Friday, September 30, 2011

Rumours of my pending demise...

Several weeks ago I had to have an ECG as part of my work medical check up. 'Hmm', said the doctor, conveniently located across the road. Hmm, doesn't sound good. It wasn't. There was an irregularity. Contact your own doctor and arrange to see a cardiologist and in the meantime, enjoy your time off work as off work you will be until this is cleared up. Some time later I showed the Bone Doctor my ECG printout. Hmm, she said.

Oh joy, my doctor was on holidays. Right, I was quite happy with the doctor I saw for the medical so rang for an appointment for the next day. She organised a heart stress test by a cardiologist in The Avenue, Windsor. If you are going to have a heart attack, one thing for sure, a heart stress test will bring it on. Briefly, you use a walking machine while wired up. The machine increases the difficulty of walking and they push you until you can't do any more. I lasted over ten minutes. My heart was given an ultrasound which took a long time. Then dye was injected and more ultrasound. The whole process took at least an hour and a half.

The cardiologist reported to the doctor that all was well, and all reports were sent to my own doctor. I could go back to work after five days off. While the days off were nice, a pending medical problem is not.

Then out of the blue last Monday I received a letter from Monash Heart in Clayton to attend this Friday for a chest CT scan. Who organised this and why Clayton? I am not wanting to travel to Clayton when there is the perfectly good Alfred Hospital nearby. What time? 7.15am! I can't drive home either, not that I wanted to take the car, when there is a train that suits very well. If something went wrong with the train service, I would get stressed. But just driving to an unfamiliar area and parking hassles and charges would be bound to stress me. I'd rather take my chances with the train. Normally R would take time off work and deliver me and collect me, but it was a big day at work for him. Had I have asked him, he would have, but catching a train isn't that hard is it.

R dropped me at South Yarra Station at 6.30. The 6.42 to Cranbourne arrived on time. At 7.03 I exited Clayton Station after a pleasant trip on an old Hitachi train. I haven't been on one for perhaps a decade or more. It was a bit noisy and you did really feel like you were on a train, but it was ok. I decided that if I regularly used trains at that hour, I would need to dress more appropriately. The wind on the platform at South Yarra Station was biting.

Walking along Clayton Road at seven in the morning felt very strange. I passed by houses that were very familiar to me from when I was a kid. The houses were built on land where many relatives were market gardeners. I was feeling a sense of unreality. I was just an observer, watching myself and also noting houses, buildings and people who were part of the dream. While of course I knew why I was walking along Clayton Road at seven in the morning, I was still wondering, what am doing on a strange road, in a strange area at this hour of the morning?

I was at the hospital right on time. Well done Metro Trains. It should always be thus. I thought of Victor as I entered the hospital and two volunteers sitting at a desk. Victor who is visiting Melbourne this weekend performs a similar role. Regardless of knowing Victor, I think these people do a marvellous service to those who might be overwhelmed, lost, confused, stressed or whatever by their hospital visit.

The test took about two hours. One hour is spent waiting for drugs to lower your heart rate to about 60. In the meantime blood is taken and a cannula inserted to inject dye. After three tries, they gave up on the veins in the crooks of my arms and found a nice big fat vein in my forearm. While not really painful, the third attempt took its toll and I suffered mild shock I guess, vision blurry and sweating. I put in the room where the machine did its stuff and then had hang around for twenty minutes to make sure I was ok.

At one point I spied a familiar face. He came up and told me that he was my cardiologist. Oh, I have a cardiologist. I am not sure if that gives me bragging rights or not. I kind of expected to be a good bit older before having a cardiologist. Now, as many old people do, how can I slip 'My cardiologist says...' into conversation? He apologised to me for not informing me about the test. He had been on holidays and neglected to tell anyone to let me know. The nurse told him to go away as my heat rate had risen from 60 to 70. I'll call you later, he said as he departed. I was offered coffee and asked who to call to collect me. No one, I said. You can't drive you know. Yes, I know. I caught the train. Given I recovered ok, they were fine with that. I also declined their coffee and went to the hospital cafe for some sorely needed food and decent coffee as I was not allowed food or coffee that morning.

I walked some back streets to the station. I walked behind a large two storey brick Victorian building, now used for medical services. Must find out what it was.

The train arrived soon after I arrived at the station. I took the last remaining seat. By Oakleigh, the train was very full. By Caulfield, it was crowded. Amazing at ten in the morning. I was going to get off at South Yarra and then catch a train to Prahan to get a few bits, but I decided to stay on the train and go to the city instead. I bought the bits I needed at QV and headed to Swanston Street for a tram home.........but no trams. Damn footballers are parading through the city before the football final tomorrow.

It is more than a kilometre to walk to where the trams are terminating and I could have a heart condition you know. My cardiologist says..... Instead I caught the bus along Lonsdale St to Queen Street and another bus home.

While the results of today's scan are pending, my heart seems perfectly ok in the cardiologist's opinion.

Monash Hospital was excellent. The staff were good, caring and competent. The interior was attractive and the waiting areas and treatment areas comfortable. The cost, nothing to me. Our public system Medicare paid, although I noticed on a form that it was $665. It is not to say that at times there aren't problems with our public health system, but in my experience, I have never received less than first class service.

Now I better do the usual Friday vacuuming. Or should I say to R when he gets home, sorry, can you do it? My cardiologist says...


  1. Hello Andrew:
    This all sounds most alarming and we do so very much hope that all will be well.

  2. I think it will be ok, thanks JayLa.

  3. Oh no! Hope your heart's okay and gets better from here on out.

  4. Hopefully the test shows that all is well with you.

    Now I know why you weren't available for lunch today for which by way of interest our meeting place was Swanston St at 12.30. Could we have passed each other there unknowingly?

    I'm looking forward to meeting you tomorrow.

  5. You think that all is well, then all of a sudden you received a letter from Monash Heart in Clayton to attend for a chest CT scan. I would be spitting chips. Who organised this and why Clayton - indeed!!! Holidays were the bloke's excuse, but isn't the patient to be consulted?

    Anyhow, hopefully all will be 100% well. This ageing process is not fun.

  6. Whoa! Sounds like getting the diagnosis was more stressful than the actual condition. But love how you're slipping 'my cardio said ...' into general conversation like a seasoned pro! Make it work for you, I say!!!

  7. That was such a great post thanks Andrew.
    My cardiologist says that if your cardiologist has this effect -
    "The nurse told him to go away as my heart rate had risen from 60 to 70" that is pretty funny.

    I have been worrying since I read your cryptic comment at Fens - you will be fine I am sure, and the treatment/tests all sound really efficient. X X

  8. Eliminate the worst possibilities first, is my motto, and it sounds like your carers are being very thorough.
    Hope all your results are fine [as I am sure they will be].

  9. Tim, I am sure it will be fine. It does give you a precursor to the feeling of mortality though. It is ages away for you yet.

    Victor, I wasn't available for lunch because I was working, or supposed to be until the bombshell arrived in the post. I think I arrived home about 12, so a bit earier. It did occur to me that I could meet you for lunch, but it had been a full on morning, shall we say. I needed to be home.

    Hels, if I have to continue to interact with medical folk, beyond my own doctor, I think I need to find my voice and question. Not fun, but hey, a day off work. I try to see the positive.

    Dearest Ann, I wasn't going to post about it, but at some time I changed my mind. No harm, so far, has come to me by being reasonably honest on my blog. It is a significant event, so it should be on the record. Had the outcome have been bad though, I am not sure I would have written about it.

    Fruitcake, inner city, working, not poor, white male, with a partner, friends and family, around 50 years old, of course I will get good treatment. I hope it is the same for all Australians. I know it is not.

  10. It all sounds like a huge stressful scary hassle.

    Hopefully you'll be okay!!!!!!!

    Please keep us updated.

  11. I've no doubt that you'll live to fight for many days to come even after your adventure just going and returning from the heart stress test proved that :-).

  12. I empathise Andrew. I had to do the same bunch of tests when I was in my 20s. I must say you lasted longer on the treadmill than I did. The doctor made me stop after only a few minutes. Hope everything checks out ok.

  13. Dina, while it wasn't nice, I felt in myself that nothing was wrong.

    Onward and upward Windsmoke.

    AdRad, even scarier when you were that age. Obviously you have survived.

  14. Oh between the two of us....

    So glad things seem to be okay. I think the public health system is fantastic, they've been wonderful to me so far.

    And I thought you said "my interior was attractive..." and had a little giggle to myself, then giggled at myself. Oh dear.

  15. Fen, if I was really worried, it may well have only between the two of us. I dun think the interior of any body is very attractive.