Chat @ Care-giving: The Stress of a Stress Test

Have you ever taken a lie detector test? Your brain sends telegrams to your nervous system, “Be cool, we need this job,” and your body completely ignores the brain. You’re sure before the lie detector test is over the police will show up to arrest you, even though you’ve never done anything to get arrested for.  Surely the lie detector technician will discover some crime you’ve committed in your sleep. That’s kind of like my mom’s recent stress test.

One of Mom’s internist’s biggest challenges is keeping her blood pressure down.  Through stents and medication the doctor does a pretty good job, but Mom’s penchant for worry gives him a run for his money.  Her stents are over ten years old, so he watches Mom pretty closely.  At a recent appointment Mom delivered a twin message, she was suffering some pain between her shoulders and she’s going to need some dental surgery.  Ever diligent, the doctor ordered up a stress test for the next Thursday, since it had been three years since the last stress test and Thursday is the day I spend with Mom.

To up the stress ante, Mom went to the dental surgeon the day before the stress test.  I wanted to know what he said, so I took her, even though his office was one she felt comfortable driving to.  The procedure sounded nasty and the results marginal, but with an infection growing Mom really has no choice.  When he gets through, she’ll have a two-tooth gap in her jaw.  We won’t know if he can fill the gap with implants until the jaw heals and we see how much bone is left.

Mom depends on my weekly visits to get her errands run and many of her chores done.  Since the stress test would take most of Thursday, Mom wanted to squeeze these errands and chores in after the dental appointment.  However, she was also afraid of taking up too much of my time – as if raising me hadn’t taken up too much of her time.  Here’s how dear Mom is.  One of the most important errands she wanted to run was to pick up some pimento cheese.  We’d need to have a sack lunch at the stress test and she wanted to take my favorite kind of sandwich.  Now you know why I’m so willing to devote my time to her.

Understanding Dallas traffic, on Thursday morning, I left home with forty-five extra minutes for the trip to Mom’s house.  As is always the case when we have an early appointment, I only needed a few of those minutes.  I can breeze to Mom’s house in twenty minutes on most days, but it will usually take over an hour on the days I most need to be on time – if I don’t leave extra early.  Though I arrived on this day with time to spare, both parents greeted me like a soldier from the war.  Dad had been listening to radio and realized every possible route between my house and theirs had been blocked, but they didn’t know I left before the crashes tied up traffic.

Mom was in a tizzy.  Had she chosen the right thing to wear?  Were we going to forget our sack lunch?  Would the tote bag carry everything we needed?  Would my Diet Dr. Pepper be warm when it was time to drink it?  Would she be cold in the doctor’s office?  Had she correctly filled out the doctor’s questionnaire?  Would my brother-in-law drop by with lunch for Dad as he promised he would?  If she carried the file with all her medical information would she lose it?  Did I remember where the stress test would be?  Was there going to be traffic on the way there?  Well, you get the picture.

Of course we arrived on time and she’d filled out the questionnaire correctly.  The office was cool, but she had a jacket.  I, on the other hand, had left my glasses sitting on my desk.  Thank goodness I could see well enough to enlarge the print on my Kindle, but I had to click the button to turn the page so frequently that I may develop carpel tunnel issues.  Mom is unable to negotiate a treadmill, so she had the nuclear stress test.  She had a rough patch about midway.  Having been through stress tests before, Mom feared her difficulty presaged bad news, but the kind medical personnel assured her the reaction was well within expected results.   I got Mom home and the thought of waiting for results, has caused even more stress.  I’m not too worried though.  When Dad had a bad stress test, they wouldn’t let him leave the hospital without open heart surgery, but I do wish they’d call and relieve Mom of her concern.  This health care stuff is dangerous for your blood pressure.  Don’t you agree?

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