Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Big Heart

I was recently told by a cardiologist that I do not have an athletic heart or a big heart... bummer. I always thought I had both.

heart Pictures, Images and Photos

I had a mini-scare this week with some concerns about my heart from a compulsory check-up all athletes had to complete before we could compete in the Paris MBA Olympics next month. I have never been told that I have ever had any health issues and for a doctor to suggest that I see a cardiologist regarding my heart--but not to worry, caused me to do just that. I thought of my family and family heart history. I thought of some things I had ignored in the past and I thought about my running.

Unnecessary worries past through my head all week. Would I be able to run the half-marathon next week? Would they even find anything? What if this is serious? I am only 28 yrs old... what will I do?

Due to language barriers, I did not wanting to screw up scheduling an appointment with a cardiologist and the recommended tests with my laughable French, so I enlisted Yann to help. He made a few calls and it did not look promising. Availability in June. End of May... Dang. I want to run that race next week and with all these new worries I did not want to risk it, but I also did not want to miss it.

Bless his heart, Yann finally made a miracle happen. He got me an appointment on Thursday for Saturday morning at a clinic that is normally closed on the weekends, but the doctor said he would come in specifically to see me. How the heck did he do that? He told me you just have to be persistent here and they will let you in. Wow. Amazing. After a million thanks to him, I asked if he could accompany me as well, just in case there was any translation needs. Of course he said yes.

Not only did we have an appointment this morning at 11am, in a clinic that was otherwise closed, but the doctor who saw me was the "Chef de Clinique."  How in the heck did Yann manage this??

The first thing the doctor said to me (in English) was, "I hear you are a professional athlete." I cough, "Um,... not exactly. I have run 5 marathons and several..." He cuts me off, "Well, that makes you a professional around here."Me, "Oh, Ok, professional it is." He proceeds to ask me if I am taking any type of supplement, etc. I think he really believes I am some American athlete that happens to be here competing in races. I assure him that I am the run of the mill athlete and I am not taking anything to enhance my abilities.

From there on, the exam goes really well, although the first thing he tells me after starting the first exam is that I do not have an athletic heart. Gulp, oh no... He then reassures me that this is 100% normal and good and the only bad thing is that "athletic" hearts tend to be the ones found in most professional athletes, but they tend to be abnormal. In reality it is better to have a regular heart.

He asked me if before my other marathons or competitions I had to have a physical. Nope, never. Then he asked me why I had went to visit a doctor now. I explained that it was compulsory to have a physical before we compete in Paris. He beemed. He was so happy and told me that Italy was the first country to require this, but since then, most of the other European countries had started to make it mandatory to have physicals before any competition and for competitions like biking, swimming and running, they were now trying to make it mandatory to have an ECG and an echography! What? That is crazy.

He told me that it is quite a heated debate in sports medicine between some American doctors and European ones. That the Americans say that these are expensive tests to perform on athletes who tend to be fit, young and extremely healthy. The European doctors see it as a necessary precaution and easy way to determine whether or not an athlete is indeed in the proper cardiac health to compete.

Had I known about these new requirements and precautions, this week may have been a bit less emotional for me. In the US if you are referred to a cardiologist, things tend to be quite serious. Here it seems to be more or less normal.

When we leave the clinic, Yann looks at me with a smile and mentions the "professional athlete" comment. I ask him what he said when he made the appointment, did he embellish? He tells me that he just told him I was a runner and maybe when he mentioned the Olympic race in Paris, he forgot to mention it was the MBA Olympics... Yeah, Yann. That could be it ;)

Although my doctor made it clear that my heart was just an average healthy heart, you do not need any special machines or fancy doctors to tell that Yann has a bigMerci mon ami. 

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