Tests, tests, and more tests…

I spent a lot of time last week at different buildings at Mass General Hospital (MGH) getting more tests done. (The good news is that I can now get between all the buildings without feeling totally disoriented. And I can find the parking garage when I’m done. Yippee!)

On Wednesday, I had an Echo Stress Test to see what kind of shape my heart is in. I went in thinking I was going to do the stress test where exercise is involved…boy, was I wrong. I had a medically-induced stress test, which has to rank among one of the weirdest tests I’ve ever had.

For this test, I had an IV. It’s always fun watching the nurse play “find the correct vein” (my veins tend to be really good, but they have a tendency to roll). I needed my left arm for lab work later the same day, and my right arm was still sporting a bruise from last week’s routine lab work, so the IV went in my left hand.

My pretty pink IV on my left hand for my echo stress test, below my medical alert tattoo. PS: I hate pink.

The nurse then instructed me to lie down so she and the cardiac sonographer could attach the first batch of leads for the baseline electrocardiogram (EKG), which was followed by a resting echocardiogram. The nurse also put a blood pressure cuff on my right arm, and then they had me roll onto my left side. The base tests took about 40 minutes. I think I started to doze off ;-). When I wasn’t thinking about maybe taking a nap, I could watch the results. Then the cardiologist came in, and that’s when the fun started.

The nurse and the sonographer attached more leads to my torso. Then, while the cardiologist and the sonographer watched the ultrasound monitor, the nurse started injecting Dobutamine into the IV to raise my heart rate.

Have you ever run up a flight of stairs or a hill? You know how you feel when you get to the top, and your heart’s racing so hard you can feel it everywhere? Well, this is the feeling I got as they kept injecting Dobutamine, taking my heart from a resting rate of 70 beats per minute to the target rate of 140 beats per minute. The difference was that I wasn’t short of breath because I was just laying there. It was such a strange feeling, listening to my heart pound but laying perfectly still. The nurse said it’s similar to an extreme adrenalin rush (and it lasts longer, too).

Meanwhile, the nurse kept monitoring my blood pressure, which dropped to 80/50. After 250 cc’s of saline, my blood pressure went up (I think they got it to 100/75 or thereabouts). Finally, when the test was over, the cardiologist left, and the three of us waited for my heart to get back to normal.

I then had more lab work (left arm, please!) and a chest X-ray (in a different building, of course) before heading home.

Friday morning, I had the quickest CAT scan yet. The surgeons needed to know how my pelvic blood supply was, and I was thinking that this was going to be another one of those hour-long tests. From start to finish, I was there about 15 minutes. The two (male) techs were worried that my underwire bra might cause issues with the open MRI machine (gotta love those…it’s like going in and out the middle of a doughnut), and they were surprised when I just whipped the bra off. Seriously, guys, after 33 years of being poked and prodded by everyone from students to master surgeons, removing a bra is no big deal. (Especially when I just unhook it and pull the straps out through my shirt sleeves ;-).) I did use a changing room to put it back on!

This was followed by something that’s actually a bit unusual for me…I spent close to two hours in a room waiting for a doctor from infectious diseases. Most of my doctors tend to see patients really close to their appointment time, but this one? Not so much.

I was shown into the room fairly soon after I arrived, which made me think that I’d be out pretty quickly. After 30 minutes, someone knocked on the door to tell me that she was on an important conference call. (Yeah, that makes me feel better.) After another 20 minutes, her Fellow came in to talk to me. He never looked at the pile of forms they had me fill out, and he obviously hadn’t spent a lot of time looking through my records. I spent about 20 minutes with him, going over what is now the condensed version of my medical history.

It was another 30 minutes again before the doctor showed up. She had all sorts of things for me to read that she had written. About the only good to come out of all of this was that I found out that, even though I had a positive tuberculosis (TB) test when I was 21, my labs showed no active TB, and that I’m CMV negative. CMV, or Cytomegalovirus, can cause problems after transplant. And I guess it matters when it comes to finding a donor (although until my doctor explains it to me, I really don’t quite know what that means).

The bad news? We have to get rid of all of the birds (we have a parakeet and five cockatiels). And they’d really like it if we got rid of the two snakes and the bearded dragon, but they’ll be happy if I don’t pick them up or clean their tanks after transplant. (Why does everyone think that we cuddle with our snakes? I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.) In case you’re curious: all reptiles tend to carry salmonella on their skin. We’re all very good about washing our hands (with hot soapy water) after we do anything with any of them. (Jesse’s better at that than at washing his hands before dinner!)

As of right now, I don’t have any more tests scheduled. Of course, that could change tomorrow…I’m just hoping that the Transplant Team gives me the news soon that we’re set to go ahead!


  1. I always find it amazing that males are fascinated/horrified/overawed by the ease at which we women can get our bras out from under a fully clothed body! ;-) Not so easy getting them back on while fully clothed, but it can be done…

    Guess these guys live sheltered lives, huh?

    Bad news about the animals. Do you have to get rid of them immediately, or much closer to the transplant time?

  2. Yeah, it was funny :-) I loved the look on their faces!

    And we don’t have to get rid of the birds until the transplant takes place. But four are a family (mom, dad, two babies), and we’d like them to stay together, so it will take time to find someone who wants all four.

    The other two are just old…the parakeet (that Jesse got when he was 5) protects the older cockatiel (a gift from a friend), so we don’t want to split them up, either.

  3. LOL! My husband thinks that whipping a bra off is magic. Glad your tests went well, Char!

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