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My Own March Madness – part 2 March 28, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Healthy.
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Washington Regional Medical Center tops a gentle hill that not so many years ago was graced by a sizeable walnut grove. The hospital is a pleasant-enough looking complex, I'm sure. Yet, on March 9th as I followed the nurse to Nuclear Medicine it was as if a thin antiseptic veneer was barely obscuring images of ancient subterranean chambers of torture.

The procedure I was to undergo involves the injection of a small amount of radioisotope which circulates in the bloodstream and shows if ones heart muscle is receiving adequate blood supply under stress (exercise) and/or rest conditions. Sounds innocuous enough from a distance. But as I faced it that day, visions danced in my head — visions of being jabbed with pitchforks while running for my very life on a treadmill of evil as litres of radioactive waste struggled slowly through my veins.

It wasn't really too bad.

But….

When it was over, the Nuclear Medicine staff requested an on-call cardiologist to evaluate what appeared to be "multiple abnormalities" present in the yards of my EKG printouts. Their call brought cardiologist, Dr. Ted Fish, who I've since learned is also "Chairman of Medicine" at WRMC.

I was allowed to dress, and wait while he perused the acres of squiggly lines. About an hour later a rather grim Dr. Fish was telling me that he was virtually sure my ordeal 11 days earlier had, in fact, been a heart attack. Further he said I needed to undergo a Cardiac Catheterization, and that it needed to happen NOW.

The doctor had my complete attention, yet the whole thing began to feel much more than slightly surreal.

"How can this be happening? How on earth can I possibly afford this? Surely there's some other way!"

I knew, though, that this was real and that it was something that had to happen, quickly. I worked out a slight compromise on the timing and agreed to be scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Monday the 13th. "Here's hoping that Friday the 13th doesn't come on a Monday this month," I remember thinking.

Then it was time for the proverbial other shoe to drop. No health insurance? No problem. Just pay in full within 30 days and there's a 40% discount! Given that the cost of the Cardiac Cath procedure by itself was in excess ot $6,000, any discount short of 90% was not going to do me much good.

I signed the requisite papers stating that I was assuming personal responsibility for the payment of all charges, and after a few caveats about "nothing by mouth after midnight Sunday night," I was finally released to shuffle slowly across the parking lot to Lara's car, in sunlight that was a little paler than I had remembered it.

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