Sunday, November 8, 2009

Warning: This is a Bitch Session

Hello, all. Last week, I took a break from whining about my own medical issues in order to rant about jerks. I wish I could tell you that everything is sunshine dust and rose petals now, but unfortunately, there are unresolved medical issues still. The issues stem from the EKG the cardiologist took before my stress test. While I got through the stress test with flying colors, (maintaining a heart rate of 195 beats per minute for 4-5 minutes and still carrying on a conversation) the cardiologist decided that while my EKG's variables are all within the normal ranges, he wants me to get a goddamned MRI of my heart. He signed me up and billed my insurance without getting my consent for the procedure and then told me I was at risk to just keel over and die during a run when I asked him if athletic hearts could give abnormal EKGs (which I knew could happen, since that's exactly what my old cardiologist back home told me the last time I was tested). Well, this esteemed graduate of Harvard Med (which I knew because every surface in his office is emblazoned with the Harvard crest) frowned when I asked that and said "look, I'm on your side here- your coach needs to back off." As if the only reason I could possibly want an unnecessary, expensive, and time-consuming procedure was because Bruce was snarling at me to run in one of the mini-meets! All in all, it's been an extremely frustrating process dealing with this office. Once I accepted that the doctor was going to hold the clearance letter over my head until I get the damn MRI, I asked him about the procedure and was relieved to hear that it would take about a half-hour, tops, and then as long as they didn't find a giant hole in my heart, I would be fine.
Welllllll that's not exactly how the process works. The hospital where the procedure would be done called me to go over the procedure- it's an all day thing. First, they inject you with this radioactive dye to make the heart show up better on the display. Now, I know some friends who have had this dye injected in for bone scans, so while I'm not thrilled, that's not a huge deal. The huge deal is that I spend TWO HOURS in the MRI machine. Not 20min, as Dr. Rice estimated. Not a "half hour, tops" as he threw out. TWO HOURS in one of those stupid metal coffins. I was told "oh, it's not that bad- they let you listen to music." Oh, I can listen to music? Well, never mind. In fact, I often lock myself in a wooden box, throw on my ipod, and lie there motionless for hours!
I realize that this sounds like I'm bitching about a procedure that very well may save my life. Well, I'm not. The recommendation for this procedure came on the basis of an EKG that is a little abnormal for the average person. It was not compared to EKGs taken of other athletes doing approximately 2 hours of reasonably challenging aerobic exercise a day. I would imagine that if I was a nonactive 50 year old, my EKG would be troubling. Then again, if I was a nonactive 50 year old, my resting pulse of 48 and the amount of ice cream I eat in a wek would probably be troubling too. Doesn't mean I have a hole in my heart!
What does all this mean about my running? Well, nothing much, actually. I am not cleared to compete. Dr. Rice, the cardiologist, doesn't even want me to get my heart rate up for any reason because he's concerned I'll up and die on him. However, I know that he has to cover his butt. I also know that my abnormal EKG is 99.9% likely to be because of my activity level and not any secret defect the stress test and sonargram they did of my heart. Thus, I have a delicate line to toe: I'm going to push ahead and train full time and try to avoid getting any of the very supportive and understanding coaching staff here at BU in trouble, because they have been great about this whole situation (especially Bruce, who has had to deal with me raging in his office too many times) and have exerted no pressured on me whatsoever to do anything but make sure it's safe for me to train. I'll confess: the week of my negativity rant, I ran 32 miles, including a very easy fartlek. All, of course, unauathorized and on my own. This past week, I hit 61 miles, including a secret, late-night 3xmile session averaging 5:00 or so (total workout, with rest included, was 4mi in 21:24, so not a bad aerobic effort) and a solo 12-miler this morning before work. I feel reasonably back into the swing of things now- the last two weeks, unfortunately, where full of midterms and papers and other stressfull school related things, but with this week's Veteran's Day breaking the week in two, I plan to start doubling and expect to hit about 90 next week.
Bruce has said that once I am cleared and allowed to train again, he'll wait to race me until either the Terrier meet at the end of Janurary or possibly the week before that. Thus, I have basically a huge block of time to cash in on my cross country fitness and get scary, scary fit for late indoor/outdoor track. Now I just need to get this stupid MRI out of the way so I can stop the sneaky sham!

Healthy hearts to all!

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