The Beat Goes On

Since there’s nothing more riveting than reading about someone else’s health problems, I thought I’d close out the year with an update on my cardiomyopathy adventures.

Go ahead — pop some corn and grab a beer. I’ll wait.

So, since my last discussion of heart stuff, I spent about six weeks abstaining from alcohol, had two separate tests to determine my ejection fraction, and have received zero definitive answers. But I’m okay.

After a high-risk OB advised me of the dangers of baby-having with Type 1 diabetes and cardiomyopathy, she sent me to another cardiologist for a second opinion. And this cardiologist — who looks like Jodie Foster and sounds like Paula Poundstone, by the way — advised me to stop drinking for several weeks before I underwent more tests, just to make sure that alcohol isn’t a contributing issue for my heart problems.

Three weeks and many mopey evenings later, I visited the office for a MUGA scan, which is pretty cool in an I-can’t-believe-the-things-they-do-with-medicine way. First, the technician inserted an IV in my arm and drew a small vial of blood. Then, he sent me to a waiting room down the hall to watch Divorce Court and drink some water while he zapped the blood with radioactive thingies. Fifteen or so minutes later, he injected the radioactive blood cells back into my arm while I relaxed on a moving table. A giant camera moved around and took pictures of all that nuclearized blood moving through my heart, giving him and my cardiologist a better understanding of its strength.

“This doesn’t look like anything to get too excited about to me,” he said as he scanned the results. “But then again, I don’t have an MD behind my name.”

It was a small assurance, but I’d take it. I went back to speak to Jodie Poundstone the next week, and she echoed what the technician had said, and followed it with: “I don’t have any answers for you.” She didn’t see a significant change from my last echocardiogram, so she wanted to do another test — another damn echocardiogram. Which meant I’d have to go another three weeks obsessing over my health issues without a glass of wine to take the edge off. And in the meantime, no one had managed to get my records transferred from my previous cardiologist.

I was so frustrated. While my friends sat around on the weekends with cocktails and cold beers, I joined with my grapefruit La Croix, bitching to whoever would listen. “It must be SO NICE to be a Doctor! I mean, you don’t have to actually FIGURE ANYTHING OUT, right? You just order tests! And then when you don’t get a clear answer, you order MORE tests! And then you  get a billion dollars!” (I must have been a joy to spend a Friday evening with.)

I went back for my echocardiogram several weeks later, and then back again for another follow-up. Jodie Poundstone still didn’t see any difference — my ejection fraction was hovering in the low 50s, which is, as she called it, “low normal.”

“You’re asymptomatic, and you’re stable, and it doesn’t look like your EF has ever been lower than 49. I’d say keep taking the medication, and it looks like pregnancy is still going to be pretty risky for you.”

It was pretty much what I expected her to say. “Okay,” I replied.

“There’s always adoption and surrogacy and lots of other options for children,” she assured me.

“Yeah, I know. I keep telling my husband we can just order a baby off the Internet.”

“Well,” she said. “It’s not quite that easy.”

Yes, she thought I was serious. She really thought I was going to try to order a human infant from Babies R Us and have it shipped to my doorstep via UPS or StorkExpress or whatever.

It's the widest selection of babies around! On sale this weekend only!

She asked me if I had any other questions. Yes, I did. “Does this mean I can have beer now?” A girl’s got to have something to look forward to, right?

“Yes,” she said. “You can. This is not alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy. We still don’t know what caused it, but it does not appear to be influenced by alcohol.”

And that was that. I haven’t been back to the high-risk OB yet — and I’m not sure there’s any reason to. I’m stable (cardiologically speaking, at least), I feel healthy, I’ve got a solid supply of medication, and I’m okay. Christmas and work and a new house (and diabetes) have kept me busy, and I have a lot of things to be excited about — particularly the TeamWILD WILDfit program I just signed up for.

I may not be able to order a baby on the Internet, but there still are a lot of options out there for me. It could be that I don’t know what I’m talking about, or I don’t know what I’m missing, or I’m in denial, but I don’t feel like I need to have my own biological child, you know? Am I crazy?

Possibly.

In any case, I’m looking forward to 2012 being a relatively calm year (fingers crossed), in which I can get used to new realities and get better at adjusting to old ones. At the very least, I get to ring in the new year with real live champagne.