Before I tell you the story of
Ann and Some Cardiologists, Yesterday
I interrupt this blog post to tell you that I have no idea how I am going to shape this story well enough, especially since I am prone to interrupting thoughts AND I have a lot of thoughts about the topic of “Interrupting.”
For example, I want to interrupt, right now, to mention that one of my favorite knock-knock jokes has to do with interrupting. Let me interrupt the writing of this blog post to see if that knock-knock joke lives, anywhere, on YouTube.
The “Interrupting Cow” joke, as told by South Park characters, lives here on YouTube. I first heard that joke on “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.” Let me interrupt this interruption to see if I can find that.
I couldn’t find it, but I found another telling of “The Interrupting Cow”:
Why am I focusing on “The Interrupting Cow” now, instead of on
Ann and Some Cardiologists, Yesterday
Here’s why: because
- my son Aaron and I liked “The Interrupting Cow” joke very much, when he was little,
- Aaron and I made up variations on that joke when he was young, including “The Interrupting Abe Lincoln” and “The Interrupting Therapist,”*
- this past weekend, Aaron starred in a play where “The Interrupting Cow” joke made several appearances,
- I like telling stories about my son Aaron,
- I tend to interrupt others and myself when I (a) am anxious, (2) have a lot on my mind, (3) understand the point somebody is making and want to move on, and (4) am stalling for time, when I’m not sure how to tell a story (like now).
I imagine some of you might be interrupting this post now, thinking
What the *(*#@%!?@)* happened with the cardiologists yesterday, Ann?????
Ann and Some Cardiologists, Yesterday
The first cardiologist I saw yesterday was somebody I met on Monday, for the first time.
Let me interrupt this story to give you some context, to why I am seeing a bevy** of cardiologists, these days. I and a herd** of cardiologists are trying to figure out (1) what is going on with my very unusual heart and (2) what to do about that.
The cardiologist I met for the first time, on Monday, is named Dr. Mark Z. I am not disguising his name to protect his identity, I just can’t remember his last name. It’s too long.
I don’t think cardiologists should be allowed to have long names, should they?
Man, I don’t know where THAT interrupting thought came from. It doesn’t even make sense.
Anyway, so I met Dr. Mark Z for the first time on Monday. He was part of a team** of cardiologists, whom my primary cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, wanted me to meet with.
I interrupt this post to tell you my first impression of Dr. Mark Z. I didn’t particularly like him.
- he didn’t smile,
- he asked me a question that I experienced as challenging and not completely respectful, and, most importantly,
- he was a member of a pack** of cardiologists whom I was meeting for the first time, and even though I am a group therapist and I passionately believe in the healing power of groups, a group of unknown people makes people nervous.
I interrupt this story to bring you the interchange between me and Dr. Z., on Monday, so you can decide for yourself about it (although if you were there in the examining room and heard everybody’s tone of voice and saw everybody’s body language, you might come to different conclusions):
Me: This is why I think I am not feeling as well, lately. Because I am in atrial fibrillation, my pacemaker can’t speed up on hills and stairs …
Dr. Mark Z (interrupting): How do you know that?
Me: (giving him a dirty look, because I hate being interrupted, especially by doctors, because I’ve been dealing with this my WHOLE FRIGGIN’ LIFE): Because I can feel it. And, I take my pulse.
Dr. Mark Z: Oh.
I interrupt this post with the realization that Dr. Mark Z might NOT have been disrespectful or doubting of me or dense or anything else judgmental I might think of him. He might just have been doing what I do, sometimes: interrupting to get more information.
The group** of cardiologists I saw, on Monday — of which Dr. Z. was one — decided that I needed more tests to ascertain whether I need heart surgery, which could be
- valve replacement surgery or
- a heart transplant
I have already gotten different opinions about this, depending upon whom I talk to, among the pride** of cardiologists involved in my story.
Dr. Mark Z., who is a pediatric cardiologist, offered his opinion on Monday that I needed yet another echocardiogram, before any of the swarm** of cardiologists involved in my life could figure out what to do with me. Before I could ask, “Why?”, he told me that the special echocardiogram they have in the pediatric division of Tufts Medical Center (where my usual congregation** of cardiologists practice) might give more useful information about my heart than the usual echocardiogram I get, every six months or so.
I interrupt this post to explain that droves** of cardiologists have trouble deciding (1) what is going on with my heart and (2) what to do next because
- in my heart, the ventricles and the valves are doing work that they are not designed to do, which is exceedingly rare, and
- nobody can get good friggin’ pictures of what’s going on with me, in order to decide about next steps, because everything is in a different place, heart-wise. (Pardon this interruption, but when I said to the nice woman doing my echocardiogram yesterday, “my heart is not photogenic,” she replied, “yes, your heart is not echo-genic.”)
I interrupt that interruption to tell you that when I showed up for my echocardiogram in Pediatrics Cardiology yesterday, and the nice people at the desk did not seem to know why I was there, I said — interrupting their work:
” You’re not used to seeing people my size, are you?”
“You don’t know why I’m here, do you?”
“Would you like me to give you a clue about who scheduled this echocardiogram for me?”
“On Monday, I saw a doctor named Mark who never smiled, and he wanted me to get this echo done here, today.”
I definitely saw smiles on some faces when I described Dr. Mark Z that way, and after waiting for a short time (during which I snapped this photo, in the waiting room of Pediatric Cardiology):
… I was ushered into a room with Dr. Mark Z.’s extra special echocardiogram machine:
…which to me, didn’t look particularly special, but I have to have faith that my committee** of cardiologists knows what they’re doing.
I didn’t take the name or photos of the nice woman (mentioned above in a previous interruption) who did the echocardiogram on me, yesterday. The test took a long time, as it usually does, because of my unusual anatomy. In the course of the test, we discussed many things, including:
- my experience of other echocardiograms in my life (and I have had a flock** of those, believe me),
- my son, and
- her teenagers.
After the echocardiogram was over, Dr. Mark Z made another appearance in my life and told me, in no uncertain terms, that he and a surgeon had looked at the pictures of my heart and, in his opinion, I needed
- heart valve surgery and
- ASAP (probably next month).
When I was talking to Dr. Mark Z about this, I expressed many feelings, including fear and sadness, and I told him about some difficult experiences I had, as a child, when doctors didn’t know much about how to deal with kids with cardiac problems. Dr. Mark Z was very sympathetic. At one point, he said to me, “Do you want a toy?” which struck me as very kind.
I said, “Of course.”
Here are some photos of Dr. Mark Z., giving me a toy:
As you can see, I was wrong about Dr. Z never smiling. He also gave me a free t-shirt:
which reminds me of another time I got a free t-shirt but — don’t worry — I’m not interrupting this story to tell you that one.
After the echocardiology test, I had an appointment to see Dr. Deeb Salem. Let me interrupt this post now, to tell you some important facts about Dr. Salem:
- When I was in my 20’s, I decided to leave Children’s Hospital in Boston and choose a cardiologist I wanted to work with, now that I was an adult,
- I interviewed several cardiologists at several famous hospitals in Boston,
- I chose Dr. Salem, because he treated me with respect and said things like “You know more about your situation than I do” and “You’re obviously very smart,” and
- he was obviously very smart.
On my walk to see Dr. Salem, after the echocardiogram and the discussion with Dr. Mark Z, I was trying to adjust to the idea that I was going to need major heart surgery and soon. As I had admitted to Dr. Z., I have a lot of fear about heart surgery, because of experiences I had as a kid.
Then, I had a looong meeting with Dr. Salem. We interrupted each other a lot, as we always do. At one point, he interrupted me to tell me that he always schedules me as his last appointment of the day, to give us time to talk.
Here is Dr. Salem, being interrupted by a phone call from his son:
I could hear his son, during this phone conversation, asking his father about a worrisome stomach problem he was having. Dr. Salem and his son kept interrupting each other, and I kept laughing, as I was listening to them. When Dr. Salem hung up, here’s what we said to each other:
Dr. Salem: Let me ask you this. Who do you think, out of all my children, reminds me most of you?
Me: That one. I was thinking, “He interrupts you more than I do!”
Dr. Salem: Yes. That was my son, Michael. He is very smart and he asks a lot of questions. Thank you for helping me prepare for Michael.
I can’t tell you everything Dr. Salem and I talked about yesterday. I don’t have time. I mean, we talked for way over an hour!!
I have to interrupt the telling of this story, so I can get to work on time.
However, I do want to interrupt any conclusions you might have drawn about what is going to happen to me in my heart in the near future by letting you know all this:
- Dr. Salem thinks that the data is still inconclusive.
- He discontinued one of the heart medications the committee** of cardiologists started on Monday, because (a) it was making me feel sick and (b) it’s probably not going to help that much, at this point,
- He went over all the possible and likely outcomes for my future, including (a) heart valve replacement and (b) heart transplant,
- He doesn’t think surgery needs to be done in January,
- He knows that I am seeking a second opinion from yet another cardiologist at my old hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and he said, “If you like this guy, tell him I would be happy to talk to him,” and
- Even though we talked about very scary things, I believed, at the end of this conversation, that Dr. Salem will do everything in his power to meet my request: “I want to live as long as possible.”
I interrupt this post to tell you this. After seeing Dr. Salem yesterday, I feel MUCH BETTER.
Feel free to interrupt with any comments, whatsoever.
Ooops! I forgot to interrupt this post with more photos from yesterday:
What song would I like to interrupt this post with, now? I honestly can’t remember, at this point, what songs I heard yesterday. Are there any songs I know about “Interrupting”? Can’t remember that, either.
How about this one, about gratitude?
(If you want to interrupt your reading of this post to find “Thank You,” performed live by Sly and the Family Stone on YouTube, look here.)
Thank you to the gaggle** of doctors I have seen over the last 61 years — most especially Dr. Deeb Salem — and to you, for reading this interrupting post so kindly and patiently, with or without interruptions.
* The Interrupting Abe Lincoln and Interrupting Therapist jokes include these lines: (1) “Four score and seven years ago” and (2) “We have to stop now.”
** While that first footnote would have been a perfect way to end this post, I need to interrupt here to direct you to this Wikipedia page, for collective nouns like “bevy,” “gaggle,” “team,” “committe,” “flock” etc.