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Stress Test

Last month I was experiencing some weird gastric discomfort, like a dull ache in my stomach which kept coming and going for several weeks. It was bad enough to disrupt my routine, to keep me from doing things I’d normally do.

At my mother-in-law’s suggestion, I visited the doctor. He gave me an EKG as a matter of course, explaining that he didn’t expect to find anything. But when he looked at the results, he said, “I almost don’t believe this, but there’s an irregularity here. It’s probably nothing, but now we need to give you a stress test just to make sure.”

Naturally the stomach pain has disappeared and not returned since that doctor visit. But, being a believer in the value of early detection, I went ahead with it.

This morning I skipped my usual coffee (having tapered off over the last week to avoid a withdrawal headache) and reported to the clinic, just a short distance from home. After the usual sheaf of paperwork, they shot me full of isotopes, because this was a nuclear stress test. Then they stuck an IV double pigtail stent in my arm so they could inject more isotopes later.

Shortly thereafter, I had my chest scanned by a LEHR (Low Energy High Resolution) collimator, which took about twenty minutes as the machine rotated slowly around me, gathering data for a 3D image of my heart. A while after that, they pasted electrode all over my chest, attached a blood pressure cuff to my arm and some other sort of monitor to my finer, shot some isotopes through the stent, and had me get on the treadmill, a Marquette 2000. They had me walk at faster speeds and increasing incline until I hit my target heart rate of 179 bpm. They continued to monitor me until my signals returned to normal. Finally, after another break, I was back on the collimator for another scan.

All done in three and a half hours. The doctor was monitoring the electrocardiogram results as I trod upon the mill, and he didn’t spot anything unusual, but I gather they have to analyze all the data before they can issue a clean bill of health. So, here’s hoping.

One of my co-workers remarked that I’m “the last person who needs a stress test. You’re the least-stressed person I know.” I wonder if that’s how people generally perceive me.

Update: My doctor’s office called me and informed me I got a complete clean bill of health from the stress test.

Published inBody


  1. rickngentilly rickngentilly

    i wish my gig had real health insurance.

    the way i see it if i can live for 12 more years and pay this house note off at least i leave my wife better than when i met her.

  2. Tony Tony

    That’s the most descriptive, concise, and informative summary of a medical analysis I’ve ever read outside of a medical journal. Glad you’re in good health but what was the reason for the gastric discomfort in the first place?

  3. Geez, if you were on our insurance, you’d definitely have a cardiac event when you get the bill for that test. I hope everything turns out to be OK!

  4. amy amy

    Hi Bart, just a thought-

    I know this is hard for a New Orleanian but you really would do well to consider giving up coffee. Back in the day, I had to take a medical leave from Loyola and worked in nutrition at Whole Foods at the time so I learned how to take care of myself. One immediate thing that may help you is aloe juice. I recommend George’s for its mellow taste. It is soothing to your insides just as it is for your skin. But back to your diet, immediately eliminate aspartame completely – it should not be legal and is known to cause gastric distress. Coffee and cow’s dairy cause cramps. I have switched to green tea and soy milk and have no cramps and clearer energy. At Rouse’s they have the ‘stash’ brand of tasty green teas – i like chai and now make that every morning instead of coffee. Try going for a week without coffee, dairy, or aspartame (soft drinks etc) before any more radical procedures!

    Take care of yourself, Daddy!

  5. Amy, thanks for the advice. For the last five or six years I’ve gone off of coffee regularly for six months at a time. On the last go-round I was off caffeine entirely. I also don’t drink cow milk and never use artificial sweeteners. Just FYI. I don’t think the stomach pain I experienced was related to diet, but who knows? It’s been gone for over a month now.

  6. Dr. A Dr. A

    Sounds like you are doing the right things for your health…..maybe your GI discomfort was “stress”? Stress can cause some pretty dramatic somatic symptoms. I agree with Vicky, that getting the bill for this testing might give you a cardiac event! (it did with my insurance)

  7. Whatever the outcome, may it turn out well and not be anything immediately life-threatening. You’ve got a young ‘un to raise and watch grow.

  8. I started having a lot of GI problems about ten years ago, and had to go through a bunch of tests. Yours sound more interesting – instead of nuclear isotopes and 360-degree imaging, mine involved a six-foot long camera probe and a different point of injection.

    I changed my diet and things got better, then wavered back to my old diet, and things got worse. This year, I’ve gotten back on track, and have no problems. And nothing wacky, just a balanced diet, less meat, less fat, less calories. I’ve lost 50 pounds this year, and have a lot more energy, but I’ve also had the GI stuff completely vanish.

    And when I thought the GI stuff was ulcerative colitis, I tried drinking aloe. It’s radically expensive, and I would only recommend it if your office is very close to a bathroom. Just drinking more water and easing off the booze and caffeine did a lot more for me.

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