But mind that third step -- it's a doozy!
Went in for a cardiac stress test. Since I have that bum knee, the treadmill was out and that left chemistry.
To start with, they plumb you with a nice IV and shoot you up with some nice thallium, from a syringe that lives in a nice lead-lined container. That percolates around a good long while and then they stick you in an X-ray machine, where (if you're me), some part of the process sends interesting lines of white light through your closed eyes.*
So far, so good. Heck, you can even get a warmed blanket for the X-raying if you'd like one, which I did.
But that's just the baseline state. They need to see what it looks like when the blood's really getting everywhere. If you can't accomplish this with exercise, you're going to have to get a vasodialator drug.
Here's a fun fact: do you know what happens to the pressure inside a closed space if the enclosed volume suddenly expands? It decreases. Dramatically.
For this step, they put you on a hospital bed, elevated like a chaise lounge. You're wired up to an EKG and an automatic blood pressure cuff. A computer keeps track of the data and spits out a classic EKG chart as it goes.
They would not put you in that bed if it wasn't going to be necessary. At the beginning, my blood pressure was markedly higher than usual -- I have white-coat syndrome and, look, I was scared, okay?
There's a cute plumbing attachment for the IV with two syringe ports at ninety degrees and a tiny valve. The nurse has two sets, fully populated. They check the IV and hook up the first set, one full syringe, the other, and disconnect it and hook up the next. That one's got one plastic syringe like the first two and another in a thick, science-fictional metal jacket, which is more thalliu--
The world suddenly got very small and far away. I got very dizzy very fast. The blood pressure cuff cycled about then and I was about aware enough to glance over and get the numbers, 125 over a ridiculously low figure.
The nurse finished the final two syringes and looked at me. The other nurse (yes, you get two, though the secondary one is helping everyone else, as well) leaned in and asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Disassociative." It might not have been the right answer, so I tried again. "Distant. Disconnected."
She told me, "It'll pass pretty soon, Just lay here a bit."
I did, and passed the time by watching my blood pressure go up every time the cuff cycled. When she came back, she asked, "Coke or Diet Coke?"
Yes, there are refreshments: your choice of Coca-Cola. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and a good one. They could hand out pills but Dr. John Stith Pemberton's concoction is inexpensive, shelf-storable and delivers a consistent, patient-metered dose to reverse the effects of the vasodilator now that its work is done.
Once my blood pressure was back to normal, they sent me out with a hall pass and told me I could have lunch if I liked, just be back in forty minutes.
Tam had come with me. There's a cafeteria in the basement of the place (the lobby smells wonderful!) and we lost no time in going for food. A cup of hot coffee and a lean grilled low-sodium hamburger later, I had my second trip through the X-ray machine and they set me free.
I was exhausted. I came home, sat down, nodded off, went to the computer, sat down, nodded off, and then it was almost sundown. Tam hauled me out for supper and I managed to stay awake through it but I was asleep again not long after we returned home.
I hope they don't have to do this to me again soon.
* I noticed this when they did a 3-D CAT scan of my head, looking at the hole(s) in my left cheekbone. When the beam passed though the right spot, it made white circles in my vision! This is not a superpower -- zap energetic wavicles through the visual system and you will get a reaction. Apollo astronauts reported seeing occasional "white streaks" with their eyes closed, as cosmic rays passed through their eyes.
4 months ago