20 June 2012

Cardiac Perfusion

Alex dialed the number. "Hey, Dad. I've got a real heavy patient load today, so I wanted to go ahead and call because I didn't know when else I'd be able to reach you."

The Seimens whirred softly in the background, its automatic imaging sequence well underway. The patient, tucked under warmed blankets, smiled.

"Yeah... yeah... okay...," Alex nodded into the phone. "Do you know when you and Mom will be here? Will it be tomorrow or Tuesday?"

The patient kept infinitely still, breathing regularly but so as not to disturb her position.

"Okay. I'll see you then, Dad. Bye," Alex said, putting down the phone.

The Seimens continued to scan the patient's heart. Perfusion—a test to see how much blood the heart is holding at rest and after stress. What about the heart that scans the patient heart? That heart under stress, how much can it hold?

"Pshew! Wow. You didn't move a muscle did you? Great pics!" Alex said.

The patient rose from the table and settled into her wheelchair. Alex folded one blanket in half and spread it across the patient's lap. Then he trekked across the unit to the closet where the blanket warmer was kept.

"Lean forward just a little," Alex said to the patient. He draped the warm blanket across the patient's shoulders. "We'll get you finished up down here and back upstairs to get something to eat."

The patient was wheeled into another room. A chemical stress test was induced. The patient was returned to her room in the observation ward. She was, after eleven hours, allowed to eat. The patient rested. Her father and mother and husband arrived. The cardiologist came. He spoke of ifs and thens. The patient was summoned for her second set of scans.

"Did you get something to eat?" Alex asked as soon as he saw the patient's face.

The patient smiled. She settled down on the table with her arms resting above her head. Again, warm blankets were tucked around her. Again, the Seimens began to whir. Otherwise, it was quiet. The patient was relaxed.

"How much longer does this thing have?" she asked in a low voice.

"Six and a half minutes," Alex said with concern in his voice. "Why?"

"I'm falling asleep," the patient said.

"Oh, yeah, if you fall asleep, you might jump when you wake up. I could sing to you, but they'd probably fire me for torture," Alex said.

"Tell me about your dad." That's what the patient should have said. Alex's Father's Day was spent with a surrogate family, a family of wounded hearts in need, hearts made perfuse, at rest and after stress, with his care.

(With thanks to my own father who spent his Father's Day reading the newspaper in a big, green recliner by a hospital bed—instead of reading the newspaper in a big, green recliner at home—and took a raincheck on the family cookout and promised blueberry and goat cheese pie.)

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