Posted by: mindyourknitting | November 26, 2009

Matters of my heart and bedside manners

First off, thanks to everyone who commented on my last post.  It was reassuring to read that others struggle with getting their babies to sleep, and that different methods work (or don’t) for different parent/baby combinations.  And I took special note of the reminders that she’s only this little once, and I do enjoy those middle of the night moments with her, even if I pay for it the next day.  I guess that’s what caffeine is for.  And of course, after all my bellyaching of a few days ago, she’s been sleeping pretty well the last few days, even sleeping straight through a ten-hour stretch two days ago.

Oh, and new stuff thrown in the Junk Drawer!

This week I had a routine check-up at my cardiologist.  This is not one of my favourite activities.  I’ve been dealing with doctors since before I can remember so it’s mostly just a minor inconvenience at this point, but I had an especially annoying technician do the prep for the visit today.  Unpleasant medical staff is one of my biggest pet peeves.

A bit of background: I was born with a congenital birth defect.  I had a hole in my heart that was repaired by open heart surgery when I was five years old.  Before that could happen I stayed in the hospital until I was three months old, then had two surgeries to place bands around my pulmonary artery to control blood flow to my lungs before I was a year old, and had open heart surgery at five to place a gore-tex-like patch over the hole, thus fixing the ventricular septal defect (I had a “VSD repair”).  Since then I’ve gone to cardiology appointments regularly to check on my ticker, but with lengthening intervals between them as I get older and everything remains the status quo.  I still have a murmur but that’s normal for my heart, although doctors like to listen to it.  Perhaps because it’s neato.  I think the murmur was caused by a slight narrowing of the pulmonary artery from being banded – if someone has a medical background feel free to call me out if I’m full of shit, I have only the slightest grasp of what was actually done (note to self, do more research on self). 

The only blip in this situation happened a few years ago when I started to have fainting spells (because I AM a delicate flower), and after seeing a bunch of specialists I had a loop heart monitor implanted in my chest for a year, during which time of course I didn’t pass out once, but endured many “bionic woman” jokes.  It also showed my how awesomely supportive my husband was – he came to the hospital and took care of me afterward, and probably calmed my mother’s nerves while I was in the OR having the monitor put in (because I’m sure the last place she wanted to be was in a hospital with me again, for something heart-related – she dealt with plenty when I was a kid).  Needless to say, between the multiple surgeries, implanted heart monitor, IVs, angiograms, etc., I’ve got my fair share of battle scars, the biggest of which is my “zipper” from open heart surgery.  The fact that I’ve been dealing with all things heart-related for years and years, and keep appointments and get tests done as advised even when it’s inconvenient for me, means that I get very tetchy when someone at a doctor’s office or hospital acts like I’m inconveniencing them by showing up at the appointed time in the middle of my work day to have something performed that the doctor scheduled for me months ago.

Until I was eighteen I went to the same cardiologist who followed me from the time I was born, and he was located at our local children’s hospital, which is a friendly, fuzzy, caring place.  When I aged out of that hospital I was sent to a cardiologist at the Heart Institute who looked to be about the same age and heritage as Dracula, as portrayed by Gary Oldman (when he’s in full old man vamp mode).  Or maybe I came up with the similarity because his name was Dr. Vlad.  No, I’m not kidding.  At my one and only appointment with him this geriatric gentleman told my eighteen year-old self in his thick Eastern European accent I was a “healthy beast,” and the receptionist, when I tried to schedule the routine follow-up visit he recommended, told me I wasn’t very sick and didn’t need to see him that soon.  Thanks, receptionist lady, but I’ll go with the doctor’s advice on that one.  The whole experience made me very uncomfortable and did not convince me that, should I ever have any issues related to my heart, I would be taken seriously.  So at my next visit to my GP, I requested a new referral and ended up seeing my current cardiologist (we’ll call him Heart Doctor) at a freestanding cardiovascular clinic, with occasional tests and specialist visits taking place at the Heart Institute.  This has all worked out well as I like Heart Doctor.  He draws me diagrams and on my first visit he took the time to explain exactly what had been done to me as a baby, because I’m kind of fuzzy on the details.  Having been a baby at the time and all.  I’ve been going to him for a while now and it’s been fine, except that between appointments I always forget that I don’t like one of the techs at the clinic, and when I walk through the door and see her I sit in the waiting room praying it’s not her that calls out my name.  And it almost always is. 

So Ms. Techy ushered me into an examination room, and being a lady of few words, curtly told me to strip from the waist up and put on a gown.  What, no dinner first?  Truthfully this is SOP for these appointments, but she handed me a gown roughly the size of a bedsheet, so it wouldn’t stay on my shoulders and I couldn’t find a way to sit so that it wasn’t falling off me.  When she came back in, she realized I was wearing tights under my pants (it’s cold here, okay?), so I had to take them off for the electrocardiogram.  Now, as far as I knew I had a routine echocardiogram (like an ultrasound for your heart) in August and this was the follow-up to that with Heart Doctor.  I explained this, and after some back-and-forthing she explained to me that I had an echocardiogram in August but was going to have an EEEEE-leeee-ctro-cardiogram (enunciated in an exaggerated fashion because I’m clearly stoopid) for the appointment.  Oh, okay, simple misunderstanding.  She did the test, which is basically electrodes attached to your arms, chest, and legs for a few minutes to get a readout on a machine, and it was okay except that she tried to rub off the first layer of skin with her little alcohol wipes before applying the adhesive stickers that the electrodes attach to.  And she banged into me with the ECG machine twice, but who’s counting (and it was a very small room).  Next she took my blood pressure, and although I thought the cuff was a bit tight, I refrained from saying anything.  But now have red lines that look like hickeys from where it tightened around my arm.  Rad.  I had a total of less than fifteen minutes of interaction with this woman, but it was enough to put me in a foul mood in what was otherwise a perfectly pleasant day. 

 I think what irks me most in situations like this is that, as a half-naked person undergoing some sort of medical appointment or test, you can’t help but feel vulnerable, and when someone is unpleasant to you or critical of you in that state, you feel even more defenceless.  When she finally left the room after telling me to wait for the doctor, I was sitting in a chair wearing nothing on the top half but the tent of a hospital gown, was minus my nylons and shoes, and still had the too-tight blood pressure cuff on.  What the hell?  At that point I took the cuff off, put my nylons back on (also my shoes), made the best of the gigantic gown, and felt my dignity return.  Then Heart Doctor walks in, and he’s got a medical student with him, grrrr.  I know we have active teaching hospitals here in Ottawa, but there’s little I hate more than having a med student inserted into my appointment (even if that med student is perfectly pleasant, or, as in the case of today’s version, almost invisible).   At least Heart Doctor asked if med student could feel me up listen to my heart.  So to wrap this up, my heart is fine, the final tally of people to touch my chest that day was 3, and if all goes well I don’t have to go back for a couple of years. 

I have no fear or irrational dislike of hospitals, doctors, nurses, medical procedures, needles, etc.  in general, but like any sane person I took this as good news.  Overall my experience with medical professionals has been positive (especially the nurses, you rock!), and I’ve had a lot of experience with them between my own experience and my daughter’s.  But when someone, no matter how small their role, is a complete jerk, it has an impact.  If only they realized it, or cared.  I was kind of annoyed, but got over it quickly and went on my merry way.  But I did hope that the man Ms. Techy called before me, the elderly man who had trouble standing up, took a couple of moments to lean on his cane and shake out his legs so he could shuffle to where she stood holding the door open impatiently, wasn’t subjected to the same disregard I was.  As patients we deserve far better.  As people we demand better.

n.b. As promised in a previous post, I’ll try to dig out the photos of the Giant Pumpkin The Size of a Medium-Sized Child and The Tree That Ate Christmas this weekend and post them – trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  I have some plans for Christmas photos I want to take as we start to get the house ready for the holidays, but I dropped don’t know what happened to my Nikon but it won’t autofocus, so it’s in being repaired at the moment.  Puhleeeze, camera gods, don’t let it be a full 60 days in repair purgatory.  Oh, the photo ops I am missing.



  1. I really hope that you’re right and that The Tech was less of a bitch to him. Patients deserve much better than that. You’re right.

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