Saturday, February 20, 2010

Going Back

This week I had my annual heart transplant tests - a right heart cath, a left heart cath (aka, I believe, an angiogram), an echo, a VO2 max treadmill stress test and a kabillion labs. The only thing missing from this day of fun was a biopsy, aka the rejection test. Unbeknownst to me, the clinic has stopped doing biopsies for everyone over two years out providing that 1) you are not presenting any rejection symptoms, 2) there have been no med changes, and 3) you have a good history. So no neck poke. Hooray!

Annual test day, in a word, is tough. The tests span two opposite ends of the spectrum - running on a treadmill with snorkel gear in your kisser to flat on your back, stoned on the "juice," and keeping your leg still for four hours. And in between, there are EKGs (at least two), blood draws, IV insertion (three attempts this year) and multiple exposures of any and all body parts. Including the ones that have nothing to do at all with your heart. AT ALL.

I can't help think when I'm doing all this that for 3 1/2 months - and really for the first two years post transplant - that this was my life. I'd automatically extend an arm to a nurse for a draw, it was second nature to rattle off my extensive drug list (including dosages) and I could give you a medical history so fast and complete it would make your head spin.

And I can still do those things (and did) but these year was different. This year, I RAN on my treadmill test for almost a minute - at an 18% grade. That is like running up Mount Massive (okay, for a minute, but still!) I exceeded my age potential by 103% - most heart transplants, due to our physiological differences, don't get to 75%. When I commented that I'd been doing interval training, the doctor warned, "but the test has an incline." To which I responded, "yeah, when I'm not doing intervals, I'm nearly at the machine's incline potential." 'Nuff said.

This year, the number one question was if "I'd gone back to work yet." There were actual looks of surprise when I answered, "Um, yeah...I've been working since five months post-transplant. And yes, I am back full-time. More than full-time some days."

And when the X-ray technician asked me if I "was a good walker" for one second, I wanted to throw that 103% in her face and then sprint to the machine, although despite the fact that I am a GREAT walker, I would've fallen on my doped up ass.

And then I remember that I could've run into the hospital straight from an Ironman competition and that wouldn't change a thing. To them I am a patient, the girl who survived one of the last of the old school bi-VADs, the girl who had her blood replaced three times in twelve hours, the girl who could barely walk when she left the hospital. And I was all those things - without those things, I wouldn't be who I am now. I am so grateful for that experience which gave me my life.

So even if the hospital never sees me as more than my patient number, I know that I am the woman who hiked nine miles in one afternoon on the Colorado trail, who indeed works a full schedule (plus extracurriculars), who dreamed of scrapbooking (literally) while on the cath table instead of grilling the doctors and happily left with her wonderful husband late Tuesday night to go her home with her pets - back to this incredible life.


Bill said...

Sarah Hassell, spotted your post via your mention of your afternoon hike on The Colorado Trail. We wish you the best.

Bill Manning, Mg Dir
The Colorado Trail Foundation

W J Wirth said...

If anyone ever wonders how you survived all that you have survided, they should just read this post.
I am proud that you are my daughter.

My2ndHeartBeat said...

I recently found your blog and have added it to my Google Reader and also a link on my own blog.

Very well written.

It's interesting to note that so many "hearties" think a like.

Enjoy life!! Life is good!!!