Posted by: jeanne | June 28, 2010

my latest medical test

still joking after all these years.  the medical profession proves more dangerous than helpful once more, this time on the body of yours truly.

today i went for a transesophogeal echocardiogram, a TEE, and boy did i have fun.  i had so much fun my throat is sore and i had to sleep off a generous dose of synthetic heroin and versed (1,2,out).  but better yet, i get to do it all over again in two weeks.

listen till i tell you.

i’m one of the lucky people with cancer – i could actually die of something else.  this gives endless variation to what was until then a sure thing.  i like that.  i mean, it’s always been cancer…or being hit by a bus.  but basically the likelihood is that i know how i’m going to die, just not when.  and that settles a lot of things for me, in a great way that i recommend to everyone who takes things lightly and thinks they’ve got all the time in the world.

anyway, i’ve got an inherited ascending aortic aneurysm.  my dad died of a ruptured aneurysm just 4 years older than me, and it turns out that every one of my siblings, and every one of my dad’s sister’s kids has an ‘on the large side of normal’ heart.  except for my little sister lisa who has just come thru her aneurysm operation with flying colors, except for an infection she picked up, which please god it isn’t staph.

so i’m supposed to have my aortic root measured once every six months or so, which, given my rigorous schedule of rounds between other specialists, turns out to have been two years now since the last one.  i figure the occasion of my sister’s surgery is a good excuse to get myself checked out, so i call the cardiologist and remind him that it’s been awhile and i need a follow up.

he likes to push cat scans, but in this case settles for scheduling me for an mri-angiogram.  but the insurance balks, because they don’t think i have anything wrong with me.

and that’s because my cardiologist doesn’t know much about this inherited aaa syndrome, and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with me.

my sister, who has seen her aortic root swell very quickly indeed, screams at this.

i remind the cardiologist’s secretary that i’m signed up in two national studies of this genetic defect, and her response is that i should get the study administrators to argue with the insurance company instead.  which is not happening.  so i suggest we try for a TEE, which is just an echo, altho one involving sedation, and after some searching, finds a hospital way outside the city where the insurance will cover such a test.

so okay.  last night i didn’t eat after midnight, altho i guzzled water against orders all night long.  but you try not drinking any water when you’re lying in bed without air conditioning, and the thermostat is off the scale at 89F.  hell, i drank water all the way up to the hospital door at 11 am, and it was all out of my stomach and being sweated out in minutes.

anyway.  we drove for an hour to get there, and then the cardiologist’s secretary had forgotten to fax over the orders, so we had to sit there for an extra twenty minutes, while the cardiology nurse raced the fax machine to write orders so we could get on with our little procedure.

so they put me in this dingy little room where they had a truly medieval looking tube with knobs on it.  they hid this out of sight.  the various techs, all women, wired me up for the echo, and wired me again, separately, to keep an eye on my vitals.  the vitals tech made a pretty mess of my arm trying twice to find a vein, but that arm is getting very unwilling, and so i’m not surprised to find a large bruise in my elbow.

at least one of the nurses was displeased to see the echo machine they were using.  she frowned and said, ‘that thing?’

once they had me hooked up to a saline drip, they called the doctor, who is a cute little round thing from india, who all the girls liked, and who ate it up.  the vitals tech finished taking my vitals (120/60 bp, 55 resp, 97 pulsox), and made me recite enough about myself to make sure the saline hadn’t taken effect yet, and told me they were about to numb me up, sedate me, and jam a rubber probe down my throat, and did i understand?

so i made a joke about having graduated from the deep throat school of social interaction, and they giggled.  the doctor didn’t get it, so i made a further joke about my days in the sex industry, and the girls roared.

they gave me viscous lidocaine to gargle with, but it’s hard to gargle with a jelly, so the doctor exhorted me to get it as far down as possible while i tried hard not to gag on it completely.  and then he wanted me to swallow.  i should have swallowed a bit at a time so as to numb as far down as possible, but perhaps they thought that an unnecessary step, because the next thing was a lidocaine spray that the doctor shot down my throat after warning me not to gag or try to pull away.

then they shoved a plastic spacer in my mouth and asked me a complex question about my willingness to help them out by swallowing the tube a couple of times.  i wasn’t able to answer as i wished, but at that point he called for half a unit of fentanyl and versed, and things began to get a little indistinct.

it’s not that i fell asleep.  when i had versed by itself before, for an endoscopy, it was count to three…one, two, out.  and the space between two and out was filled with a nasty, bad physical feeling.  very bad.  but with synthetic heroin in my main line, it was a different story.  i would have entertained and amused them mightily if only there hadn’t been a tube down my throat.  as it was, i thrashed around and amused them with my lighthearted facial expressions.  i asked one of the nurses to remember what i said and tell me later, but i forget if she did or not.

i remember that they had repeated trouble getting the machine to work.  i remember all the fuss they were making around me as i lay there trying to get some sleep.  i remember the doctor saying to take it out and we’ll try it again later.  i remember waking up various times to see different ones of the nurses and techs gathered around my bed, talking.  then i remember being quite woozy getting out of bed, toddling off to find jim.  i vaguely remember being wheeled out to the car, but not really.  i remember jim going the wrong way down the road and having to turn around after a few miles.  i remember deciding to go straight to bed when we got home, and then i remember waking up after a good couple of hours and taking it easy the rest of the day.

they told me i couldn’t eat or drink for two hours after the procedure, because my throat would be numb.  but it didn’t stop me from downing a sandwich i’d brought with me (homemade sourdough, melted cheese and a fried egg with a slice of onion) , and drinking a pint and some of water.  and it’s a good thing i did, because after a couple of hours, the anasthetic in my throat wore off, and it became excruciating to swallow anything.  it still hurts a whole lot now.  it’s as if they caught the tube on my larynx and then pulled and pushed it until it came free.  i’m sure they’d deny this, but how am i to know, after they screwed up everything else?  the orders, the first venipuncture, the fucked up machine they could have tested before sedating me and abrading my throat.  did i really have to sleep off heroin this afternoon?  i feel rather used.  shoddy medical treatment by people i rather like and want to trust.

anyway,  i came away with the same time marked down for two weeks from now.  it’s in my handwriting, so i assume, and jim confirms, that we rescheduled the test.



  1. Wow. What a piece of crap. Maybe use this time to see if you can get the other, non-invasive, not painful, test approved?

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