Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Bad Phone Call From The Good Doctor

Most of the people I know that are my age are grandparents.

Some have grandchildren older than my two daughters, seven and six.

It's hard being a parent when you are no longer a spring chicken.

I don't really think of myself as being old. Although the gray in my hair has now conquered most of my temples, and my longish goatee is pretty much white.

So I don't exactly resemble a spring chicken. Except in my own mind. That seems to be where my ego lives.

But this weekend's little incident actually brought the matter of my advancing age poignantly home.

I have had a complete physical scheduled with my family doctor for some time. And so Friday morning, I stopped on the way to work to get the lab portions of my tests done. In the span of eight minutes I filled four vials of blood and a little cup. I said my goodbyes as I handed my little yellow cup to the lab attendant and headed to the office for the daily series of battles.

That night, I came home to find lovely smells in the kitchen and the house decorations more nearer completion for the holidays. As I was talking of the day's events with my lovely wife Darlene, the phone rang. It was our family doctor.

He had just gotten my lab results.

"Fred, have you been doing any type of heavy exertion – you know, exercise or sports lately?"

"No, I haven't", I answered – what an odd question? "Why do you ask?"

"The muscle enzymes in your blood test were four times what they should be", answered the good doctor.

"Is that good?"

"No, it isn't. It is an early warning sign that you are about to have a heart attack."

"Huh", I said in my normal articulate manner.

"You need to grab a good book and prepare to spend the evening at the Emergency room".

"I see".

"I'm not kidding, this needs to be looked at", said the good doctor. "I want you to get an EKG and a four panel C-ray."


I had no intention of going that night. It was a Friday night, and not a good place to be on a Friday night. I would get up early Saturday morning and head in to the hospital.

I slept very poorly that night. I tossed and turned and thought a lot about what state I would leave my little family in if I should kick off in my sleep. I added up all my benefits and insurance – and I came to the startling conclusion that they would very well off should I have the big-one before dawn.

Sobering thoughts they were.

Into the hospital I drove the next morning. Windsor was being hit with it's biggest snow dump yet in the season. And the roads were slick, and people were driving cautiously. And when I arrived in the ER, amazingly enough it was almost empty.

I first explained my reason for visiting to the triage nurse, who put me immediately into a room where I would be placed on a heart monitor. I then explained my situation to the tending nurse, the cardiac technician, and then both a cardiac and pulmonary specialist.

They ran all the same blood tests as in the lab the day before. They also made me fill yet another little yellow cup. And then they strapped me to a heart monitor for several hours.

And in the end, they told me my blood work was fine. I did have some breathing difficulties they diagnosed to be bronchitis, and they scheduled me for a complete pulmonary exam.

But my heart was fine.

I arrived home with a big box of donuts for the girls and a Tim Horton's double-double coffee for me and Darlene. And I went to work on the lights in the front yard. And putting together the stand for a new TV we had just bought. I was up until 5:00 in the morning putting everything together.

I have spent every morning since coming home from the hospital considering where we stand should I decide to croak early. I have decided that I would really like to stay around a bit longer. See how my girls turn out, what happens at work, and well, I just got this new TV.

But I do not understand how my blood test could show such a dire condition one day, and be absolutely clear of the condition the next? And I will admit that I am worried.

Because I have two little girls to raise. And parenthood isn't easy at my age.

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