Living Well with a Bad Diagnosis - Lung Disease

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lung Transplant Testing, Part 2

The Echocardiogram was next up on the list of appointments. The tech had a charming Irish lilt in her voice and fun to work with. I have had four echocardiograms throughout the years, all looking for Pulmonary Hypertension. High pressure in the lungs. I don't want it, thanks.

Knowing the drill helped move the test along quickly - gown for easy access to the heart, gel for the sonogram, lying on the left side, holding my breath for short periods. I watched the screen as she captured every working area of my heart including the valves. At one point, she called in an RN to put an IV in my arm (third poke of the morning) and saline was plunged into the vein while the tech took photos of a ton of tiny bubbles suddenly appearing then moving through my heart. We waited for them all to clear then did it again. We all watched it work through the heart again then repeated it one final time. It was rather fascinating to watch but, I was beginning to get nervous. My appointment for the pulmonary function tests was within minutes and I needed to be across the street in the main hospital and all the way up to the 13th floor. I was going to be late! The IV was removed, the gel was wiped off, clothes were quickly pulled back on and I flew out the door.

Down five floors, across the busy street and into the hospital. The main elevators are incredibly slow but somehow, magic happened. The doors opened and I was alone. It flew all the way to the 13th floor without stopping. Very, very rare. Hello Pulmonary Function Lab!

I have known the head of the lab since 2004. Lisa wanted to do my tests, which I thought was very nice as we work well together. It began with measuring my height and weight then the two tests began. Spirometry and Diffusion. My Forced Vital Capacity improved from 47% to 50%! Wow. What a surprise. But, it was my DLCO that was the numeral proof that I am on a downhill path. For the first time, I was in the 40%. It was only 41% of expected and once that number hits the 30s, I will be needing supplemental oxygen 24/7. It will probably happen sooner rather than later.

After these two tests, Lisa did an arterial punch to get my blood gas numbers. She focused where the pulse was in my wrist and plunged the needle in. (My fourth poke of the morning.) It was very, very painful. After several deep breaths, it was time for the 6-minute walk. With oxygen on 2 liters and the saturation meter on my forehead, we walked the hallway as fast as possible for 6 minutes. I was totally exhausted afterwords. As I sat recovering, I noticed that I was now late for the appointment with the transplant doctor. It was then that Lisa told me that now that I was in the pre-transplant group, the appointment times are very loose as they know my day was jammed with appointments. Not to worry.

Back down the 13 floors - we stopped on every floor - and I walked back across the street and up to the 5th floor again. While waiting in the lobby of the clinic, the head of the pre-transplant program came out to say hello and we had a good chat. We have bumped into each other near my mom's house and I have met her children. She has challenging children. Very bright. We usually talk kids. Finally, I was called in by the nurse. It turned out he was one of my favorite in the Chest Faculty Clinic and had been moved to transplants. We hugged and he said, "I am so surprised to see you here!" We talked while he took my vitals then I waited for the doctor.

She walked through the door and we both said, "I know you." I realized that she was the doctor I saw at our first, very scary visit to the transplant clinic about seven years ago. She had time so she reviewed my file, everything from medications to surgeries to family history. She then looked at all the test results of the day and I was THRILLED to learn that every function of my heart was NORMAL. All the years of working out six days a week had paid off. She also told me that my blood type - A - was the easiest to match with a donor.

So, it was about 1:30 when I left the clinic, exhausted, starving and now having to drive home. I stopped along the way to get a bit of lunch to eat in the car as I continued south. Michael was waiting for me, we both napped for an hour before climbing into nice clothes for dinner out with our neighbors Lisa and Mike. It actually was lovely to be out and well fed and normal conversation after such a grueling day. I fell into bed and don't remember much until I had to be up at 5:30 to get mom to her final PT appointment.

I am taking it easy today.

No comments: