Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blue genes

I remember a moment of dark humor amongst our family as we waited for my dad’s funeral to start. We were all gathering in an anteroom, greeting and visiting with family members some of us hadn’t seen in years. One of my cousins is an ophthalmologist in Dallas and several of us have taken him up on his offer to check our eyes or even to have Lasik surgery without charge. As some of us were making reference to his gracious offer, someone quipped, “Too bad you didn’t go into cardiology!”

No joke. My mother had a heart attack when I was in junior high, which would have been when she was in her mid-forties. One brother had an arterial bypass many, many years ago, and the other brother had a six way bypass a few years ago (I didn’t even know they did 6 way bypasses!). For too long, like an ostrich with its head in the sand, I have comforted myself with the fact that I haven’t had the problems my brothers have had, ignoring the possibility that avoiding doctors has enabled me to avoid a diagnosis.

Well, last week I had a rude awakening, as my blood pressure skyrocketed, accompanied by a headache that made the back of my head feel like it was being squeezed in a vise. I went to the doctor, who changed my blood pressure meds. (Thank god, she took me off the one that turned me into a lump, so tired and depressed I was barely functional.) Great! But on the way to my car, I had the worst chest pains, which finally forced me to do an about face, right back into the doc’s office. They did an EKG, which was OK, and sent me off with a prescription for nitroglycerin and an appointment with a cardiologist, which is tomorrow.

Ah, genetics! It sometimes seems that my genetic history is an inexorable force seeking to turn me into my mother, with a shoebox full of prescription bottles. Hypertension, diabetes, depression, poor eyesight, big ears…thanks, Mother and Dad! But I refuse to fill that shoebox, with one pill after another, many prescribed to offset the side effects of another. So I dusted off the exercise bike tonight…