Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

This You Should Not Do, Too

March 2, 2006

One of the benefits of having all of our new doctor friends is gathering bonus diagnoses along the way. For example, in collecting our family histories, our geneticist casually suggested that I might have a heart condition. He did this by looking at me, asking about my height, and listening to my chest for about 10 seconds. Pretty cool, and a fun little bit of medical news to throw in the hopper.

So we went to my primary care Doc a few weeks ago, and followed up with the cardiologist today. I had an echocardiogram, found out how much weight I’ve gained in my 5-month layoff from running, and met the most pleasant Doctor. He asked all kinds of questions, some of which were pertinent and some which might have been non sequiturs, but all of which made me wonder what my answer should be, and why he was asking me.

“When was the last time you were at the dentist?”
“Can you take off your clothes?”
“When was your last marathon?”
“How long did it take you?” (a question which any runner loves, and can answer to the minute, but which I screwed up and wondered if I should revisit later to let him know that it was 3:18, not 3:23)
“What is your educational background?”
“Are marathons painful?”
“Do you do much heavy lifting in carpentry? Or do you lift weights?” (is he asking me this because I’m so ripped, or so scrawny?)

He then left the room for an extended time of viewing the pictures of my heart and blood flow patterns from the echocardiogram images. When he came back, he listened to my breathing and heart, thumped all over my back and pressed all over my belly. He took my pulse in my feet, groin, and neck. He had me take deep breaths until I was flush with hyperventilation. He made me squeeze his finger. Then he sat down and said with some aplomb, “There are three things we need to talk about.” What followed was a weighty silence and some scratching on my file. And what followed that were the results:

1. Mitral Valve Prolapse (a leaky valve that allows blood to back up in the heart)

2. Patent something something (I can’t read his writing, but it’s the gate between heart chambers that closes at birth, but in my case, never did, leaving a hole between the right and left sides of my heart)

3. Slight thickening of the heart muscle in the left ventricle (meaning that at some point, my heart has learned that it needs to work a bit harder)

All of which means that I need to use prophylactic antibiotics when I go to the dentist to prevent an infection of the heart valve (which has a 5% death rate). And that I need to have another echocardiogram in a year to track this thickening of the heart muscle. In the meantime, I should still exercise, avoid the dentist (just kidding), and go on my merry way.

Of course, my bottom-line question was whether these conditions affected my performance and endurance. Was this the reason that I could never keep up with Dave and Steve? Is this why people say I should be able to go 2:40 for the marathon, when I can’t get much under 3 hours? The answer, of course, was ‘probably not’. So, my search for an excuse continues.

But the big lesson for the day? Remember to coordinate the laundry schedule with the doctor’s visit, just in case you need to disrobe. My drawers were a little threadbare today. It was pretty embarrassing, especially for the wife.

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2 Responses to “This You Should Not Do, Too”

  1. dave stavlund says:

    For whatever it’s worth Mike I am sorry those strong Swedish genes were not better. Uncle Sam told me in 1962 as does our sawbones that I have a murmur. Since I’ve MANY years under my belt and still fairly virile I am skeptical about seeing my sawbones Kresnika and asking for a second opinion. Haven’t heard that I have “prolaps” and a dentist has never killed me.

  2. jason says:

    #2 is probably patent foramen ovale. Not a big deal though…

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