Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At the heart of it

Yesterday was my first-ever appointment with a cardiologist.

Waaaay back in December, I was told to follow up on an off-handed note in my medical records about a heart murmur. Note the tone of "off-handed" and "waaaaay back," please. Clearly, I had nary a worry about my ol' ticker. I thought the doc was being overly cautious, and didn't really feel like there was a problem that warranted a new specialist, a new test, and all the rigmarole of getting that ball rolling. But, since that was how my diagnosis with the D started out, I figured it's better to be safe than sorry and made the appointment. Or tried to.

My endo recommended Doctor Smeisensmerg. I gave 'smerg's office a call, left a message. Lather, rinse, repeat for three weeks - messages, calls, my endo getting involved, more calls and messages - all to convince the 'smerg that a relatively healthy 32-year-old T1 woman with a thyroid condition, possible murmur, and insane maternal family history of vascular disease might warrant an echocardiogram. At long last, having secured the Golden Ticket appointment for a consult (consult!! not even the test I'd asked for!!), I waited the weeks until said appointment.

The day arrived - in the midst of busy catalog close, of course - and I scurried to the appointment. I walked in, schvitzing from said scurrying, proudly announced my name and appointment time, produced my insurance card with a flourish and....

Receptionist: Oh. He doesn't take Blue Cross.
Me, eyes popping: What?! I checked the site - they said he was a provider.
Receptionist: Oh, he was. He just isn't any more. We sent letters to our patients.
Me: I never got a letter!
Receptionist: Well, you're a new patient. We couldn't have sent you a letter.
Me: I see other doctors at this facility!! I'm in your system!! You could have called me - I confirmed my insurance with you when I made the appointment!!
Receptionist: You were a new patient. [Blink. Blink.]
Me: Well, FINE. I guess I don't need to CANCEL then.

And I stormed out.

My second attempt at getting an appointment went more smoothly, to say the least, and I had another date booked for less than three weeks later. I went in with a combination of eye-rolling exasperation (clearly there's nothing wrong with my heart, so why am I here?) and nerves. At this point in my medical life, it's rare to meet a whole new world of doctors, so it was kind of like a first day at school when you thought you were long done with classes. I had no idea what to expect...and it ended up being a freakily cool appointment.

I got to see my heart on TV. A little sonagram-esque TV, sure, but there it was on a screen. I got to see all my valves flipping and flopping, the blood (colorized for my enjoyment!) squooshing and moving, all the chambers moving to the beat of this crazy muscle that lives in my chest. It was astounding, and rarely am I astounded by biology any more - everything looked so small and fragile! So delicate! All I could think is it's a wonder any of us live at all if we're relying on all these little tiny flaps and vessels to keep us going.

The end diagnosis? One of my little flaps doesn't seal quite like it should when it's done flapping, or I have "trivial mitral regurgitation" - a condition shared by something like 70 percent of adults. In other words, I do indeed have a heart murmur, but it's not anything to worry about at this point. Besides being thrilled to get mostly-good health news, my big takeaway is how cool - and precariously balanced - the human body is. It's no wonder our parts wear out (helloooo right shoulder) or break (helloooo pancreas and thyroid), and it makes me feel a little surprised that my ol' jalopy works as well as it does...and a little more forgiving that it doesn't.


  1. Great post, Karen. Love the humor, and gasped myself when reading the moronic logic of the cardio receptionist - (where do they FIND these people????). It must be a network they draw from.... Anyhow, good news that it's nothing major. I'm gearing up for my first cardio followup appointment from a waaaay back suggestion of my end, and so hope it's just as not-serious. Thanks for sharing yours!

  2. I have the same exact thing...was told it's nothing to worry about. Glad you're okay! The idea of "heart stuff" is obviously every d's worst fear (besides kidney disease, I guess), since the other complications aren't life-threatening and are at least treatable when you find them quickly enough.

    I was told to see a cardiologist because I'm getting closer to...um...29, the age diabetics are supposed to have stress testing. (I feel like we had this conversation before, on Twitter. Was that you I made a deal with? And here you are keeping up your end of the deal where I've completely crapped out? Hmph.)

  3. I'm so glad to read this. I had an echo a few weeks ago, and have to go in tomorrow morning for a stress echo. They were looking for a valve issue like the one you have, but instead, they've found that part of my heart's not beating. They act like it's not a big deal, but I'm freaked.

    Glad to hear everything's cool. And it's good to know I'm not the only 32-ish T1 lady with these issues. Thanks for writing!

  4. Hey Karen, great post! Glad your heart issues aren't major. You have a great sense of humor, which definitely helps with dealing with BS at the cardiologist's office. Believe me, I've had my share of mishaps with the staff at my doc's office. I'm a PWD T2, living with congestive heart failure as well. I could tell you some interesting stories. Thanks for sharing yours. :)