Heart Stress Test

Elizabeth Munroz at 30-ish
When I was in my thirties, I had my first heart palpitations. I was in my eighth month of pregnancy. Due to heart disease running in my family, I went to the emergency room. There was a great deal of hustle and bustle by those taking care of me. I was hooked up to EKG and then given an IV bolus of Lidocaine. It made me feel really weird and I thought I might die. I said, "Save my baby! Please!" That's all I remember of that episode. It never happened again. I had a perfectly healthy baby and no more problems. Until a few years later. I was not pregnant then.

I went to the emergency room again. This time it was determined I had a blood clot in my leg. I had recently had surgery, so it was clever of the doctors to figure that out. I did not know what the difference was, or why having a blood clot would cause heart palpitations. I had previously had a blood clot after a surgery in the past I now understand that made me more susceptible,

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was drinking a great deal of herbal teas every day, in particular licorice root. Perhaps that was the cause. I look back and realize how lucky I was.. After I stopped messing around with herbal concoctions, the heart palpitations stopped.

The years passed and when I was just past fifty years, I had some scary serious chest pain. I had already had a few years of something similar which turned out to be gallbladder disease and stomach ulcers. So, I didn't think much of the chest pain except to wait it out. When I next visited my doctor, I told her about it, and suggested I might have an ulcer again. I had the requisite tests and I did not have an ulcer. Due to my history, not only of the things I mention above, but a lot more, she sent me to a cardiac clinic at Stanford University. I had a number of standard cardiac tests.
Elizabeth age 50's
Among them was a Cardiac Stress Test. This involves having EKG wires attached to your chest while you walk on a treadmill until your heart rate increases to a certain extent.The treadmill goes faster and faster and also goes unto a tilt to make it feel like you are climbing a hill. At the point where the technician decided I'd had enough, she had me quickly lie down and she did an ultrasound on my heart. It was beating very fast, skipping a bit, and I was out of breath. But, I returned to normal soon enough that I was not bothered. The biggest problem was my arthritis. I could barely walk down the hall and out to my car after that. Stanford is a very big institution! Plus, I had to drive home about sixty miles.

It was determined that "at some time in the past" I had a heart attack. I was incredulous! The doctor explained that it was possible to have a "silent" heart attack. The doctor said he saw scar tissue in my heart. After he retired and I went for a follow up to his replacement, she told me I never had a heart attack. By that time, I didn't care anymore and went on to live my life.

About the age of sixty, I had a severe episode of chest pain with sweating and couldn't catch my breath. I thought, "This is it. This is really it." A visit to the emergency room and admission to the hospital. Dismissal the next day after a local Cardiologist had determined I had not had a heart attack but perhaps some "angina". Therefore I became his patient and saw him every few months for follow up. At one point he ordered a stress test.

I explained what happened the last time I had one, the terrible pain in my joints and the decrease in my ability to walk well afterwards. So, the doctor told me it was okay. People who have arthritis like me can take a different kind of stress test, where a medicine is injected which makes your heart go through the same stress as if you had been walking, running and climbing. So, I went for the test.

It was a big mistake. I didn't mind that my heart sped up. I didn't mind that I got breathless, sweaty and nauseated. But, I did mind, tremendously, that I got the worst pain in my life right there in the middle of my chest. It felt like a semi-truck was driving over me! I could barely speak. The technician was monitoring my blood pressure and telling the doctor how high it was. (Odd that he was present. Isn't it?) He came over and stared at me for a while while checking the print out of the EKG. He told me it was almost over with. It seemed like forever, but apparently it was only 6 minutes. He left after that.

Elizabeth age 60
The technician disconnected everything but kept monitoring my blood pressure. She said it was very high, one of the highest she had ever seen, and she would have to stay with me until it returned to normal. An hour passed by. She told me she had other appointments and they were all on hold but she would have to release me even though my blood pressure was still high. So, I went home and relaxed as she told me to do.

(Note: my blood pressure is normally about 120 over 80 and only rises when I'm in severe pain.)

I found out the name of the medicine that had been injected into me. It is called Adenosine. I have never agreed to take that test again.

I have written about all this because an elderly man I know recently had the same test. I worried about him. He is a previous lung cancer patient and only has one lung. I thought for sure, it would not only be stressful to have that test, but it might put him in the hospital. How could someone at his age and medical condition go through that? I told him of my experience. He reassured me that the doctor had told him it was a simple procedure and he would be able to drive himself home afterwards.

I am stymied. It's true. My friend had no problems with the test at all. I know that the kind of symptoms I had are pretty common. But, not nearly as intense as what I had, especially with the blood pressure being the way it was.

Still, I will never consent to this test again, and I have listed Adenosine in my medical records as a drug I am allergic to.

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