The Yoga Teacher's Heart Attack
Chapter 8: Cardiologist #1
Handsome ... and Flirty?
March 23 2017
Thankfully, my first meeting with Dr. Worth-the-Wait lived up to his reputation.
Although, clearly I'm not in Kansas any more. The waiting room was cheek-to-jowl with people in wheelchairs, people with oxygen tanks ... and no one under age 75.
I reminded me of neurologist waiting rooms in the 1970s, when I was an inquisitive (and lonely) elementary school kid, yearning to meet just one other person with seizures. I would actually go around to all the other patients and asked if they had seizures.
Here in Cardiac Country, I want to stand on a chair and ask if anyone else does hot yoga?
Dr. Worth-the-Wait's nurse was one of those greyhound-thin women with every hair in place, perfectly powder-dipped nails and a bit of an attitude.
"Did you bring your medications in a bag, as we asked?"
"Oh, shoot. Sorry. I brought a print out of my medications and supplements."
She snorts a little derisively and says that cardiac patients need to bring in the actual bottles.
Hmm. Seems weird and very 1980s. Right?
We review my symptoms and then the nurse reaches into a drawer and hands me a glossy tri-fold brochure with Dr. Worth-the-Wait's picture on the front.
"He really is worth the wait! He is also running behind, as he usually does. So I thought you could acquaint yourself with all of this professional accomplishments while you wait. Really, you are lucky you were referred; he doesn't usually see new patients."
Wow. Well color me pleased as punch. Not thrilled about the 35+ minute wait, but when he blows in, all breezy and handsome, I briefly thought of McSteamy on Grey's Anatomy. I thought handsome doctors were only seen on TV.
Dr. Worth-the-Wait immediately leans back against the wall, all chill, like we are at the clam shack taking a break from surfing the pipe.
I gave him the thumbnail version: sinus surgery, vasovagal, eyes turned off in the express lane, then the visit to the ER, feeling squeezed by King Kong and the abnormal EKG and the elevated trop-in-inini thing.
(Note to self: look up to how pronounce that important word!)
He asked if there was anyone in my family with a history of fainting. Why, yes!
My dad is a devout fainter, as is my sibling, and my grandmother.
Any history of heart disease in my family?
Well, not really. Although my dad did have a pacemaker and my mom has skipped beats and mitral valve something. And my grandmother had quardruple bypass in the 1970s.
"But no history of heart attacks in your family?"
Dr. Worth-the-Wait listens to my heart, has me take some deep breaths, says everything sounds great.
He asks what I do for fun. I mention hot yoga and dragon boating and also say, a little boastfully, that I had recently won a Moth StorySLAM and would be competing at Seattle Town Hall next week.
He mentions that his family was well-known for their storytelling exploits and said that his wife had recently done some poetry slams. He wanted to know if he'd be able to buy a ticket for my show next week; I'm pleased to inform him that, no, the show is sold out.
"And I'm guessing you already have your plus-one picked out?"
Did he wink? Or was it a twitch? Can I just say? It felt like he was being a bit flirty. Maybe cardiologists are always like that.
"Well, you would be interested to know that I happen to be friend with a certain Lake Woebegon denizen," a sly reference to storytelling god Garrison Keillor.
"You know Garrison Keillor?" I'm trying to sound chill, but I'm a little over the moon.
"Again, I can't really divulge much ... "
"Oh, right, so you treated him as a patient and you can't tell me what his cholesterol is?" I'm feeling like a giddy teenager.
"I've spent some summers in Minnesota, so I can say that Garry and I go way back."
Yes, yes, Dr. Worth-the-Wait has lived up to his name.
We return to my prognosis and Dr. Worth-the-Wait promised me that I’m just “a little extra vagally.”
When I mentioned the chest pain and the hard time walking up stairs, he made a pshaw noise and said that there are some things you lose with age.
He also mentioned fainting goats. He said that scientists don’t really know why the goats faint, but that some people are also structured like fainting goats.
When I mentioned that I hadn’t ever fainted before he laughed and said “Well, there’s a first time for everything.”
For good measure, he scheduled me for a treadmill stress test and also had his PA put a one-week heart rate monitor on … I could return the heart rate monitor at the stress test, and, voila!, my fainting goat woes would be solved.
“I can tell just by looking at you that you are not a person with a heart problem.” He was also quick to add, "It's okay, people are always coming in here stressed out.
Not all heart problems are serious."
Reassuring advice from Dr. Worth-the-Wait. But, I'll admit, my Google finger was itching to research how many heart problems are, you know, non-serious.
I'm convinced that Dr. Worth-the-Wait was exactly who the universe put in my life to soothe my jangled nerves.
He leaves and his physician assistant comes in and gives me a stick-on heart rate monitor that I have to wear for seven days.
"Now, remember, don't t get it wet," instructed the nurse.
"You mean, no showers, even?"
"No, you can shower, just don't do something stupid like hot yoga."
I bit my tongue.
The best part of the heart rate monitor was that every time I felt a heart pang, I was to push the button in the center of the monitor, and then write in my heart diary what I was doing, how much the pang hurt, etc.
Secretly, I’m thrilled. I have had chest pain all the time when I’m exercising, but I assumed this was just a good workout. Isn’t that what Richard Simmons meant when he said “No pain, no gain”?
Also, I’ve had this oogey feeling that my heart has stopped for just two or three seconds and then there’s this jumping, lurching feeling, like the heart has to think hard on how to find its rhythm again.
Now, I can push a button and catch it in action.
I leave the office confident that I do not have a heart problem. I just cannot. I mean, how could I? I have enviably low blood pressure (usually around 100 over 60), a nice zenny resting pulse rate in the 60s and, have I mentioned? Kale and yoga, they are my cape, right, my shield of invincibility.
I didn’t make any big changes for the week I wore the heart monitor. I didn't go to hot yoga for one week, but I did work a school auction with my heart rate monitor on.
I also went on a long walk across the 520 bridge with the girls, wanting to get as many datapoints as possible.
When I mentioned on Facebook (complete with pic of the sticky heart monitor) that no, no, I’m okay, I'm just a fainting goat, my friend Allison promised to take me for ice cream at the fabulous Fainting Goat in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.