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New Cardio Appt- June 17, 2009

August 26, 2009

Tomorrow I go to see a new cardiologist. As soon word got out that I was planning to go to the Cleveland Clinic, advice began to pour in from well meaning friends. My rule of thumb has been that if they haven’t had heart issues, personal experience, I’m not so interested in their advice. Maybe that’s a bit tacky, but my own research and the advice of my on line cyber heart friends carries much more weight with me now than the most well meant voice of inexperience.

Anyway, one man with a long cardiac history asked that I see his cardiologist, but not that I take his word for it, but call his ex wife. So I did. She is a nurse and works for an insurance company and handles catastrophic illness cases (which incidentally, my own insurance company just contacted me about- just funny). She says this fellow is the only decent cardiologist in this state. But that wasn’t all. Several years ago, before her knowledge of this doctor, she had her own cardiac issues. She didn’t go into details, but was told she needed a transplant by her then cardiologist. At her ex-husband’s urging, she saw this guy for a second opinion. It’s been six years, no transplant and she’s doing well.

I know that if this is as good as it gets, it’s time for me to start thinking about alternative ways to make a living. I can cook. I can do laundry. I can walk around a store where the surface is flat, if I stop every couple of minutes. Activities like sweeping or walking up a slight incline have a less than two minute limit before my chest, throat, jaw start to hurt and I’m popping nitro. Plus, I still have those nasty little episodes of nausea and dizziness that did herald the beginning of all this in January.

So, it’s with eagerness rivaling the night before a big vacation (remember that commercial, “I’m too excited to sleep!”) that I anticipate this appointment. Yet, I also feel terror and dread. I’m told he’s very straightforward. I expect him to tell me the truth.

I’ve thought about what I’ll do or think or feel should he tell me there is indeed nothing left to do, that my life expectancy is very short. Or, what will I say or do or think or feel should he negate all I’ve been told and tell me to expect a long and happy life?

Why would I really want to know? Isn’t it better to go on in the imagined bliss of ignorance?

No. I want to know. I need to know. If the prognosis is great, I can get on with it, feeling safe to push myself maybe. But if the prognosis is poor, then I want to know that too. Not so that I can roll over and die, but so I can make up my mind to be the miracle, the one that defies the odds.

I have a grandson like that. According to his brain MRI, he should be wheelchair bound. He doesn’t walk, that’s for sure. He runs everywhere he goes. I just want to be told the truth. It’s more about respect than prognosis maybe.

I’m also a bit afraid he might want to go another cath. I’m not ready for that yet. I’ve had three in four months (four month mark for bypass is tomorrow!) and really don’t want anything more invasive than a blood pressure cuff touching me.

I’ve prepared a detailed history of the events of this year and have a list of at least twenty questions. There’s something a bit liberating about seeing him with full disclosure as a second opinion appointment, that says that for whatever reason, I am not happy with my current cardiac care. I’m shopping for a new doctor. He’s being interviewed for the job. I know he doesn’t need my business. We shall see. I could probably get a dozen opinions if I see a dozen doctors. It’s not so much that he tell me what I want to hear. It’s that he hears what I say, what I feel. That the “I” he sees is really me and not just a test result or cath monitor or lab result. The doctor I want won’t have to remember me from one visit to the next, but he’ll reread my chart and refresh his memory before he comes in the exam room. He or she will look at me and not stay glued to a computer screen or paper chart.

Bless you all women with broken, mended, tough and tender hearts.

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