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Stress Echocardiogram - Really doc, my ticker is OK

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Part 1: Serious Chest Congestion

Since March of this year I have had an elephant sitting on my chest. I have been coughing and wheezing a lot. I tired quickly and had no zip. My doctor prescribed antibiotics, steroid inhalers, Musinex and Albuterol. The Albuterol was to be taken 5 times a day via a nebulizer.

All these medications were intended to open up my lungs and get rid of great gobs of mucus. Yeah, I know, not a pretty picture. The story gets better.

Part 2: Tests, Tests and More Tests

By mid-May my condition had only improved slightly. I now had a hippo sitting on my chest. I was also experiencing a lot of pain in my chest. The doctor took an x-ray of my chest to test for pneumonia. I did not have pneumonia.

He then put me through a lung capacity test. This is where not having a baseline is deceiving. My lungs capacity was 115% of normal. Under normal circumstances, my lung capacity test at 140% normal. I have a huge boiler room. The only parameter that was low was the rate I could fill and discharge my lungs, which was only 79% of normal. It just hurt to breathe!

My doctor then brought in a portable Electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. His assistant stuck a bunch of electrodes on me.

The results of my EKG were picture perfect.

I have known my doctor for 18 years. We engage in friendly banter. He says, "Bruce, I am going to order a Stress Echo test." I reply, "Doc, I don't know what the heck that is. But I am pretty sure, that if there is only one thing that I got that is good, it’s my ticker." He smiles, "The three most likely causes of your symptoms are bronchitis, pneumonia or congestive heart failure. I just want to rule out anything that is going to kill you!" It is really hard to argue at this point. I say, "Ok, write me script for two weeks of the big guns antibiotic and I will go get the test." My lung congestion had a bacteria component and I had a sinus infection.

Part 3: Smart Little Cookie

My wife is a smart little cookie. I told her my throat felt constricted and I had trouble swallowing. My sinus were swollen and hurt badly. She said, "You have allergies." That is the reason you cannot kick your bronchitis." I shrugged, "Ok, what can I do about it?" She grabbed a box out of the cupboard and handed it to me. She goes, "Take this Allegra-D. I would die without it." I start taking the Allegra. All of a sudden all the different meds start working. My chest still hurts but the congestion starts to clear up.

Part 4: Stress Echo Test

On May 30th I am scheduled for the Stress Echo Test at South Denver Cardiology. The place looks like the Taj Mahal.

This is facility has 68,000 square feet. There are factories that are smaller! Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. I am sure that most major metro areas have several big heart centers.

I get to the Heart Center early and check-in. I have my running stuff with me. This test requires the victim - er - patient to walk on a treadmill. I couldn't drink any coffee before the test. So I am barely awake. Here is a link that explains the Echo Stress Test.


I noted that the Echo Stress Test is supposed to be "painless and harmless". Yeah, right!

They call me back and show me a locker room where I can change. I change into my running clothes and put on my trusty Nike Zoom Vomeros. A really cute girl technician leads me back to the torture chamber - er - examination room. There is a pretty young woman sitting at the ultra-sound machine. A smiling blond runway model walks over and introduces herself. She is the cardiologist. The cute girl asks me to take off my shirt. She shaves part of my chest and glues a zillion electrode patches on me. She then attaches 700 pounds of wires to the patches. She puts a blood pressure cuff on my right arm and an oxygen saturation sensor on my left finger.

I am convinced this is high school career day and the seasoned staff is going to walk in any second.

This picture shows a fraction of the electrodes. I had electrodes all over me.

The cute girl says, “PB 120 over 80; oxygen saturation 99%." I ask, "Is that good." In a surprised tone she say, "Oh yes, that is very good." The pretty woman at the ultra-sound types this information into her terminal. They tell me to lie down on a small bed by the ultra-sound machine on my side. The pretty woman plugs my wiring harness into the ultra-sound machine, she then grabs the freezing ultra-sound sensor and tries to push the sensor through my chest to my backbone. She says, "Resting heart rate is 54 BPM." I ask, "Is that good." I am pretty sure she thought her machine was broken. She simply says, "Yeah. Please breath normally." When someone stabs you with a metal probe that is one degree above absolute zero it is hard to breath normally!

But I got to see my heart working.

This is not my heart. But it should give you the idea of what the ultra-sound shows.

After getting a lot of images of my ticker, I am unplugged from the ultra-sound terminal and led to the medical treadmill.

They plug my wires and blood pressure cuff into the terminal next to the treadmill. The fun is about to begin. The runway model comes over. She points to a pain chart on the wall in front of me, "The chart is there so you can tell us how you feel. Level 1 is normal. Level 10 is excruciating agony." I ask, "How long is this going to take?" She looks at my size and graying hair and say, "Not long. Maybe 8 to 10 minutes. Just until you hit your exercise heart rate." I ask, "How fast is that?" She answers, "166 beats per minute."

I almost blurt out, "Listen doc, my heart has never gone that fast EVER! My heart just won't go that fast!"

The cute girl starts the treadmill. I can see my heart rate and EKG readout. She sets treadmill at a brisk walk. After 5 minutes, my heart rate hits 80 beats per minute. She asks me how I feel. I tell her I feel fine. She says, "I need to turn up the speed. Is that Ok?" I answer, "Sure". She turns up the speed to a slow jog. She has the incline set at maximum. My heart rate slowly goes to 100 beats per minute. I have already been on the machine 10 minutes. The runway model asks, "Where is your level of pain." I say, "About a 2." She responds with a concerned voice, "Can you keep going?" I nod and say, "Yes". The cute girl turns up the speed. At this point I am running. My heart rate hits 120 and then 130. I have been on the treadmill for 15 minutes. The runway model asks, "Can you keep going?" I say, Yup." She adds, “We need you heart rate at least at 140." The cute girl cranks the treadmill up again. I am pretty sure it is maxed.

I have monitored my heart rate during exercise. 131 bpm is all the faster it goes. At 25 minutes my heart rate hits 138. The runway model calls it good. Now I have to hurry over to the ultra-sound. I lay down on my side. Some of the electrodes on my side have slipped off. I am drenched in sweat. My heart is running like a well-oiled machine, but it has already slipped down to under 130 beats per minute. I am feeling dizzy. I needed to cool down. My chest really hurts!

So much for "painless and harmless".

Part 5: Conclusion

I had a very bad case of bacterial and viral bronchitis aggravated by allergies. My heart is in superb shape. The chest pain was caused by pleurisy. Pleurisy is an inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the lungs. This inflammation was caused by the chronic bronchitis. I treated the pleurisy with Aleve. My bronchitis is practically gone.

Part 6: I Can Ride! I Can Run.

I have been working my way back to fitness slowly. I managed to run a 5K in 31:07. That is way off my normal pace but I have not been running in months.

Yesterday, I took Ultra Stumpy up Red Cone Peak. I have been riding a lot of technical trails and wanted to relax.

This bike is amazing. Is shifts quickly and silently even under heavy load.

The way up to Red Cone is rough.

The climb up Red Cone starts at 9,000 feet and tops out at 12,801 feet.

This is the summit of Red Cone. I averaged 10.5 mph on the ascent and 27.3 mph on the descent. Top speed was 44.7 mph. I could have gone faster but the road was too rough. The descent was a rush.

I am back!

Thanks for reading my blog.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I wish my heart beat that slowly... Normal exercise brings me up above my "ideal heart rate"... of course, that's mostly when I try to run (not something I'm good at... I kindof prance)

    You, sir, are a machine!
    2076 days ago
    It's nice to know what exactly was going on and that it is clearing up and your ride looks awesome, as always. Glad you are feeling better.
    2089 days ago
    good to know! I have had pleurisy and it is major painful! Same as a bruised lung, which I did coughing my brains out!
    2097 days ago
  • MPLANE37
    Congrats, man. No heart problem is excellent news.
    2098 days ago
    It was really interesting to read the details of the test.
    You didn't tell, this max heart rate for you is normal, low or high?

    When I run, my max heart rate is 185, and usually I do the cardio training between 150-165.

    2099 days ago
    Glad your tests came out okay, you're going to live, and you're feeling better and back to what you love!!
    2099 days ago
    I'd noticed you'd been pretty quiet of late.. now I know why! I'm so glad to hear your ticker is in tip-top shape! What an awesome way to 'celebrate' getting back in the groove!
    emoticon emoticon
    2099 days ago
    Your wife is a keeper! Thank God for a wise woman.

    You really like to climb to the heights! I just climbed Mt. Washington here in NH which is under 7,000.
    2099 days ago
    Your wife is a smart woman. Sometimes it is really that simple. OTC allergy meds to the rescue. Hope you are feeling top notch and giving Ultra Stumpy a real run for it.
    2099 days ago
    I'm glad you are feeling better and are back to your running and biking!!
    2099 days ago
    That is a phenomenal heart rate for a stress test. When I had one earlier this year my HR got up to it's normal 180 when I really workout and it looked great too.

    Glad all is good with the ticker now bike away.
    2099 days ago
    Glad that everything turned out ok with your heart.
    2100 days ago
    You are a great story teller! Love hearing about your heart working superbly!
    2100 days ago
  • KA_JUN
    dude, that summit of red cone looks beautiful, i can imagine the descent was well earned! 166 bpm?!? For me, that's slightly below race pace, and I never hit numbers like that indoors, ever. I can only imagine how hard they had you working on that treadmill, especially with your ability to inhale constricted. Nice way to spend and afternoon. glad to see you're in the saddle again!
    2100 days ago
    Woo hoo! Yay you! And yay for your wife giving you the Allegra-D! I've had a similar situation happen to me (chronic bronchitis + allergies = not a fun time). Glad to read that your ticker is in superb shape and the rest of you is on the mend. I swear, these doctors are getting younger and younger every year. I don't care what anybody says.
    2100 days ago
    It sounds like what I am going through all the heart tests and they say three arteries are less then 50% so they are not going to do anything. Still get tired real easy so needless to say going to go to different doctor . Glad to see you are back doing what you love to do emoticon
    2100 days ago
    Imagine being too fit for the stress test to go as expected! You're a star : )
    Congrats on your fitness level, and best wishes for getting completely clear of the infections. And, happy happy happy biking!
    2100 days ago
    I'm glad that your heart and everything is okay, but I have to say that your descriptions of your "adventure" had me laughing so hard, I thought maybe I was going to need medical attention. What a way you had with the words and your description. It just gave me a vivid picture in my mind of your adventure or ordeal, whichever you chose to call it.

    The things these doctors put us through sometimes!! I enjoyed the blog!
    2100 days ago
  • NWFL59
    What an ordeal! Glad you're ticker was confirmed to be hunky dory okay fine and your wife got you back on your anti allergy meds to help your other meds do their job and knock out that nasty bug you've been fighting. Your spirits must have soared as your cycled about the Red Cone trail. emoticon emoticon
    Glad you're feeling so much better and lets hope this is the last of it.
    I've undergone (a few years ago) that procedure (Echo Stress Test) but didn't last even 5 minutes before I exceeded the target range and the test had to be stopped way too early. The cardiologist was almost as ashen in the face as I was red! I told them I won't be doing that test again so don't ask me! emoticon
    2100 days ago
    Now you know. Better to be safe than sorry. I have a friend who bikes and does triathalons. He went through a time when he had no energy and trouble breathing. After extensive testing, they found one of his arteries was 90% blocked! He's all fixed now and back to his old self!
    2100 days ago
    Those poor girls thought you were gonna drop dead on their treadmill! You showed them!

    Glad your ticker is okay and you're feeling better. Welcome back to the trails!
    2100 days ago
    Sounds like you have had a rough Spring. Glad to hear you're doing better and that it wasn't serious.
    2100 days ago
    nice to have an officially approved healthy heart. and nicer still to finally feel better. looks like a really scary bike ride to me!
    2100 days ago
    Glad to hear you are back at it!
    2100 days ago
    How scared you must have been. I'm so glad they did the tests needed to get some answers. What a relief to know that your heart is ok.. I'm sooo happy for you !!!!!
    2100 days ago
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