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Hospital Visit



I have been going to the hospital these past few weeks. It's that time of the year again. I've been to three, actually. The first is a to new, posh, and "world class" (according to them) medical city down south to visit my uncle, who is also my godfather. I've been going there with my father. The second, in the earlier part of the month, to a school affiliated hospital to visit an old friend. Thankfully, he was in and out. The third, to a national hospital nearby, which without me knowing why has been where I've gone to the past couple of years.

I had thought I was experiencing a dull, local pressure on the left side of my chest, or near where the heart lies (I really love that expression). Since men generally shrug off such things believing that ignorance is bliss, I only started to worry when the pressure didn't soon go away because that already meant it was not muscular. On top of exercising at home I've been going to the gym more often with my father. (I've been convincing him to lose weight.) So when I began suspecting it was deeper than chest muscle, I saw a doctor and went through the tests he prescribed: a blood test, chest x-ray, treadmill stress test, and electrocardiogram.

Of the tests, maybe because it was a first time, I enjoyed (if one is permitted to use such a word) the stress test. I reported earlier than expected to the cardiovascular center in jogging pants and rubber shoes, much like going to the gym. I waited for a while with other patients: a reed-thin man in his sixties carrying something important in a brown envelope, a fairly young inpatient woman on a wheelchair scheduled for an ECG at 11am, a couple rather nervously waiting for their tests results, all of us sharing an unspoken bond of helplessness. After twenty minutes I was summoned by the receptionist-nurse, who to my surprise abandoned the front desk to accompany me, and was told to change into a hospital gown before I proceeded to the dark and claustrophobic treadmill area. I never get those strings and knots right, never knowing which goes where and which side should be open. Though I've seen it on "House" (pardon me for my references), a hospital gown over sweat pants and Nikes looked absurd: a healthy patient, as it were.

I was told that I'd be going through different degrees of incline and speed according to the Modified Bruce protocol while they monitored my heart rate and blood pressure. My resting heart rate was at a respectable 65 bpm while my baseline blood pressure was above my normal at 130/80. I explained to the petite, hopeful nurse that maybe I was a little nervous, though what I really felt was excitement. While hospitals can scare others, they heighten my senses as I always experience there a feeling not of the ordinary, a kind of self-submission that always teaches you something, a lesson that only something as real as place, such as a hospital, or a prison or a cemetery, can impart and to which you have no other choice but to listen.

I did not have much difficulty as I went through the stages of the Bruce. It was only ten minutes later, at stages 5 to 6, when I started sweating, running 2.5mph at a 12% grade. I asked the stern lady doctor, a bit pretentious I had thought, who was assigned to monitor the proceedings aside from the nurse, if I could run already instead of brisk walking. It would be more comfortable for me, I said, and also more of a workout. She consented to my question which I think struck her as odd: a patient presenting with chest pressure asking if he could run instead of walk. Four minutes later, seeing that I've already reached my maximum heart rate of 165 BPM with a 160/100 BP, the nurse said I could stop even if I could still go for a couple more minutes. The incline was already absurdly high, much farther than what regular treadmills have to offer. And its always the height, and not really the speed, as we know, that kills you--as in love.

The nurse, who I gathered was a bit attracted to me, proclaimed that I was the first patient she saw able to stay on that long. I did not know how to react to what she said--was I supposed to be happy if all the rest who took the same test were twenty, thirty years older, maybe undergoing rehab, or have already gone under the knife? But I still wore her remark like a medal.

Upon getting the results, along with those of the other tests, it would turn out that my lungs were clean and the size of my heart was normal, I had a "low likelihood for significant coronary heart disease," and my "exercise capacity is adequate for [my] age." "It should just be a small tear in the chest muscle from exercise," said my good doctor who ended up not say anything I did not know. Good for me, I thought. At least that scare was over. I am the lucky one. But the same cannot be said of the people I love. My uncle is still unconscious and it's been weeks already, my old friend is over fatigued from making ends meet, my father is struggling to lose weight, and my heart breaks for them.



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