Yesterday I went for an appointment to have a carotid artery ultrasound and a heart echo performed. It has been many years since I had these tests done. When I was in my 30s, an eminent endocrinologist told me I'd had a heart attack at some time, and he had me undergo almost every heart test known to man (or woman). It turned out that I hadn't; I just have a weird EKG, and it reads like I've had a heart attack sometimes; I told you things were crazy in my world. So in case you haven't had an ultrasound yet, let me prepare you. Here's what the machine looks like that you're hooked up to:
|Ultra Sound Machine|
Next, he hooks leads up to the electrodes which are attached to the computer. By the way, this is the same machine that is used to do an ultrasound on the uterus of a pregnant woman to observe the progress of her unborn baby. And no! I'm not pregnant!!!! Do not start rumors about that!
To conduct the test, the tool he uses to move around to the various areas he's checking is a hand-held probe called a transducer, and he anoints it with a liberal amount of gel before applying it to my chest. It doesn't hurt at all (just in case you were wondering). With a few keystrokes, the monitor springs to life, and I am being entertained with a live, real-time image of my heart beating. It's an interesting sight. I ask him which valve I'm watching doing a nice double-time rhythm. He informs me it's the mitral valve, and I'm happy to say that it seems to be closing nicely and not letting any backwash through (I think that would be mitral valve prolapse, but don't quote me on that).
At various points, he outlines an area of the heart on the computer screen using dotted lines, much like you would play a computer game. The areas then get filled in with a pattern, and I see flashes of red, yellow and maybe orange streaks in the midst of the gray image. I assume these are electrical currents, but I since I didn't ask that, I'm not sure. It's also interesting to hear the sound when it's turned on. It reminds me at one point of an old-fashioned sound effect from the radio days when an assistant would shake a thin piece of tin to make it sound like thunder. If you're a cardiologist, don't call and tell me I'm in trouble, please.
After a time, he has me lie on my back and moves the transducer to a different part of the heart. I'm amused to see what looks somewhat like the image of the man in the moon blowing bubbles. Of course I always did enjoy trying to see shapes in clouds, so yours might not look like mine. Or vice versa. The bubble-blowing apparition keeps steady rhythm with the two-step beat of the mitral valve, and all seems right in my world. Not that I was worried. Ahem. No really. I wasn't.
|Model of a human heart|
After I wipe the cold, gooey gel off my chest, we proceed to the neck for the carotid scan. Lying on my left side, I can clearly see the river of blue running along its channel in the right side of my neck. It looks like it has plenty of room, so that's nice to see. For the other side, I'm turned away from the screen, so I can't see if it looks any different from the right side. This is the side my doctor said he heard something with the stethoscope that he wanted checked out. Since I have diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, which both can contribute to heart disease, my doctor is careful to keep these things checked for me.
When the ultrasound is finished, the technician prints copies of the report onto what looks like specialized paper and tells me it will be next week before the heart specialist will read them. I assume that since he didn't call a code, send for a gurney and whisk me off to a cath lab, I must not be in imminent danger. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!
Since it's almost Valentine's Day, be good to your heart, and mind your doctor. Not that I do. But then, my sweetheart always tells me that advice is meant to be given, not taken. (Insert chuckle here.)
Have a wonderful heart-shaped weekend! Early in the morning, I'm off to a *crop in Morris, Alabama, a small town above Birmingham. I know I'll have fun. Hope you do, too.