An Approach to Stress

Dearest Rachel –

After a dream in which I’d had a near screaming match provoked by Mohinder for – as far as I could tell – absolutely no reason (which, as bad as he could be, never happened in real life, thankfully), I woke up glad to be where I was, but knowing this was going to be a good morning for a stress test. After he stormed off, ostensibly for lunch, I was standing there convinced that when he came back, he’d be returning with the cops to arrest me for… whatever it was I had done or said.

You have no idea how glad I am to no longer have to be there, honey.

Now, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that something like that would get me up and out of bed right away. On the contrary, the moment I woke up, I found myself immediately thinking I hadn’t gotten enough rest yet, and really could stand another hour or so. A quarter to six is just too soon to face the world after something like that. Of course, what didn’t occur to me was that while my body was pleading for more rest, my brain would basically refuse to go back there, leaving me just lying there for the better part of the hour I’d hoped to spend sleeping.

It’s at this point I decided to just surrender to the morning, and begin my ablutionary routine. I hadn’t noticed that, aside from the cold floor, the bathroom was dark – because the night light runs on the same circuit as the heated floor. It renders the room that much less inviting (although it’s mitigated by turning on the lights in the room – which, at least, they still work – and cranking up the shower to near-scalding levels of heat).

I realize as I’m washing up that these complaints of mine are pretty first-world of me. To have a problem with the fact that the floor in here isn’t heated when I expect it to be, when I don’t know anybody else personally who even has a heated bathroom floor, seems ridiculously self-centered of me. At the same time, it’s that phrase – “when I expect it to be” – that makes all the difference. Think about it; compared to most of the world, to just be able to get up out of your bed and walk into a washroom right next door is the height of luxury – not to mention in comparison to the entire arc of history, where running water was rarely a thing. But here in America (and in most of the West), that is expected as a matter of course. I’m no more selfish than the next person, at heart – I’m just used to more, at least in terms of this sort of thing.

Imagine how spoiled I’m going to be once these rooms are completed.

The hospital has granted me permission to have a light breakfast beforehand – this isn’t like when you have your blood drawn, and therefore have to fast (or rather, continue to fast) from when you wake up until after the procedure is done and you’re out of the place. They do stipulate that I not drink coffee – or really, any form of caffeine – with whatever I decide to eat. That, of course, would make no difference to you, as you despised the stuff (heck, I always joked about how you could detect parts per million in any form of food or drink. One of these days, I’ll have to write to you, reminiscing about all the foods you couldn’t eat, even in the smallest proportions, like bananas, but that will have to wait for another time), but I’ve started to let the stuff grow on me a bit. Sorry about that mental image. Anyway, it’s not a hardship for me to eschew, but still, when you’re asked not to do something, there is that little voice inside you that screams “I want it!” that much louder simply because of the injunction.

But I confine myself to fruit juice, even as I wonder if a third of a pizza is a bit much to qualify as a ‘light’ breakfast. Look, it’s what was lying around in the fridge, okay? The box practically fell out when I opened the door, as if to say “Eat me! Eat me!” Who was I to refuse?

Be that as it may, I hung around to greet the crew when they arrived and let them inside. Tim was actually surprised about the situation in the laundry room; evidently, it hadn’t been turned off for safety’s sake, but rather, the circuit breaker had been tripped. If nothing else, it wouldn’t do for them to be working in the dark over there, so they wouldn’t have deliberately shut everything off. At least they had it all in working order by the time I left for the hospital.

Entry and admission was a straightforward affair; between having been here so many times during Dad’s illness and having checked in and pre-paid online, getting in, parked and registered was lightning quick. And having brought my phone in to update you on things, the twenty-minute wait was no big deal, either.

I really can’t recall the last time I did one of these things, but I’m pretty sure that the gadgetry involved wasn’t nearly as sophisticated. The one nurse shaved off some of my chest hair; not that I had all that much to begin with, she admitted – you always said it was ‘just enough’ yourself – but because when the sensors were removed, it wouldn’t be as painful a process. After having had to remove some from myself last week, I could understand – and that was only half a dozen small ones. This time, she labeled me up like a cartoon suitcase, with some ten or twelve large ones, each with a separate electrode connecting to a box she strapped to my waist with velcro.

We both acknowledged that we were looking forward to the day when all this would be run via Bluetooth. Guess we’re not quite there yet; or maybe that technology is prohibitively expensive compared to the benefit just now.

Anyway, she had me lie down on my side on a gurney while she took an ultrasound of my heart at various places. She took what seemed like dozens of both stills and short video at all sorts of angles, along with soundprints of the heartbeat and several other nearby organs – whether intentionally or by design, I couldn’t say. She identified one bass beat with a low groan like a digeridoo as being that of my bowels; why that would be part of the test, I couldn’t begin to guess. Between the orange-tinted images, which she put up on her screen in a four-panel synchronized view, and the back beat of my internal functions, one might wonder if she had plans to mix it into some avant-garde music video. Hey, it literally had a beat you could dance to.

Speaking of dancing, or other forms of exertion, we were joined by another nurse while I was being ultrasounded. She was there to monitor me as I did the treadmill routine. Three minutes level at what I’d guess was a mile-and-a-half per hour pace, followed by another three minutes at 2½ mph at an incline, followed by a steeper incline at 3½ mph. I was able to talk at the lowest setting, despite being a bit winded from trying to deal with the mask, but by the third cycle, I really couldn’t say much. They let me bring the mask down from my nose by the second cycle (which, upon consideration, seems to defeat its purpose, but whatever), but I was pretty much winded halfway into the third cycle. However, they had gotten my heart rate to where they wanted it – about 150 bpm, or about twice what would be considered a ‘normal’ resting pace – so they let me quit and lie down for another session of ultrasounding.

Seriously, the shots she was taking of me would not have been out of place at the Soap Bubble dance party. All you’d need would be a handful of cute anime girls dancing in front of the patterns, and you’d be good to go.

After a few minutes on my side, the ultrasound nurse had gotten enough footage, and she headed out, letting me know that my doctor would be informed of my results within the next couple of business days and would likely be in touch with me shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, the second nurse took my blood pressure a few more times as it returned from full exertion to a normal 120/80 in rather short order before allowing me to get dressed (although I didn’t bother with the sweatshirt I’d worn on my way in, but let things suffice with my T-shirt) and head home.

I considered getting a few groceries on my way, but decided against it, as neither Daniel nor I will be likely to do a typical milk-and-cereal breakfast over the weekend (and since when has Daniel done that even on a typical day?). Besides, I’ll probably be out later today to get dinner for the boys – from what I understand, Logan will be here a little later today.

So that’s been my morning, honey. Don’t know how things have been by you, but I sure wouldn’t mind hearing about them when you get the chance.

Until then, I’ll talk to you later. Keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck – I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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