I scheduled an appointment to see my doctor because my blood pressure was on the high side. As you know, when you make an appointment you are asked what’s wrong: “The doctor can see you today at 1:15 p.m. What will he be seeing you for?”
Each time I answer this question, I assume they write down my self diagnosis to help the doctor get a handle on his or her day. But I’ve never had a nurse or doctor start an appointment acting like they know why I am there. In fact, at this visit in particular, it took the doctor a long time to come around. Here’s the story…
The young, male nurse fetched me from the lobby. I stepped on the scale, he took my temp and we headed to Room 3. “So, tell me what’s bothering you,” he said.
“My blood pressure has been high so I thought I should see the doctor.”
“I see. Let’s check it out.” He puts the cuff on me and squeezes. “Hmmm. OK, let’s try the other arm. (wrap, squeeze, uncomfortable silence) Yes. This arm reads high, too. Are you under a lot of stress?”
“Not more than any other day.”
“Are you stressed at work?”
“Does your husband stress you out?”
“Well, my wife says that about me, too, so I’d say that’s normal. You are exercising regularly; you’re not overweight. You are not a typical high blood pressure candidate. I’ll be back with the doctor.”
A few minutes later the doctor entered. “What seems to be the problem?”
“My blood pressure is high.”
He looks at my chart. “Yes, Rick’s readings show high numbers. Let me try. (wrap, squeeze, uncomfortable silence) Now the other arm. (wrap, squeeze, uncomfortable silence) Are you doing anything unusual? Taking ephedrine? Loading up on energy drinks? Cocaine?”
I laughed. “No.”
“I’m going to check again.” He cuffs each arm, one at a time. He paces. “These are high numbers. If you were 50 lbs heavier I would say we need to work on this, but you’re young and fit, it just doesn’t make sense.” Then he walks toward me and puts his face so close that our noses were just a few inches apart. “Do I make you nervous?”
I leaned in one more inch, looked him straight in the eye and said, “No.”
“Hmm…let’s try this one more time.” He cuffs my left arm. “Concentrate really hard on a low number. (wrap, squeeze, uncomfortable silence) Nope, still high. Let’s try the opposite. I’ll check your right arm, and this time concentrate on a high number. (wrap, squeeze, uncomfortable silence) That didn’t work either. Well, you have high blood pressure.”
“Ninety-five percent of the time we never know why people have high blood pressure, but we’ll give it a go anyway. Let’s do blood work and an EKG before you leave, and then I’ll send you over for a chest x-ray.”
“Ok…” EKG and chest x-ray?!
“Rick will be back in to do the EKG. Is it OK if Rick does it?”
“Um, sure?” Why not? I’ve seen this on T.V. It’s just a couple of white circles taped right below the collar-bone. No biggie.
“Ok, you will need to get undressed from the waist up, with the gown opening to the front.”
Oh. Oh! Oh no.
Rick and a female nurse enter with the EKG machine. They stick several wires in several places.
“I actually specialize in cardiology,” Rick said. “I brought a nurse along from pediatrics so I can teach her how to do an EKG.” He flips a switch and studies the monitor. “Your readings look good, except your pulse is pretty fast. Are you nervous?”
“I guess I’m a little nervous to find out what’s wrong.” And I am having a conversation with you while topless!
“Well, I’m not detecting anything. I”ll show the results to the doctor. He’ll be right back. You can get dressed.”
“So, we didn’t find any answers,” the doctor said as he walked in. “If your lab work and chest x-ray turn out OK, I’ll prescribe a tiny sliver of a pill to help you control your blood pressure and we’ll continue to monitor you. You may eventually balance out and no longer need medication.”
I left the doctor’s office feeling even more uneasy. These are serious heart tests. Maybe I’m taking this too lightly. Something could really be wrong. I needed to talk to the hubs. He’s my rock. I sent him a text: “I went to the doc about my blood pressure. He asked if I did cocaine, then he drew blood, gave me an EKG and now I’m on my way to get a chest x-ray! It’s like I’m in a real life episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.'”
I hit send and hoped he would say something comforting.
His reply: “You have had quite the afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed that they don’t page Dr. Yang.”
So now he’s the funny one. I couldn’t help but laugh.