Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pastoral Moments at the Cardio Clinic

Sometimes businesses use decor and/or background music to enhance a customer's pleasant experience, or alternately sooth a jolting one. Sometimes it's just the workers there who take this initiative, and lucky for me, such was the case with my recent visit to the cardio clinic. As I lay on a table sliding into some kind of tomography thing with a radioactive thallium drip attached to my right arm, I was strangely calm. Part of it was the reassuring presence and friendly demeanor of the technician, but I realized I was also relaxed by the music.

Noting from my records that I was a veteran, the tech mentioned in passing that he was a Viet Nam vet who had survived the Tet offensive. That got immediate respect from me even before he detailed the bullet wound that earned him medical retirement. We briefly traded stories of those who did not pass unscathed through that '60s hellish nightmare; his, much more cogent for having been there. But mostly he was quiet. My mind settled on to the background sounds, which comprised the machine's magnetic hum and a CD of old jazz and blues tunes. For the next 20 minutes I heard Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, and others I could not place.

That's not music I usually listen to, though I can still appreciate it. During a test that can tell if your heart is screwed up, it's the kind of music that nicely distracts. It was from a CD the tech had brought in on his own. If it had had any Fats Waller on it, the tech might have been surprised I would have recognized it. How many average white guys have ever even heard of Fats Waller? My dad got me interested in him when I was a kid, and he bought me one of Fats' albums--wish I still had it. Hold tight, brother.

After the test, the tech took it a step further by showing me examples of typically bad results vs my results. Although not technically qualified to comment, this is what he does for a living 5 days a week, so you got to give him respect. He said it wasn't really rocket science since the test pretty much spells it out in obvious pictures. Anyway, I now have about an 85% opinion that I'm not going to spar with a stroke in the immediate future. I'll get the 97.4% confidence (no kidding, that's the stat the doc quoted) opinion in the near future from my PCM.

Well, I can't say enough for bedside manner. This was the most pleasant, potentially disastrous experience I've ever had. I honestly believe I was even prepared for bad news, and will remain so up to seeing the PCM. Should there be more to deal with along these lines, I know a few songs I'd like to listen to...

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