In my last blog, I mentioned how my heart decided to take advantage of the fact that I now have “free” government health care through my $144.60 monthly fee for Medicare. (Okay, I’m being a bit sarcastic here, as I realize this is a bargain.) I had made the mistake of mentioning my shortness of breath to my primary care physician who referred me for a cardiac work up. Now I have been through the stress test, and all that entails, and an echocardiogram, and the doctor is still not satisfied. So, it’s on to a cardiac catheterization.

The one thing that is a tad disconcerting is that nobody seems to be in any hurry. All this cardiology work up started several months ago, as it took a while to get the initial appointment, then several more weeks to get the individual tests, then another appointment to review the tests. I’m glad my heart has held on this long.

So, after another several weeks, I finally got an appointment for the cardiac catheterization. It fell, of course, on the week of Hurricane Sally. I had to make yet another appointment for a nurse to give me paperwork. This is the first time I have ever had a “paperwork” appointment. (Seriously, this couldn’t have been faxed or emailed?) Prior to the procedure yet more lab work and another chest radiograph were required (never mind the fact my primary care physician had just done all these tests prior to the referral). But, as a medical professional, I understand. Things change from day to day. Okay. I had to call and check in with the cardiac center the day before to confirm my appointment. Of course, I was given the wrong number, so I had to make the phone rounds until I finally got to the right place.

The procedure was scheduled for 3:00 pm, which meant I couldn’t eat or drink anything after 7 am that morning, and even if I chose to rise at that ungodly hour just to eat, I could only have dry toast or plain yogurt. Why bother? Not worth it. I arrived at the cardiac center to find the doors locked due to Covid and I had to go around to the main entrance in the pouring rain. I checked in with a very nice lady at the reception desk, who informed me I didn’t have my pre-anesthetic paperwork that I was supposed to have gotten at my paperwork appointment. I wondered again how much Medicare was billed for the “paperwork” appointment. She had me fill out yet another ream of paperwork, and at last, I was almost there.

Things went smoothly after that. All the staff were extremely efficient (even though I had to have yet another IV inserted, which I hate) and very friendly. Blessedly, I was given Xanax, along with a couple other pre-surgical medications, but although I asked for two Xanax, I guess one is the limit. I did complain that the Xanax hadn’t kicked in when they wheeled me back for the procedure, so the nurse cracked jokes to put me at ease. The procedure ahead of me ended up taking longer than usual, so I was parked in the hallway outside the Cath lab where I could view all the scary stuff. But my Xanax finally kicked in, so I didn’t care.

Once it was my turn, I was wheeled into the Cath lab to be injected with yet more radioactive dye, and mercifully given a wonderful concoction that put me in La-La Land. It’s a wonder I’m not glowing in the dark with all the radiation I’ve had been exposed to in the last few weeks. I could rent myself out as a personal glow stick for Halloween. Although vaguely aware of things going on around me, I was happily detached from it all. Before I knew it, I heard the doctor telling me he was finished and everyone saying how well I did. I felt unworthy of the praise because I didn’t actually “do” anything but lie there.

Back in my little cubicle, I discovered my right arm felt numb from all the pressure applied to keep my radial artery from spurting blood across the room. This tourniquet-like compression, apparently, is normal procedure. I also discovered I was not allowed to bend my wrist for 24 hours and was fitted with an enormous plastic contraption to ensure that didn’t happen. Try sleeping in that thing, even with Xanax. For some reason, I was under the mistaken impression that I would simply walk out of there and life would resume as usual. Why am I always so naïve?

On the positive side, my coronary arteries are clear, and the doctor says my heart function looks better than it did on the echo. At least I think that’s what he said, as I was still under the influence of heavy sedating drugs and my husband is medically-jargon challenged. I can’t immerse my arm in water for three days, so that means my husband has to do the dishes. I also can’t lift anything over five pounds, so he has to clean the kitty boxes, do the laundry, and take out the trash. And in another several weeks, I will once again see the doctor, who will go over the results. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this, it’s that Medicare is great. But why I felt the need to get my money’s worth from the system, I still don’t know.