Friday, May 17, 2013

Anemic! Part 1 - the News

This is the story of someone who wanted to go teach English in China, namely me.

In 2004 I found out about the China Teachers Program and learned I'd need to pass a physical to go. At that time we had just moved back to an altitude of 2600 feet from sea level and I was feeling it and that made me wonder about my heart.

Why exactly did I feel so wrung out after walking a short distance? Why was I out of breath? Why did I have a mild sense of tightness when I walked fast?

Deep down inside I was worried I had heart disease.

I had the physical and did fine, but then I was sent to a cardiologist because having a stress test was one of the requirements to go on this program. And that scared me. Because I didn't want to know that I had heart disease, and all the signs pointed in that direction.

As I sat in the cardiologist's office waiting for a consultation prior to the stress test itself, I saw on the wall a large chart. It was a diagram of the various levels of heart disease from glowing bright healthy red on the top to dying-or-dead grayish blue on the bottom.

The idea was that if you had full heart function, you got one of those higher scores, like 95 or 100%. And then like any report card as you got lower down, you got lower percentages. They also gave grades: A down to D (for dead I think). Maybe Alive to Dead.

I had plenty of time to look at that chart as I sat there, so I tried to assess where I might be, with my heart symptoms during exercise being what they were. I decided I would be thankful to be a B, but I did have a fair amount of fear that I was actually a C.

The cardiologist arrived and after many questions, during which I disclosed not a single word about my symptoms, we set up the test.

During the week or so before the test, I walked all I could. I wanted to be in as good shape as my poor little heart would tolerate. And of course I had been walking before.

The test came. It was a nuclear stress test, and that required an IV and injections into it and so on. I got hooked up and was led to the treadmill. I told them I'd do better if it started slowly so I could get warmed up. They said ok, turned it on, and I was off and running with no warm-up period at all!

I chugged along as fast as I could, not having any trouble with the pace they set, thank heavens. Before I knew it, the minimum time was over and they asked me if I wanted to keep going a while. I was ok so I said I did. They said to tell them when to stop. After a while I thought, well, it may take a while to slow down so I'd better not push it, and told them to stop. It shut down in an instant.

Then I had to sit quietly while they timed things and injected things and so on. Then it was over and I could go home. Turns out I wouldn't get the results for another week, when I would come back.

By the time I got back to the cardiologist, I was pretty nervous. Again I sat looking at that chart, hoping, just hoping to be a B.

She came in then and said it all looked pretty good, and I didn't need to come back for so many years unless this and that this and that, blah blah....

But wait! What was my score?!!??? The moment I had dreaded and now wanted to get over with was upon us and I was still having to wait for the truth that would determine the fun and opportunities of the years to come!

She said, what? Oh, your score. Perfect. Nothing wrong. 98%. A+.


OK, then.... What was going on?

Read Anemic! Part 2 for the rest of the story.

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