Wednesday, 4 February 2009

A Stress Test Should Not be Stressful!

I absolutely despise going for medical tests. Yes, it is true that they are tremendously invasive on both body and time, but those are really the least of my concerns. What I absolutely hate is how they intrude on my privacy and personal space-and this is only in the waiting rooms!! I encountered one of these experiences this very morning.

My doctor, being the obsessive-compulsive soulmate that I require and adore, sent me for a cardiac stress test. Now let me be clear-there is absolutely nothing wrong with my heart that a better family history couldn't cure. My father, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, and several uncles have all suffered from some form of cardiac ill health, so my anal-retentive physician demands all appropriate tests be done every couple of years, just to keep tabs. The test itself is really nothing. It involves being hooked up to contraptions resembling something out of the imagination of Mary Shelley, (the author of "Frankenstein" for all of you less than literate souls) while running one's lungs out on a treadmill. Following the excursion up elevations reminiscent of my trip to San Francisco, a technician smears gunk on my tits to adequately image my heart. (Gunk on My Tits! A top ten hit from Lionel Richie, I believe?) The whole experience was over in 10 minutes and that was long. (Apparently I suffer from unusually low blood pressure and it took higher, longer and faster treadmill times to get my heart rate up to the maximum.) It was the hour before that challenged my patience and frayed my last nerve.

My appointment at the clinic that is 5 minutes from my home, was scheduled for 10:30 am. Being the nut that I am, I arrived 10 minutes early. (I realize that this is a sickness, but I can't help my punctuality.) The clinic is in a strip mall that also houses a popular Israeli take-out place, a camera shop and a snowboarding store that was mobbed. In short, finding parking was a challenge. I ask you, what kind of cardiac clinic doesn't have adequate parking for its patients?These are people for which simple walking tasks can be difficult. Not only that, the temperature has dipped to ridiculously frigid levels again, and breathing for this middle-aged asthmatic has been taxing at best. I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone with real issues. To make the parking and walking situation even worse, the plaza has neglected to adequately clear the ice in front of the clinic door. Traversing the path to the door was a real challenge and I am able-bodied! 

The clinic was packed solid with people. Russian people. Lots and lots of Russian-Canadians. Apparently the clinic is run by Russians, so the community feels quite comfortable there. All of the medical secretaries speak fluent Russian and most of the technicians are also conversant. After checking in and finding no chair to park myself, I stood at the door at took in the ambiance. There was none. No magazines, no brochures to keep patients informed on the latest in heart healthy diets; nothing. Just the stale smell of sweat, the halitosis from the old man standing beside me and twenty cell phone conversations happening simultaneously in Russian. There were several spouses cursing at each other, (I think it was cursing!) an old lady knitting to stay busy, and a woman that had on a matching cobalt blue scarf, purse, running shoes and leggings. Seriously! Identical colours all! Nobody could remove their jackets or various winter layers, because there was no place to hang them, so we all basically sweated our way through the wait until our names were mercifully called. I think that it is a rehab technique designed to melt away a few extra pounds. There was plexiglass surrounding the admissions desk that was so high as to encase the workers in a literal bubble, and it had no appropriate speaking hole so that the elderly patients could not hear the questions being asked of them. One man actually began screaming his answers to the secretary.

After about 20 minutes, a chair finally opened up and I was able to sit. Unfortunately the man wedged in the chair next to me had just come back inside from having a smoke, or 6. He is a cardiac patient, for f@#$ sake and he went out for a smoke! He reeked in a way that I cannot adequately do justice to in words, and he triggered an asthma attack severe enough to elicit use of my puffers. Great! I haven't even gotten on the damn machine yet and I am already wheezing. I waited another one half an hour before I was called, but by then I needed a shower, a tea (or something stronger) and a Russian/English dictionary. I honestly think that the couple across from me was plotting the demise of the cardiologist/owner of the establishment, but my knowledge of the language is still not up to par despite my hour long immersion. 

When will the medical community start treating patients like people? I truly believe that every doctor, nurse and technician should have to endure the system for a week so that they might know what it feels like to be on the other end of the enema. This was my experience on a good health day. Imagine what it might have felt like had I been feeling crummy like most of the people that I shared my morning with. All we want is a little humanity.


  1. LOL. Poor Lionel Ritchie. He's gone from Three Times a Lady (one of my faves from the summer of '78, with the Commodores), to the song you named...

  2. OMG ... this is soooo funny. *gasp* I'm sorry to laugh at your expense but I have had a similar experience so I know your day well. Of course I didn't laugh at the time.