e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu



Preface #1: I have much respect for Western medicine's innovations and miracles. Preface #2: I offer this rant with much thankfulness that I'm insured. I can think of few national sins as grievous and scarcely forgivable as the number of adults and kids in the U.S. who have no access or inadequate access to health care. We're rich and we needlessly let poor people die in this country. Let's not sugar-coat it; we suck. So thank God I can go to a doctor at all.

Anyway, my point today is that dealing with doctors--and medical issues in general--can be frustrating. I get fairly intense dizzy spells. Sometimes the dizzy spells are accompanied by a shortness of breath. Being that high blood pressure and numerous heart problems run in my family, the symptoms are worrisome. Unlike every male member of my family, my blood pressure is perfect. My dad and brother had both been on b.p. meds for years by the time they were my age. Mine? Perfect. Not trying to show off or anything, just saying. I exercise at least three-four times a week. I don't eat much meat. I've got mad-perfect b.p.

Anyway, I've been to my doc, to a cardiologist, and to an electrophysiologist. Too their collective credit, they've all been very, very pro-active, mainly because of my family history but also because of my symptoms. I've done stress tests, worn halter monitors, had EKGs and cardiac sonograms. Tissue wise, my heart's in great shape (thanks, exercise, you rock); my cardiologist actually told me that I've "trumped" family history. Electrically, not so much. Long story short: I have atrial irregularity. The little blips (sorry for the technical jargon) on my EKG results are sometimes inverted, which I guess signfies that the electrical activity doesn't always move through my heart the way it's supposed to. My heartbeats have a trajectory all their own.

Some people are like that and it doesn't always result in trouble, but coupled with the symptoms, it's odd. Upping the oddness: my symptoms don't necessarily coincide with the irregularities. Sometimes I get dizzy when my heartbeat's normal. Sometimes I have no symptoms whatsoever when my heartbeat does its anomalous, weird thing. Soon I'm going to wear a monitor for a two-week period so the doctors can do a more thorough analysis of any trends. Right now, based on a 24-hour monitor, they don't see any trends at all. Random.

The frustration comes from the mystery, the randomness. All the knowledge in the room (the exam room, the laboratory, etc.), and no answer. The frustration comes from the sense that it's kind of like getting a cold. You know sometimes no matter what you ingest or how aggressive you get with cold symptoms, you're just plain old going to be miserable for a few days and then feel better. It's a bit frustrating to feel like strapping on some expensive piece of equipment is ineffectual, like taking some over-the-counter cold med. No matter what you do for that cold, you're going to sneeze for the next day or two. No matter what you do for that atrial whatever-you-call-it, the doctor's going to shrug and say I dunno.

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