Today I have actual scientific evidence that I am, in at least some ways, doing better now than I was two years ago. That I’m doing better than I was one year ago is pretty obvious, but two? That’s a proposition that, from my perspective, seemed pretty unlikely. But it’s true!
Today was my yearly visit with the cardiologist. The last time I’d seen him was when he checked me over before OKing the surgery. This year was going to be a bit more “normal”, which meant he wanted me to do a treadmill test. The last one was two years ago.
They had a fancy new treadmill this time, but otherwise it was the same. First they adhered little electrode patches all over my chest, and clipped EKG leads to them. They put a blood pressure cuff on. My doctor came in, and we talked, and reviewed my meds, updated my history and then it was time to stand up on the treadmill and begin the test.
The test itself is broken into 3-minute-long stages. With each succeeding stage the treadmill gets faster and steeper. Stage 1 is a painfully slow 1.7 MPH, at an inclination of 10%. Next is 2.5 MPH at 12%, followed by 3.2 MPH at 14%, and so forth. As you progressively work harder and harder, the technician and the doctor keep an eye on the EKG readout, looking for signs that the heart is having trouble. Every two minutes, a blood pressure reading gives another measurement.
Two years ago, they stopped the test shortly into stage 3. I’d been showing EKG disturbances, and my blood pressure was lower than they wanted. This afternoon, I made it all the way through stage 3 (although I was working pretty hard by then) and my EKG was really good. My blood pressure was low, but given the EKG and the fact that, though I was breathing hard, I wasn’t about to collapse, the doctor was OK with that. (Since I’m on medications that control my BP, it’s a metric that’s open for interpretation.) It’s conceivable that, with iron will, I could have gone further into stage 4, but I was happy that he had gotten the info he needed, so we could stop at the end of stage 3.
So, I did much better this afternoon than I did on that test two years ago! Yeah for me!
I will admit that I’ve been training for the test. I’ve been doing at least 30 minutes on my home treadmill three times a week since Jan. 1, trying to get over a year of lying in bed and limited activity. And, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been adding more inclination to build up the hill-climbing muscles. It also turns out that my treadmill happens to have a pre-programmed routine that is the Bruce protocol, so I’ve given myself a couple “practice tests” in the last couple weeks.
Even knowing all that, I had no idea how today’s test would turn out. I really did lose a lot of physical conditioning while recovering from the surgery, and I’ve been unclear on how much I’ve made up since Jan. 1. And, my treadmill doesn’t come with an EKG and a BP monitor, so who knew what they would show? As it turned out, they showed I’m doing better.
It’s hard for me to express how happy these results make me feel. So much of my life lately has been about struggling with my body’s limitations. But this afternoon, my body made me proud. That’s something I haven’t had in a while now.
I was also pretty pleased with how quickly I recovered. They continued to monitor me as I sat in a chair placed on the now-motionless treadmill, and so I could watch as my pulse rate came back down, and feel my breathing slow. I felt pretty good, actually. On my way home I could feel that I’d worked hard, but in a good way, a way that I also haven’t felt for a while. My body was invigorated, not exhausted. It was pretty great.