THEY’VE LOOKED AT MY HEART FROM ALL SIDES NOW
Freshman mom has sort of been MIA since I got back from Boston and Providence. Between trying to finish the edit for the DVD of Lucky Ducks and visiting what felt like every heart specialist in New York over the last ten days I have pretty much had no time for anything. As of tomorrow the DVD is off and on its way for duplication. I have just seen the cover of the box designed by the very talented Zachariah Mattheus and it looks amazing. So that project is almost ready to set sail. My oh-so-trusty assistant Allison Hughes is taking care of the Amazon/Paypal aspect of it all so we should be in business by the time Marie Claire hits the stands April 1st with a story on me and the making of the film.
So, that leaves us left with my heart and the question why was I running a relay from doctor to doctor all over the Upper East Side?
In order to get my eyes done I need to have a normal EKG sent to the doctor. This is standard practice if you have a decent doctor, and very easy if you have a normal EKG.
I was planning to go to the cardiologist anyway as I am a big believer in getting your heart checked after forty-eight or so every few years. We will talk more about that tomorrow. I also go and visit the endocrinologist to get all my blood work done every two years. We will discuss that tomorrow as well.
Now, being the type A, no stone left unturned, quasi-hypochondriac that I am I tend to have some of the best doctors around. They might even be some of the best in the world. They are all tops at either Mt. Sinai, Columbia or New York Hospital, so I would imagine that makes them some of the best in their fields in the world. My friends are always calling for doctor referrals and it’s a good idea if you know me, my group is the bomb– so to speak.
So jolly me, off I go to see the cardiologist. Now these guys like to fly beneath the radar; they don’t want their names all over my blog, so we will call him Dr. EKG. He works in the same office as the endo who we will call Dr. Dracula as he is known for taking more blood than any other doctor in New York City. The man tests you for diseases that haven’t even been invented yet.
So, Dr. EKG is first and wouldn’t you know it, my EKG is all over the place. I have and knew I had, what one of my doctors who does not mind being mentioned, Dr. Bernard Kruger, calls a regular-irregular heartbeat. But last week it was sort of looking like a three year old’s drawing of the Alps. It didn’t seem to worry Dr. EKG, but I have this terrible habit of asking doctors so many questions that even if they think I am probably fine, after my ten-minute inquisition, I convince them otherwise.
So after I presented him with any number of possible disasters he decided that since I was planning the eyelift we had better get to the bottom of it and I should wear a heart monitor.
So before I got to even see Dr. Dracula I found myself over at an Arrhythmia Consultant being hooked up to twenty-four hour heart monitor. The person who hooked it up wasn’t the doctor. The actual doctor would read the results and see me two days later; we will call her Dr. Cautious.
So around I go heart monitor on, wondering why if in fact there really was nothing wrong with me, I looked liked someone hooked up to life support. Now, if you want to feel about eighty years old, and the least sexy person alive look at yourself with a heart monitor on, it’s really pathetic. I hid under sweaters and robes for the 24 hours I wore it hoping Lucy wouldn’t see it and frankly trying to avoid it myself. But I managed to exercise in it and eventually got up the courage to start talking about it, and the amazing thing is once I started talking about it, it turns out all sorts of people had worn them, were about to wear them, or were thinking of wearing one. I think this spring heart monitors are going to be the new “It” accessory.
During the twenty-four hours you are supposed to just go about your life, they actually want you to exercise, have sex and do what ever gets your heart rate up. What got my heart rate up was wearing the freaking monitor; it made me a nervous wreck and in terms of sex, please– I can’t imagine how one would pull that off. The second, I mean the nanosecond the twenty-hours was up I ripped that sucker off so fast, I’m amazed I didn’t take a layer of skin with it.
Now, Dr. Dracula who was sort of checked out of this whole part of my care felt from the get-go that my heart rate is due to the fact I’m wound like a top. He has known me personally for some time. The others all know me as Patient Irregular. Bernard, who has known me for over thirty years, always felt the same way, “You get yourself so worked up you get your heart racing.” But one has to really know me to make that assessment. To the blind eye, or new doctor, I’m someone whose heart can’t keep time properly.
I have many theories myself as to why my heart is off track but I think we all know what that theory probably is. Give me a B!
Two days later I show up at the office of Dr. Cautious hoping that she would tell me it was regularly irregular, sign the release and then I could go and reserve the OR for my eyes. And the amazing thing is as cautious as Dr. Cautious is she was about to.
“It doesn’t worry me,” she said “because it comes from the lower chamber. If it came from the upper chamber it would be something else, something we might have to really investigate, but looking at all your other stats – don’t drink too much coffee and come see me this time next year.”
But wouldn’t you know me, Tracey can’t leave well enough alone, I say –
“You’re sure it’s not my arteries?” Why I had to bring that up I have no idea, didn’t I learn my lesson over at Dr. EKG’s? She had not mentioned my arteries.
But I think since Blake’s death – I have this fear, many of us do even though Blake didn’t die of heart disease but there is that little voice – something could be lurking.
Well, that was all Dr. Cautious had to hear. She said,“You’re right, and your heart could be enlarged too.”
Now, she hadn’t said that before, and Dr. EKG had not only given me an EKG he had given me an echocardiogram which shows if your heart is enlarged. I reminded Dr. Cautious that Dr. EKG had checked my heart and said it was normal size.
“Well, not the back” she said. “He can’t see the back and right side only the front and left.”
Great, my third heart test in as many days and they still knew nothing, talk about irregular beats my heart sounded like Ringo Starr was practicing on it.
So she said “You must go get an MRI.”
An MRI?????? How the hell did we get from there to here?
I told her I had a ticking clock, as I would lose the OR and have to reschedule my eyelift. Ah vanity thy name is stupidity some days.
“It’s the only way to really find out,” she said.
She called the guys who do the MRIs and they put me in the for next day. One of the great things about having this team who are at the tippy top of the New York docs is they all know each other and they secure you an appointment faster than Apolo Ohno gets to the finish line.
So, now I had to go see the guy to give me the MRI, terrific. The day I go is snowy, my appointment is late and at the end of the day and it’s Lucy’s birthday. I keep thinking what if they find I have an enlarged heart and have six months to live, how will I ever sing Happy Birthday to her? But tick, tick, tick the eyes are waiting and I must confess by now I’m a tad curious about what is wrong with me. More than a tad, I’m – pardon the pun- dying to know.
I go to the MRI place and I’m the last one of the day. I answer another nine thousand question survey. I checked off for the seventeenth time that week no I do not have epilepsy, seizures, prostate cancer, I’m not pregnant, nursing or suffering from kidney disease, I’m just a high strung Jew! I actually think they should add that to those questionnaires. In Denial Wasp? High Strung Jew? Accepting Buddhist? I always check off the same things, “Asthma” and “Anxious” which I guess is as close to High Strung Jew as they can get without sounding anti-Semitic.
MRI’s are not a day at the beach. I don’t mind them as much as many people do, as there was a period when I spent a lot of time in sensory deprivation tanks and they kind of remind me of a scary version of those. But if you had your choice between a mani/pedi and an MRI, well…
This one required prep, as I would have two IV’s so they could look at the arteries and the heart at the same time. Cool– one last test, kill two birds with one stone. Young eyes here I come; unless of course they find all my arteries are blocked and I need a bypass or if my heart is enlarged and I need a transplant. Deep breaths. I can’t breath, my heart is racing, and that’s why I’m there. OY.
I got all geared up or down as the case may be climbed on the MRI machine and in came the MRI guy; we will call him Dr. Heart. This name is fitting for several reasons: one is he sort of saved the week for me, two is well, he’s cute– not Orlando Bloom cute, Jewish doctor cute, guy with ten degrees cute, but still. Plus he has a good sense of humor. And he got cuter as he spent an hour telling me all the medical intricacies of my heart. I learned a lot from him in an hour, much of which I will share with you all tomorrow.
But now we are back to the MRI – Dr. Heart appears and asks me about my asthma. I have normal asthma, I tell him. What is normal? Mine.
“Well, in that case we can’t do the test to see your arteries,” he said, “as the solution we inject into your veins can have a bad affect on asthmatics. But let me go call Dr. Cautious.”
So off goes Dr. Heart to pow-wow with Dr. Cautious and I’m on the MRI, thinking maybe they should have chatted before I arrived. But he seemed nice and I didn’t want to get my heart rate up. So I lay there listening to some machine that went swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, but if you listened really carefully, it sounded like it was saying MAN DOWN, MAN DOWN, MAN DOWN– not a reassuring mantra under the circumstances.
Dr. Heart returned, the verdict was in they could only do the one test; they could not look at my arteries. “But that’s what I’m here for anyway.”
“Well no, you are also here for a possible enlarged heart.”
The nice guy who was hooking me up to all the monitors that made me feel like Debra Winger in the last scene of Terms Of Endearment asked me how old I was. I told him fifty-one. He said, “You look much younger.” At that moment, I really thought OK maybe I don’t need the eyes done, why don’t I just rip out the IV and go running out of here in the robe and out into the New York night and age gracefully because according to him I didn’t look that old to begin with.
But then we have to remember who this guy is looking at for most of the day; old people with bad hearts.
So into the MRI I went. Forty minutes of breath in breath out, hold your breath and you think it’s half over and you find out it’s only a third over and then I try and start doing fractions and at one point I pretend it’s the sensory depravation tank, but just as I relax it starts making noises like I’m on the inside of a Cuisinart. I start envisioning what I will look like if they have to crack open my chest or who will donate the heart if I need one?
Eventually, they rolled me out, took out the needles and told me to go get dressed and I would get to chat with Dr. Heart. On my way out I saw him sitting in the hallway looking at three monitors with my heart on them. I instantly asked him if I would live, he told me yes for the moment, and to go get dressed. I liked this doctor. I like all of them, but he has a sense of humor most doctors lack.
After I was dressed, he patiently explained to me all the workings of my heart. It was kind of cool and you got to see it in a big photo beating and you know if I still wrote movies, I would work this into a romantic comedy as a meet cute scene. I’m sure someone will read this and do just that.
The upshot is my heart is fine. It is a normal size, perfect. Great, I can get clearance.
“Well,” Dr. Heart said “not so fast, Dr. Cautious is not going to give you clearance until she sees your arteries.”
“Why can’t you give me clearance?”
“I didn’t order the tests.”
When did Dr. Cautious become head decision maker for my team? She was just the monitor person. I knew Dr. Dracula for twelve years, Dr. EKG for three and Dr. Heart was quickly turning into my favorite.
“She ordered the test, she is in charge of the EKGs and she has to give you the OK, which means we have to see your arteries.”
“Do you think my arteries are OK?” I pleaded.
“I won’t know until I see them, I imagine they are but you know I had a guy in here with perfect cholesterol, perfect blood pressure and he was ninety percent blocked.”
I hate it when doctors tell those stories and they all have one. Patient perfect who turned out to be patient almost dead. We talked about John Ritter –they said he was fine, an hour later he was dead… the list goes on. Then we talked about the people who have the stress test and drop dead an hour later.
“You can have a stress test,” he said.
I don’t want a stress test; I have never wanted a stress test. I know I will fail a stress test. It’s like taking a driving test again. It’s one of the reasons I keep my California driver’s license so I don’t have to take the driving test again. I do not want to take tests I am bound to fail. I’m in good shape but not stress wise.
“If you don’t want to take the stress test, we happen to have the gold standard machine that will show you every artery and all the plaque build up and if it’s OK you won’t have to take another one for years.”
What kind of test is it? A CAT scan.
Swell, from the MRI to the CAT scan, all for an eyelift. But by then I was so convinced that I had heart disease, I decided I had better find it. And Dr. Heart made me feel like it was OK. I felt safe with him. If my heart was failing he would find someone to fix it.
And according to Dr. Heart in his office I missed very few beats, he really did have a more calming affect on me than the others.
“OK, I’ll do a CAT scan but I need it now.”
“Well, I don’t have any technicians left.” I realized it was almost seven and the office was closing. He had taken extra time to make me feel better.
“Tomorrow then,” I barked. “I have to have tomorrow.”
“Whenever you want.”
Whenever I want? Who is this guy? Why can’t he be my all things doctor? He’s cute, he’s nice, he’s funny and has the quality I find the most appealing in anyone, he let me call the shots.
So I could go off to have dinner with Lucy and Glenn knowing my heart was not enlarged and all I had left was my arteries to clear. Which at that point felt like all we have left is the Taliban to deal with.
Now, one of the worst things about these tests is you can’t have caffeine for twenty-four hours. The only thing I’m truly addicted to is caffeine. I get headaches and tired and well, it’s not pretty. I had already gone twenty-four hours without it. On the way to the restaurant I called Dr. Heart’s office and left a message: “Could I please please have coffee?” He called me back that night and told me I could. He really is the doctor with something extra.
Next morning it was snowing like crazy, but I could have coffee! I went to the gym and made my way back to Dr. Heart’s. I was ushered right in even though the waiting room was full. The only downside was, Dr. Heart would not be giving me the test; his associate whose specialty was arteries would be reading it. We will call him Dr. Artery.
This CAT scan was a breeze compared to the MRI. It was six minutes, another IV, but in and out. And Dr. Heart put in an appearance to make me feel better.
Dr. Artery read the report: I had zero plaque build up. Now this may not sound like much to you, but to put it in perspective, when I took the test results to Dr. EKG and Dr. Dracula’s office, Dr. Dracula’s nurse said they had actually never seen a zero score in all the years they had been practicing. I had the lowest plaque build up of anyone they had seen in over twenty years.
So, now I know when I get myself all worked up and I get the pain down my arm, and I get short of breath and I work myself into a tizzy, I’m not having a heart attack, I’m just doing what I do best– driving myself crazy.
Next stop Dr. John Turk for my eyelift.
FRESHMAN MOM (who according to Dr. Heart has a freshman heart)
PS. If you want a really good graphic designer, check out:
Art Direction + Design