Matters of the Heart: Diagnosis

During my annual physical, the nurse practitioner asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you had a heart murmur?” I emphatically said no. Next thing I know the physical is over and I have a consult for cardiology. Of course, it takes a couple of weeks to get that first cardiologist appointment. I arrive and a student gets my blood pressure and an EKG. The doctor comes in. “You definitely have a murmur, but it is not new.” I go across the hall for an ultrasound which takes about 20 minutes. The ultrasound technician asks if I had a lot of shortness of breath. I should have known that was a bad sign. Again, I emphatically said no. The doctor returns and says he cannot mince words. I have a severe heart murmur that requires replacement of the mitral valve through open heart surgery. However, I will need two additional tests before seeing the surgeon; a TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram) and an angiogram. The TEE gets better pictures of my heart and the angiogram will check for blockages in my arteries. Apparently I can get a two-for-one deal. While my chest is open, they can fix any blockages at the same time. Now I wait- for another two weeks. I am beginning to believe two weeks is the magic number for appointments.