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groove is in the heart and so are holes, maybe….

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on an echocardiogram I had awhile back it showed i had a hole in my heart. my doctor didn’t say how big or how small, just that it was there. One doctor called it a shunt. The doctor that performed the trans esophageal echocardiogram threw around PFO. I had no idea what it meant, but knew I could find out later. I have been dealing with some measure of information overload. It’s hard enough for me to keep the names of my medications straight. from what I understand a PFO, not necessarily mine, looks something like this.

heart w-pfo 11626

In the  of gathering more information and to investigate further I had been referred to a cardiologist to see what the deal was with this hole. He did a cursory exam, asked me about my history, which always makes me wonder because I would have imagined he might have something besides one thin piece of paper with my name on it. Then he did his own quickie echo cardiogram.

he decided a little further investigation was in order so he sent me for the trans esophageal echo cardiogram. I was given a 2 page handout at the office, reinforced by the same mailed to my home. It illustrated with a crude line drawn picture, photocopied within an inch of its life which made it difficult to decipher. But maybe that’s me, spatial relations have never been my strong suit. (This is one of those occasions when I wonder briefly why these the originals aren’t scanned and printed off as necessary a nice clean copy for the patient.) It seemed like no BFD. Spray the back of my throat with a local and then some sedative, which I was a bit sketchy on, insert a a tube down my throat and take a look around. I did imagine the procedure not unlike my wisdom tooth extraction, an uncomplicated affair. I certainly didn’t envision having to put on a gown, be assigned a bed on the cardiac ward and have a nurse poking around to get an IV inserted.

My blood pressure is high, like it usually is, but even higher than that. the nurse, yvonne, tells me that even though i don’t feel nervous i probably am and that is what is jacking up the numbers. another nurse, april, and another nurse go through my history again. i am reminded how little a lot of people know about TN. Although completely unrelated I did have to do a lot of explaining about it. a lot of people think it is a sort of migraine. I also have that moment when I wonder why I need to recite my history, which becomes more difficult with each corner I turn. I mean, aren’t all these records electronically gathered and kept?

i am moved into the room where the procedure will be performed and fitted with echo cardiogram leads. i had left my bra on and my nurse performed the most amazing feat of untangling it and getting it off once i had undone it. oops. we had a good laugh over that.  more leads were stuck on me and they prepared me for the actual test. i contemplate the blue walls, which could use a coat of paint and wonder if they’ve been painted that colour for the supposed calming effect. whatever the reason it is far better than the usual institutional green.

after i am all hooked up to the machines i wait for it all to begin. the fluorescent lights are harsh and too bright. i let my eyes wander the room and take in what i can see from my prone perspective. there’s several leaflets tacked on a notice board board, one with the two giant words “heart attack” leaps out at me. i’m not worried about that but I try to recall the symptoms of a heart attack in women. just because.

the doctor comes in with an assistant he doesn’t introduce and tells me again about the procedure. time to go. first they will spray the back of my throat with an anaesthetic to relax my throat. he warns me it tastes terrible and he’s not lying. it does. it’s awful. on the first pass the depressor breaks. apparently i’ve got a very strong tongue. a couple more sprays and then….well…then the anaesthesia dribbling into my arm takes effect and blank goes my brain. i’m awake but sedated. still i remember almost nothing. i remember him asking me to cough a couple of times. the verdict is that they can’t get air bubbles to form and do their thing so…. and then the tube sliding out and voila. end of test. now the only thing to do is wait for the result.

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