I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday. This was supposed to be the final visit after the femoral artery graft I’d endured in August of 2010. The doctor had said they were to repeat a test they had done in the beginning, before the surgery, and I’d imagined that he meant the MRI. I wasn’t looking forward to it, because this is the one where they put stuff in your veins before they shove you into the tunnel. And I hate needles.
But – surprise! – there was no MRI awaiting me. Instead, they began with an hour-long sonogram of both legs, from groin to ankle. In the process, a gel is used to magnify the readings, and it’s icy cold. (Reminiscent of the cold spectrometer of years ago – some doctors actually take the time to warm the metal first these days.) Strangely enough, when the operator – a lovely woman named Autumn – used the gel on the area surrounding the lower incision scar, I didn’t feel it at all. Didn’t notice it was cold, or wet, or even that she had touched me. That area, after all this time, is still dead.
Of course my PLMD couldn’t just stay out of the equation for the hour this test took, and my legs went into spasm willy-nilly. (For those who don’t know, PLMD is Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, which is distantly related to Restless Leg Syndrome. But whereas RLS is a voluntary movement, in that the patient continually moves in order to find a comfortable position for the legs, PLMD is completely involuntary. The patient is accosted with spasms in the legs, and the longer it goes on, the more painful it gets. This disorder appears to be hereditary – my grandmother had it, and my children have it as well – and it gets worse as the patient ages. Something to look forward to.) Autumn thought it was due to the coldness of the gel, but I corrected her, so she wouldn’t keep apologizing.
During this scanning process, the operator has to press pretty hard with the reading device into the leg, in order to get a look at the artery, which is deep within the leg, and not near the skin. In some places this was extremely uncomfortable. Not really painful, but certainly not something I’d like to repeat.
After this exciting hour, I was taken through the halls, wearing my adorable blue paper shorts, to another room, where I was placed upon another diagnostic table. This time, Autumn wrapped each of my legs in blood pressure cuffs, from groin to ankle, on my feet, and she also placed tiny little inflatable thingies on my two great toes. One by one, one leg at a time, she inflated a cuff, taking a reading at the ankle of the blood flow through the veins in that leg. There were five cuffs on each leg, so it took a bit of time to inflate, read and deflate each cuff. And of course, my legs were continually in spasm all this while. That certainly slowed down the process.
Once every cuff on both legs were done, she took a reading on both arms. Then removed most of the cuffs from my legs, leaving only the ones on my ankles. And my arms were still encased in their cuffs. Allowing me to rest from the intense stress of the pain brought about by the inflation on my legs, she then said I had to get up, face the diagnostic table, and rise and fall on my toes for two minutes, or until I couldn’t anymore. I think I got pretty close to the 2 minutes. I was out of breath when I finished.
Hopping back up on the table, I was enwrapped again, and she took readings on both ankles and both arms. Then she allowed me to rest for about 5 minutes. And took additional readings on both ankles and both arms. Another short rest period, and more readings on ankles and arms.
My BP was unusually high – 208 – and she asked if I’d taken my meds that morning. I hadn’t. I usually take them at lunch. And I told her that I’d been taking cough syrup as well, which has a warning on the label for people with high blood pressure. But I was suffering, so I took the cough syrup anyway. As I was getting dressed, after the second full hour of testing, she went to ask one of the doctors to take a quick look at the results, but she left the test results on the screen of the testing machine. So I got to see the numbers. But more about that in a second.
When she came back, Autumn said the doctor suggested I go home and immediately take my BP medication, and stop taking the cough syrup at all. (Sure, I’ll just continually cough my brains out, causing headaches and misery. No problem.)
The numbers: From what I could determine, the readings from the right leg seemed more normal, but not as high as the readings from my arms, which could mean the right leg is compromised a bit. The readings from the left leg were about half those of the right leg, which has to mean the left leg – the one that has the graft – is much more compromised than the right. The surgery should have created a clear blood flow in the left leg. For a few months after the surgery, I felt great, and couldn’t bring back the painful feelings in the leg no matter how much I tried (by walking). But sometime in the middle of December, the claudicated feeling returned. And it’s gotten worse ever since. At this point, my leg is in worse condition than it was before the surgery.
I don’t see my surgeon for consultation about this round of tests until next Wednesday. So, until then, I’m left to my own devices.