I am sitting in my primary care physician's office one early evening as he looks over my chart on a hand held computer. My feet dangle over the paper covered examination bed. I have just shared my most recent health worry. On an otherwise relaxed stroll that afternoon, my heart pumps briefly a rapid succession of baseballs that thump on my chest wall. I am not unaccustomed to strange flutterings. I went through a small battery of tests last year when these first started – (was told one of my heart flaps is a little loose – but later found out this is pretty common). But what I felt today left me momentarily winded. I come for an immediate visit. That is why I see this doctor – He can always see me right away.
My doctor’s office is in what is known as the “Iranian building” on Ventura Boulevard in Encino. Iranian doctors, dentists, businesses, TV stations, and other occupants reside here like it is downtown Tehran. When I enter, the nice man behind the desk (I wish I knew his name) asks me how my mom is doing. He knows I haven't been here in a while since I’ve been seeing another doctor across town. I cover up my ethnic guilt with an excuse based on geographic accessibility.
My doctor reminds me that I came in last year around the same time with the same complaint. Is it because I'm excited about Nowrooz - the upcoming Iranian New Year? This now reminds me of another time when another Iranian doctor remarked to another complaint by inquiring whether I was in love.
No, it's not Nowrooz, I tell him now, and I wasn't in love then. But I am about to participate in the LA Marathon. This all sounds very familiar since last year he suggested not run in the marathon. He had also told me not to run much at all in fact. What is wrong with me? Days away from the marathon and here I am, again, thinking there is no way I can do this .
Long story short – I am hooked up with a 24 hour heart monitor. Like a robot with multicolor electric veins, some sneaking out, others taped securely to my chest peaking out from the top of my shirt, I eat, sleep and work in this manner. I return to the doctor next day, same time. I know I didn’t have any symptoms - there were no strange flutterings, no missed beats, no baseball thumping moments, no moments that took my breath away. I am disappointed.
The amicable ambiance at my doctor’s office at night is like a small Iranian cocktail party, but with thermometers, blood pressure machines, and disposable needles instead of a cold drink. I sit in the waiting room while I hear a patient talk and laugh about how the best medicine is a serving of good kabab.
Finally, after the 24 hour stream of information from my heart box has been digitized into an electronic file, the doctor goes through the pages and pages of results. Apart from a less than 1% high heart rate (what was I doing around midnight, he asks?), I am within normal limits. There are some areas where my heart beats a touch too soon – but there is nothing he sees that I should worry about. Great? Great!
I guess I can run the marathon after all.
Now I just have to wait on the verdict next week regarding treatment of my too too pained shin. There is always something.