From the Heart…Part 2

After having a stress test, I had an echocardiogram, which is nothing more than an ultrasound of the heart.  The cool thing about ultrasounds (to me) is that depending on what position you’re in, you can most of the time see what’s happening on the screen.  Not that you always know what you’re looking at. 

But first, let’s talk about the preparation.  You are asked to undress from the waist up.  If you’re a guy, that’s the end of it.  But I had to put on this paper vest looking thing, which was a one-size fits all item.  That meant, in my case, that three other people could have fit in it with me.  It opens in the front.  Then I was given a towel and instructed to lie down on my left side and use the towel to drape across my front, since the vest was bound to gap open.  I can’t tell you how stupid I thought this was. 

I wanted to say, “Look, I appreciate the effort to protect my modesty, but I don’t have any from the waist up”.  The deal is, I had breast cancer three years ago.  Between the mammograms and the biopsies and the surgeries and the radiation, approximately 1,152 people have seen my breasts.  And think of this:  during radiation, I would have to remove the top half of the gown, get positioned, then they would carefully drape the gown back over the breast that wasn’t being treated.  Speaking of stupid.  I always wanted to say, Isn’t this like closing the barn door after the horse has already escaped? 

It got even stupider during the echo, when in order to position the probe in the proper place, the technician would have to sort of feel around under the towel and push my breast out of the way.  Geez.  I so wanted to say, look, wouldn’t it be a lot easier for you to find where to put the probe if you could see what you’re doing?  Because, right now, sir, you are groping. 

Besides that, the echo itself was cool.  There is something very strange, but fascinating, about watching your own heart beat in real time.  The technician had told me I could ask any questions I wanted, as long as I didn’t ask whether he was seeing anything abnormal since he isn’t allowed to say one way or another.  I could ask all I wanted about anatomy, or what we were seeing on the screen.  I didn’t have any questions until we got to the sniff test.  You think I’m kidding. 

He asked me to sniff.  Then demonstrated, as if I didn’t understand what “sniff” meant.  I sniffed.  I had to know why.  It turns out that you have this vein called the IVC (for inferior vena cava), which is the major vein bringing blood back to the heart from the entire lower body.  When you sniff, it’s supposed to contract.  I still have no idea why.  So I don’t know what it means if it doesn’t.  He ran the “tape” back and said, look at this:  here is where you sniffed.  Sure enough, there it was, contracting its little heart out.  “That’s good,” he said.  (Wait!  Were you supposed to tell me that?)  For some reason the picture of it reminded me of high school biology, watching a paramecium or some other one-celled creature devour some other creature.  No relation whatsoever, but I’m just saying that’s what it reminded me of.   

I don’t have the results back from the echo, but considering that my stress test was normal, I think there’s a good chance the echo will be too.  During the whole process, I had plenty of time to reflect on what an amazing organ the heart is.  You may argue that the brain is more important, but you can actually do without parts of your brain.  If your heart doesn’t work, there is no more You. 

From what I recall, the Ancients, not being aware of the brain, thought the heart was the location of the “soul”.  If there is such a thing, I think maybe they had it right all along.


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