My planned visit to Jeff followed an unplanned trip to Hahnemann's ER, where I was under the outstretched wings of Dr. Richard Burns.
I showed up there because one day at work I was "off," groggy. I called my M.D., who told me to get to the ER. Since I am not yet finished supporting friends, tormenting foes and educating readers at the Stu-niversity, I went.
Between 1 and 8 p.m., they ran every imaginable test and found nothing but a low heart rate. I don't regret going in, which I wouldn't have done 20 years ago because like most guys I was macho dumb and I don't like gowns with rear-opening flaps.
Around the same time, a 53-year-old guy I know at USA Today was not feeling well on the job and delayed a ride to the ER. He went in too late - and died there.
Moral: Guys, if you're not going to listen to your body, listen to your loved ones and friends. If they say you look like mold scrapings, head for the ER.
After Hahnemann found nothing serious, I checked in with my cardiologist, Dr. Jack Garden, who is too skinny, but otherwise outstanding. When you are in Garden's exam room, it's like you're the only patient he's ever had.
I took a treadmill stress test, which I had aced many times before, but this time it was "abnormal." Me and "abnormal" are not strangers, but that's usually my personality, not my heart.
Garden "suggested" the cardiac catheter - a wire inserted into your artery at the groin that runs into the heart, probing for blockages. It sounds bad, and it is, but thanks to drugs, it's painless.
The possible outcomes, Garden said, were "good, bad and worse."
"Good" would be a false positive on the stress test. "Bad" would be a minor blockage to be fixed with a stent. "Worse" was open-heart surgery.
Since I believed I was not lucky enough for a false positive, I thought, "I'll take Door 2, Monty," channeling "Let's Make a Deal."
When Garden said he could get me in for the test that very day, I understood this could be serious.
Moral: You're paying them enough. Listen to the doctors.
A couple of days later I arrived at Jeff at 6:30 a.m. They had warned me not to eat. At that hour, I could barely breathe.
In my time, I have written columns about bad, rude or ignorant treatment at local hospitals.
Everyone at Jeff was superb, from friendly greetings from every staffer to insistent checks of my name and date of birth (to make sure I got the catheter and not, say, breast implants).
For most of us, hospitals are scary. In too many, you are treated like a number. At Jeff, I was treated like a person - and not because I am some kind of minor "celebrity." Some staffers knew my name, most did not.
Turned out I got Door 1, the stress test was a false positive. I was in the clear. Had it been Door 2 or 3, I was in the right place for immediate treatment.
Moral: Guys, it's better to know than not know. Don't roll the dice with your health or your life.
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