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8-18 Media: A day at the cardiologist’s office

Anja McBride, 16

When I was born, I spent six weeks in the NICU, undergoing tests and monitoring of my condition. At just four pounds and ten ounces, born two months early, the biggest concern was my cardiac fibroma: a tissue mass located around the area of my heart. People born with a mass like this need to carefully monitor it, even if it is not a concern like mine. Not once have I experienced issues with my cardiac fibroma, but in some cases, these masses can grow, pressing against important aortic arteries and putting a strain on blood flow, creating even more health risks.

So, once a year, I go down to the cardiologist’s office to receive an EKG, where they place small stickers across my chest, arms, legs, and neck, to monitor my heartbeat. This only takes about ten seconds before they are done and the stickers are taken off. Then, I stop in the next room over for an ultrasound. Anyone who has ever been pregnant will likely remember this simple but not-so-quick procedure. Lying sideways against a pillow, and then flat, a special type of gel is applied to the wand, which then is pressed against my stomach, chest, or neck area. Then, voila, you can see inside the body and take a close-up look at the different parts of the heart and other organs. Red and blue colors indicate blood flow- one color for each direction it is flowing through the body. You can even hear your heartbeat, which sounds slightly different depending on the area of the heart you are listening to, from the superior aortic valve or the vena cava, amongst other terms that only the doctors and nurses would know, or any high school students smart enough to push through Anatomy class. I’ve had a dozen or so ultrasounds and EKGs in my life, so it’s nothing new to me. I know what to expect, and it’s not at all terrifying or worrisome.

After the ultrasound, we go to the doctor’s office, where the doctor will discuss results and plans of action for further testing or monitoring if need be. If it’s been a few years since the last heart appointment, the doctor will usually suggest that I wear a halter for 24 hours, which is a small device that clips onto your belt and has wires attached that hook themselves up to the stickers across your chest. This device monitors your heart at all times of the day. It can tell when you are sleeping, running fast, or just resting. If you need a halter, make sure to plan to get it on a day when you’re not going to be swimming and don’t need a shower. Then, 24 hours later, you can take it off. I remember when I got my first halter, I was worried it would be visible to the people around me, but it is not at all. It hides perfectly under your shirt and after a few minutes, you will be used to it and almost forget it is there.

Then, after the halter, your cardiologist may suggest an MRI. In this case, you will be brought into a room and lay on the bed of a large machine, sliding in and out as it takes pictures of your heart or other desired area you need to know more about. This takes a while, and sometimes involves loud noises, but there is no pain involved and you are free to sleep through it and get a quick nap in if you please, unless they require you not too, which won’t happen often. Then, you will be free to go, with a lot less worries after a good discussion with the amazing doctors who are well trained and caring.

Sometimes, an increase in asthmatic symptoms can cause worries, and this is an example of when your doctor may suggest more testing to rule out any possibilities and understand more about your specific organs and the way they work around your health complications that make you unique to those around you. Remember, not all of what makes us unique from one another is noticeable from the outside, and you never know what someone could be going through on any given day. So always remember to be kind, and accept others for who they are, while also staying true to yourself.

I would like to thank Dr. Reinhart, Dr. Thorson, Rosemary, Chad, and all the other people in the Cardiac department who help kids and adults like me each day. You know who you are, and thank you for all that you do.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anja McBride is a sophomore this year and loves to read and play tennis.

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