving to know that the picture of your heart that is being revealed may show a weak and enlarged and diseased heart. But I had some help with the anxiety this time around. I remembered that on Sunday, our minister asked us to come up with a phrase or a picture or a memory to remind us that God is with us at all times. I came up with the following phrase that I repeated numerous times to calm me through the process: Be strong my heart, because our Lord loves us and has our backs.
I tried to cajole the technician to give me an advance report on whether this echocardiogram’s results were better worse or about the same as last time. Alas, she said that she had to refer it to a cardiologist to compare with previous echocardiograms and to interpret. and then I would get the results. I suspect that I won’t know anything until I see my heart failure doctor in a few weeks. I continue to seek comfort in my mantra “Be strong my heart…”.
Shortly after I returned home, I had a call from the study coordinator. I have mentioned in previous posts that the heart failure drug study I am in was supposed to end for me around May 20, 2020. However, the last required event of the study is a cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET). Unfortunately, there were no pulmonary specialists available in May to perform the test. I guess they were working with Covid patients.
I learned that specialists are now available to perform the test and that they wanted me to come in on the day that I run out of my study medication – which is Monday, July 13. Unfortunately, there is another requirement that I have to meet before I can perform the CPET. I have to do another Covid test. But this is not the rapid Covid test that can be done on the same day as the CPET. This test takes a little longer for results. The pulmonary program written notice I was provided said that I needed to do this test within 7 days of the CPET. I was told that the test could be performed at the same hospital where I am doing the CPET and I could come over any day this week.
But when I looked at the paperwork that explained the need for the test, it said that I needed an appointment. I called over to the hospital hoping to do the Covid test as soon as I could within the 7-day time frame. I was told that, despite the piece of paper in my hand that said the test could be performed within 7 days, the people scheduling the test said the earliest the hospital rules would allow was within 96 hours. Good grief – does one part of the hospital talk to the other part of the hospital? Apparently not – why should they be different than our government or major corporations or any other business entity?
Accordingly, I scheduled the Covid test for Thursday, July 10 in the morning. As a family member pointed out, based on my last testing experience, I will at least be able to advise which nostril is better to take the sample from, perhaps saving myself some swabbing grief.
With all the heart procedures and Covid testing going on, this has been a bit of a stressful time for me. I think it is safe to say that I have driven my family members, friends and minister crazy with my periodic phone calls and e-mails venting my frustrations. I feel like Covid and heart failure are ganging up to make my life miserable and I just need a strong support alliance to help me defeat this combined united enemy force. The minister keeps telling me to breathe, but I am having a hard time breathing when all my air is being spent lamenting about the curve balls life has thrown my way.
It was not till Bible study a few nights ago that I had an epiphany. We were discussing Psalm 8, which contains the following verse:
’Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
I suddenly realized that the foe I need to silence is me – all the venting and angst is creating this noise in my head that keeps me from seeing that God is always with me and making me strong. So I guess the ultimate happening I had this week is the realization that I can best feel that God is with me making me and my heart strong when I work at being silent. As I soak in God’s strong and focused presence I have the energy and the inspiration to keep the heart hope fires burning.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.