Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight

This week has turned out to be rather a busy one.

I been spending quite a bit of time sorting through VHS video’s, setting aside home videos, and packing purchased tapes in boxes. Yesterday was spent first calling the local Women’s Shelter, who didn’t need or want our old Sony CRT television and the VHS tapes, then calling further afield until I found a Homeless Shelter in the a nearby city where their current CRT television was fading, soon to be discarded. They would gladly take the Sony unit, and perhaps the videos. I arranged with the staff to drop the items off after 5 p.m., which gave Attila and I plenty of time to prepare the items, and make the 45 minute trip the city.

It was a lovely drive, sunny, bright, with a few remaining blazes of autumn colour along the road. It turned out that the Homeless Shelter wanted the television, but not the VHS tapes. I had a list of other shelters in the city that might want them, but first we followed the suggestion of the staff member of the Homeless Shelter, to take them to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. It wasn’t far out of our way, so off we went, and sure enough the woman at the Thrift Store was very happy to receive the VHS tapes, there were over 100 of them, all in good condition. The prices in that store are very low, they could be easily purchased by someone with a very low income, we were happy to leave them there.

On Monday the telephone rang, which it rarely does, so much so that I have to pause to figure out what electronic device is making the noise. It was The Heart Clinic, they had an opening for the Persantine MPI Nuclear Stress Test, the first of the three heart tests I am to take. The other two will be scheduled when I attend the first test, for the New Year I was told. The test will take all day Friday, so there is a bit of time to prepare, no caffeine, no Tylenol, and no breakfast on the day of the test. Not too complicated.

And today I will attend my appointment at The Heart Clinic. I didn’t sleep well last night, and neither did Attila. We both awoke in cold sweats. We are both frightened. I will be injected today, and if someone makes a mistake I will die today. I know this every time I enter a building where I will receive medication by mouth or injection. I don’t know what the people I will be dealing with will be like. They may be wonderful. They may not be wonderful. Someone may be having a bad day, may regard my issue as a form of attention seeking, or have some other personal reason for not catching, or deliberately ignoring, my allergen in a medication or injection. Sadly I have run into slipshod medicine before, faced possible death in what are benign circumstances for almost everyone else. So the fear is real, for both Attila and I. We had a rough night. We said a very affectionate goodbye this morning as Attila left for work.

I will be in fight or flight mode today, ready to become insistent, and if that doesn’t work, obstinate. I have yet to attend a specialized facility that is prepared to deal with my issue, it seems it is very rare. If I am very lucky, they will respectfully listen to me as a partner in health care, and the issue will be dealt with smoothly and pleasantly, that happens occasionally, as it did with the orthopaedic surgeon. More likely and more often though, the health care professional will try to dismiss the issue, usually saying something like “have you had this shot before, then it should be OK” (e.g. flu shot), as if that had any relevance at all to the current ingredients used in a medication. When I get that kind of response I know they aren’t listening to what I am telling them, and then I feel frightened. Ingredients have to be checked every single time, for as I discovered with food, ingredients can suddenly change, without warning. All this careful checking is tedious, it disrupts the work flow, it is annoying, as I well know, but it has to be done.

Today I have to be brave, remain calm, face possible and likely unpleasantness, and the small but real possibility of a sudden death ending to my story.

Am I being dramatic. Of course, this is a dramatic situation, and it calls for an honest approach.

I remember reading the blog of one young woman who had anaphylaxis. She was preachy and had all kinds of advice, along the line of just smile, educate people, don’t make your problem their problem. Her parents had always run the canon fodder line for her condition, and now she was cheerfully and confidently giving out advice as she entered the fray. Her blog lasted about eight months before being abandoned. I check every once in a while to see how she is doing, and she has not returned, it has been two years. I hope it is because she discovered the easy way that it just isn’t that simple, that it is soul wearying to live each day this way. I hope it is not because she learned the hard way that it is better to be unpleasantly obstinate, to make your problem their problem if they are feeding, or injecting you, than to give in to insistent bad advice from a medical professional.

I am not afraid of possible pain today, that comes and goes. I am not afraid of results, because usually those can be handled even if they are not good.

I will be glad to write a final note here tonight, telling you, and the future me, that I made it through the day unscathed. I expect to. I expect to do everything in my power to ensure my own safety, and I expect to succeed.

Attila and I, and before that my kids and I, go through this every single time I need medical treatment from strangers, this is not a one-off situation. I don’t tell my kids about my appointments anymore, I spare them that, Attila has my back now.

3:05 p.m.

I am home safe and sound.  They were wonderful people, they worked with me, we did the treadmill instead of the injections that mimic a treadmill.  Thanks to everyone for such wonderful good wishes!!!!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 7:00 AM EST Friday 11 November 2016
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 5.7°C
Dew point: -1.5°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: NNW 32 gust 43 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.”
John Wayne
1907 – 1979


  1. NORA

    Hi Maggie,

    Wow, this is an intense post. I want all to go well today and the people you work with to be understanding and diligent. I am going to say a protection prayer for you. Please do get back to us if you have the energy.

    Love you, Nora

  2. Thank you for your thoughts and good wishes Bex, Katie, Nora, and Sandy! You guys mst have a direct line to the universe!

    I was lucky, they were wonderful people. The nuclear stuff was in saline solution, so it wasn’t a problem, and we did the stress test the old fashioned way, on a treadmill, to avoid injections just in case. I have no idea what the results showed, I saw a bit of the output from the treadmill but it didn’t mean anything to me. The nuclear heart readings weren’t within sight, and she couldn’t say anything about them. In two to four weeks the Doctor will have the results and I will call mid December to see what I can find out. I have two more tests booked for January, an ECHO and a CAD, will have to look those up, but she said no injections, no medications, so they will be relatively stress free.

  3. Sandy

    Yay!! I’m so glad it went well. Hopefully you’ll get good results. My Aunt had to have a stress test and they decided she should get the injection. She said it was the worst part of her tests and felt like she imagined a heart attack would feel. So I’m glad you did the treadmill test 🙂

  4. Thanks Sandy! Gee, I am glad I didn’t know how awful the injection would have been, I would have worried even more, 🙂 The treadmill was OK, I was a little concerned that my knee wouldn’t handle it. When she started it up and said this is the low speed, I was shocked, it didn’t seem low to me! I felt sheepish about that until I heard the next guy on the machine say the same thing, “this is the low speed!!!!” It wasn’t too bad at all. They posted how many people died at the clinic… 0 This was encouraging, and over a period of decades only a handful were hospitalized. I felt I was in pretty good hands.

  5. Sandy

    Ha Ha! When I took my last treadmill test my first question was “You have a doctor who knows CPR right?” and they laughed. Then I got on the treadmill and felt the same way. It was going fast! I got to the point where I said I didn’t think I could keep it up. They said “Keep going. Keep going.” They were trying to get my heart rate to a certain level. Then I heard a nurse behind me say “Oh wait, she’s taking blood pressure medication. That’s why her heart rate isn’t going up.” At that point they said to let go of the handles. By then I had a death grip and they had to pry me off the treadmill and drag me to the heart monitor thingy. It turned out everything was o.k. but I was mortified I was so unhealthy 🙂

  6. Sandy, I wasn’t feeling too bad when she turned the macine off, I could have kept going, and I think she turned it off earlier than she had planned, we never got to the high speed, just did the low and medium she described. She didn’t say why we didn’t do the high speed, and I’m not quick enough to ask at the time. They had my heart all hooked up, there was a drip in my arm as well, and she kept taking my blood pressure throughthe whole thing. My heart rate went up, wayyy up, I could see it on the machine, maybe that is why she stopped it earlier than we had discussed. The nuclear technician came in and added more radioactive material to the drip while I was doing my thing. Those radioctive scans are quite the thing, it was really, really hard to lie perfectly still for 15 minutes for the first scan, and 12 minutes for the second scan. I was afraid I would fall asleep and move when I shouldn’t, it was hard to stay awake but I managed it.

  7. It’s great when you can dispose of something without resorting to landfill. I ‘work’ in a charity/thrift shop and you be surprised how many customers will ‘purchase’ outdated items.
    Came to you via Diane (still the lucky few).

  8. Teri

    After finding I had bundle branch blockage, my doctor wanted me to do a stress test. No sign of any heart attack but I guess they wanted to see how I’d perform. I was quite disappointed to learn that my only options were a treadmill or the injection. When you read about stress tests usually there’s a wheel that you can pedal with your hands too, but not here. I’ve put it off for now. I’m not at all comfortable with the injection and since my knee slips out easily as soon as I step beyond the vertical plane, the treadmill seemed out of the question.

    I can relate a little to your concern with the injection. I’m one of the lucky 2% that’s allergic to CT contrast dye. The first time I had it I broke out in hives, head to toe, and they rushed me to emergency. So now when they want to do that again I have to fight to get the allergy medication protocol. I’ve had a doctor who treated me as though it were all in my head, saying I should just go in and do the contrast dye and they’ll give me something if I react. Um, no. If you’re known to react they’re supposed to give you 2 different sets of medication at different intervals.

    When I found out the doctor hadn’t told me about the medication protocol even though the radiologist had told her about it, I was not amused. And when they found out she hadn’t said anything to me, they cancelled the appointment and then decided to have me do an MRI instead of a CT scan so I wouldn’t be taking a chance with the allergy. Yeah, they cared. It’s just this one doctor – fortunately not my GP – that didn’t. She just acted like I was being a bother instead of voicing a real condition that could have deadly consequences, since you’re 5 times more likely to have an allergic reaction after you’ve had the first one.

  9. Nora

    Hi Maggie,
    So glad everything went smoothly but ” In two to four weeks the Doctor will have the results and I will call mid December to see what I can find out.”…..that’s a long time. I wonder why?

    Glad there were no injection worries. I had a friend that did a stress test with the injection and he said he broke out in a sweat and felt like he was having a heart attack so they gave him something to counteract it.

    It sounds like you did well with the stress test.

  10. Sandy, the advances in technology amaze me too. I am not all that fit, I suspect that is why the nurse did not amp the ramp to the highest speed for me. The results should tell. I sure wish I had the wherewithall to ask about these things at the time!

  11. Teri, that CT scan allergy situation sound truly scary.

    “She just acted like I was being a bother instead of voicing a real condition that could have deadly consequences, since you’re 5 times more likely to have an allergic reaction after you’ve had the first one.”

    I run into the “being a bother” attitude more often than I would like. Now I always write a review of the medical professional or clinic on the internet, so others can read. Sometimes a doctor will have bad reviews in the early 2010s, and the reviews improve over time. Some of them show no improvement at all over time, and others get worse, one doctor at a walk in clinic I tried had actions against him by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which I unfortunately didn’t discover until after I had wasted my time visiting him. None of the Doctors at the current walk-in clinic I am visiting are under review or restrictions, thank goodness.

  12. Nora, test results always seem to take that long in Ontario, at least for me they always have. I don’t know why, probably the bottleneck is at the doctor’s office, the doctor who receives the results doesn’t get them through their work flow very quickly. I know when I had the blood tests, I could get my results online, and within 48 hours I had the results, and it was over a week later the doctors office called to say the results looked OK. I hope that the clinics copy the blood and urine testing labs and put the reaults online where the patient can gain access to them!!! As it is, I will never see the results, I will only hear what the doctor who ordered them has to say about them, and if he makes a mistake, or overlooks something I have no way of knowing. It is an unfortunate system.

    Your friends experience just reinfores my pleasure in not being able to experience those injections!!

  13. It’s “your” medical record, can’t you request a copy of your tests? It all sounds so scary. I am so glad to have found your update… I was waiting for a new entry and by this time today I was beginning to worry.. but then found your additional comments. Whew!

    After reading everyone’s experiences, there is no way I’d EVER consent to any kind of a stress test. I am not in shape and would flunk in 2 seconds. So they don’t even need to put me on a machine! I can tell them… but it won’t get that close. I don’t do doctors!

  14. I will do an experiment Bex, I will ask the doctor for a copy of the results. My guess is that he will refuse, and then be gruff every time he has to deal with me. I would love to be wrong. Doctors don’t like to be questioned where I live. I wonder sometimes if it is because they are guaranteed their fees, the government pays it through the high taxes we pay for these services. Doctors don’t have to worry about keeping paying patients happy, and they spend a lot of time I think figuring out how to maximize their government billing. I say this because I had a brief job with a dermatologist and he had a saying, “get them in the door”, to make money. For him it was mostly about money, and beyond that it was about status. The patients were treated like cattle, lined up out the door, he was so overbooked. Once, when a patient had left their wallet there, I went to call her to let her know where it was and he gave me a royal ragging, told me not to do it. I stared at him, and dialed the phone. That wasn’t a job I kept for very long. Actually I quit when he put me in a white coat and had me assisting with surgeries. A good doctor is a real treaure!!!

    The stress test measures how your heart functions under stress, the only level of fitness they are paying attention to is the fitness of your heart. People lived without these tests for as long as human history until now. But, the women in my family have died at relatively young ages from strokes as far back as I’ve been able to research, so I am open to a little bit of modern technology if it gives me some extra years to enjoy with Attila!

  15. TopsyTurvy (Teri)

    Our bloodwork and such is handled by a company called LifeLabs. A year ago they started offering lab results online, so I can usually see my test results within about 48 hours.

  16. Lifelabs handles our bloodwork, and urine tests as well Teri. I have copies of the results of my last two lab visits, I think it is great! They even point out which tests are not within the normal range, and give some explanation as to what the tests are for. I with the Heart Clinic did the same thing, maybe someday.

  17. “It’s great when you can dispose of something without resorting to landfill. I ‘work’ in a charity/thrift shop and you be surprised how many customers will ‘purchase’ outdated items.
    Came to you via Diane (still the lucky few).

    Cathy, my Mom also “works” in a charity/thrift shop and love it! She is always on the lookout for things we need, her children, her grandchildren, the family believes in recycling! I go to great lengths to find homes for my unused items, and buy used items whenever I can find what I need used.

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