On Tuesday morning I headed for the consulting rooms of my cardiologist, for my two yearly heart checkup with a feeling of apprehension. It has been two years since my last check up and I have not had a cholesterol test in between and I am full of uncertainty.
First thing that happens is that I have my blood pressure tested.
"Perfect," says the nurse. Some of my apprehension immediately drains away.
Next I have to remove my shirt and I am connected to the ECG, with a skimpy fishnet vest holding the cables down. I then have to walk on the treadmill until my heart rate gets to 150. The only problem is that mine won't go beyond 148 and with the extra speed and time I end up huffing and puffing like a steam engine.
I am relieved when I am allowed to stop. "Any pain or any discomfort? she asks.
"None," I gasp.
"Oh dear," the nurse informs me, "the screen has frozen." I watch as I regain my breath, while she reboots the computer and then calmly announces that the records have not been saved.
"Does that mean I'm in for seconds?" I ask.
"Yes," she replies sweetly.
"Mmmmm," I think as I get back on the treadmill, "I hope this doesn't mean they are going to charge me double."
The second time round I am firmly into my stride and I get to 150 with no problem and no huffing and puffing.
Soon I am with the big man and I have to take off my shirt so that he can listen to my heart. With that done his first question when he opens my file is, "Are you still on the bunny food?"
"Yes," I reply. I know he is checking up on me. When I went for my first check up three and a half years ago I told him I had completely changed my life style and eating habits and like any good, if somewhat cynical, cardiologist he had replied, "That is good, if you are able to sustain it." I never knew that he had written it down.
Then while impassively reading my ECG he asks, "Do you know you have an arrhythmia?"
"No," I reply, "What is an arrhythmia?"
"It's an irregular heart beat," he replies, pointing to a few blips on the ECG print out.
"What causes it and do I need to be concerned," I ask, the apprehension now being replaced with worry.
"Any number of issues," he says, "but in your case it is probably scar tissue caused from damage to the heart, after your heart attack. We need to do an ultrasound to check it out."
I am ushered into another room and again take my shirt off and I am made to lie on a bed, while the ultrasound is conducted. I am disappointed that I cannot see the screen.
After a while I am facing the big man again. He looks at the ultrasound printout and announces, like he cannot believe it, "There is no scar tissue and there is no narrowing of the arteries. In fact your heart is very strong."
He then shows me that the irregular heat beats completely disappear when I was going at full pace on the treadmill. "Does that mean I should spend my days running around at full speed," I innocently ask.
He does not get my perverse sense of humour and replies, "No, that means this arrhythmia is not a problem, but because you had a heart attack, I am going to prescribe a mild beta blocker."
"That's a relief," I say.
He looks at my cholesterol test and announces, "Excellent, it is 3.6."
I smile and now start to relax.
He concludes the consultation with some reassuring words, "I am very happy with your result and I am not in the slightest bit worried about your arrhythmia. See you in two years time."
I leave the consulting rooms on cloud 9. My fanatical eating habits have paid off. Now what I have to get more fanatical about is exercising, so let's see what I can achieve over the next two years.