Never Trust Doctors – part III

Here is the final part to my tale of woe. It’s not short so, get a hot drink, find a comfy chair, mentally prepare yourself for the horror story that is to unfold. For the deeply nervous among you, I’ll tell you it ends happily. Sort of.

The Machine of Doom

Not a bad likeness actually…

Now there was no putting it off any longer. It was time to be tested. I was hooked up to wires attached all over my upper body with sticky pads. I pictured a huge blast of electricity entering my body and wondered if I would rise like Frankenstein’s Monster. As it turns out, that would have been preferable if that had happened.

Dr Nice had tried out the bike himself with variable success. It relied on tightening a rickety knob to make it harder to pedal. He couldn’t get it to work too well but, after much fiddling, got it vaguely to a useable point. The seat wobbled to such an extreme it defied the laws of Physics. The bike also seemed built for a four-year old Bangladeshi with particularly short legs and I am an over 6 foot tall (approx 1.8 metres for you Americans) bideshi. Asians, generally, are much smaller than Westerners and I am tall for my own people.

Basically, I was never going to fit. I protested. I still had to get on the thing.

“We are going to put you on for three minutes then take you off, check you, then you go back on for three minutes and so on,” said Dr Nice as my eyes widened, “until we get your pulse to 150.”

Never in a million years, Sunshine, are you going to get that, I thought.

“Righty-ho,” I think I said – or something equally as inane and British – and then added as an after-thought:

“You do know I have an unusually low blood pressure, don’t you?”

The comment was ignored.

Remember this from yesterday?

I used to have an exercise bike back in the UK before we left for Bangladesh. A friend has got it now. She’s probably reading this post actually (Hi, Liz). I used it every day during the last few months before we left and it was a super-cool model that measured your heart rate for you and automatically adjusted the tension in the wheel depending on the settings you gave it. With my blood pressure being so low, getting a raised heart rate is damned near impossible. Even going hell-for-leather on the bike on the hardest setting only got my heart up to a ‘world record’ maximum of 132. I remember it well, with pride. I worked hard that day.

After monsoon season, when it is so hot that any thought of doing exercise goes out of the window and where your weight ‘drips’ off you through sweat, followed by nearly a month of being ill with Typhoid, I was not – shall we be kind? – in absolute peek condition for attempting to exercise my heart so hard it was likely to burst out of my body Tom & Jerry-style.

The First Trial

Undeterred, Dr Nice set the computers beeping away and told me to sit on the bike. Dr Smiley, who by the way, has one of the most wonderful smiles in the world and generally finds life amusing, stifled a giggle the instant I sat down. The seat creaked like the door of a ghost-riddled mansion and then buckaroo’d like a Texan horse and very nearly shot me off the bike and into hospital for a more extended stay.

Rebalancing and with knees virtually folded under me I began to pedal. A good speed, I thought and I asked if I was going fast enough.

“Yes, yes,” said Dr Nice. Oddly, he didn’t say that again.

After about a minute I could feel my heart pounding in my ears. This was something I always feel when the chest pains are starting so I mentioned it and we all waited expectantly for the chest to start getting tight. Just the previous night, Wifey and I had walked around LAMB (something we used to do every night, before I got ill, once the kids were in bed) and, on the second time around, the heart pounded in my ears, the chest had got tight, the breathing heavy, and once we got home I had to rest for twenty minutes for everything to calm down. The desired chest pain for this test was surely on its way.

Clockface-London UK

Bangla time needs no hands…

Three minutes is a long time to cycle on a death-trap, especially when Dr Nice kept forgetting to look at the watch.

“Isn’t it…time… yet?” I puffed after what must have really been hours of cycling, bashing my knees against anything in the vicinity and accompanied by violent squeaking from the bike itself.

“Another twenty seconds,” Dr Nice said cheerfully.

Oh Lord!

The longest twenty seconds in history went past and Dr Nice shouts at me to get off the bike as fast as possible and back on the bed. I get off and have to grab something as my legs refuse to handle both cycling weight-bearing.  I stagger to the bed, breathing hard. Dr Nice does the echo and Dr Smiley takes my BP. At rest it had been 100/60 with a pulse of 62. Now it was 105/65 and a pulse of 56!

Drs Smiley and Nice stood there incredulous while I carried on panting. My pulse had actually gone down.

Told you, I thought, but said nothing.

Dr Nice was not to be thwarted.

The Second and Third Trials

Back on the bike, this time tightened with the knob-thing. Doctors can get away with the most intimate of behaviours, have you ever noticed that? There are not many men I would allow to reach between my legs and start twisting something hard, especially when I was already embarrassingly half-naked. I was glad Wifey was already there watching (and by now grinning). Had she walked in on this scenario I would have been forced to say the immortal lines:

“It’s not what it looks like darling, I can explain!”

Another three minutes (once Dr Nice remembered to pick up the watch) and another stretch of eternity. I began to weaken both in body and in spirit.

Faster,” he shouts, “go faster.”

Poo. It would have been easier if you’d said that the first time rather than now, to be honest.

In fact that was an understatement. The wheel was just as easy to push round for ¾ of the way and then damned near impossible to push through whichever part was obviously getting obstructed before it suddenly gave way causing my legs to jerk. It made for very lopsided cycling. Skiiiiiiiiiiiiiim – SCREECH, skiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim – SCREECH, went the bike. Or was it me? I’m not sure.

Oh Lord I’m sorry for whatever I did wrong. You may take me now.

I wondered whether it would have been a better plan to tell Dr Nice I was sorry for whatever I’d done to him rather than the Celestial Being. Wifey, meanwhile, is grinning big time and on the verge of a giggle. Thankfully, she didn’t have our camera on her. She would have taken a picture of my distress in a shot if she could. It’s a miracle I didn’t go viral on Facebook.

Faster, Ken, faster,” Dr Nice insists. I’m pedalling like my backside is on fire but it’s not enough for the doc. I find something from somewhere and give a little more.

Off the bike again and this time my legs do give way. The bone marrow has gone and been replaced with jelly. I barely make it to the bed. Dr Smiley is now no longer stifling giggles; she’s openly laughing as I wail loudly and, panting, beg for mercy. I’m not ashamed to admit it. She takes the BP and pulse. This torture has resulted in a BP – I jest not, I have the medical notes in front of me – of 95/45 and a pulse of 84. Dr Nice stands there open-jawed. Well at least the pulse is going up now.

Back on the bike.

Just kill me now. Please. Give me sharp knife and I’ll do it myself.

Three more minutes, bike knob twisted again and wheel now barely budging. Sheer momentum keeps it going round but is now taking superhuman strength from me which, frankly, I didn’t have on the first round let alone now. My feet are slipping off the pedals every few seconds and my buttocks hurt from trying not to slide off the seat.

Faster, Ken, faster. You must go much faster than this.” I wonder if Dr Nice trained in the army. He’s wasted here.

The bat coming out of the proverbial hell could not go faster than I am pedalling, dammit. If this thing was allowed to move I would be through the wall by now with a nice ‘me’-shaped hole left as evidence.

“I’m trying to,” I wail like a child, “please make it stop.”

“Do you feel any chest pains?”

I think for a moment.

Good grief, I don’t!

I’m close to death, my heart is booming so loud in my ears I can barely hear but…no chest pain. Not even a tightness. My legs, on the other hand, are on fire.

“No,” I squeak, “nothing.”

“Keep going!” says Dr Nice.

Heaven help me, no. I was lying, there’s chest pain everywhere – in my legs, in my arms, in my ears. It’s all chest pain…let it stop. For the love of God make it stop.

The three minutes end. I don’t even try to use my legs to get to the bed. Instead I launch myself at the thing in an attempt to fly to it. I almost make it. No one helps as I drag myself up. Wifey is now having a ball with all this; she’s beaming from ear to ear and chuckling away to herself. She admitted later that it was the funniest thing she’s witnessed in years. I’m sweating so much that the bed sheets are wet and the sticky pads all over my torso are going pop, pop, pop as they unstick and dangle uselessly. Really weirdly, even with half of them now no longer attached to any part of me at all, the equipment is still merrily beeping away to itself and producing streams of numbers and squiggly lines. I have no explanation or theory for this.

They test everything again. BP 100/50, pulse 96. The worst possible news; the pulse is getting higher. As Dr Nice’shopes rise so my misery descends.

The Turning of the Worm

Back on the bike.

“That’s it,” I cry out loud, “I’ve actually died and gone to hell, haven’t I?” I aim the question at Dr Nice who, not being British, doesn’t get it and just frowns.

What did I do wrong?

Now is the time I wish I paid more attention to theologians’ discussions over whether or not hell is eternal or a temporal zone that leads to a peaceful void of nothingness for the ‘sinner’. Right now I’m hoping for the latter.

I begin to hold a grudge against the good Dr Nice. I attempt to lift my hands from the bike to his throat with the aim of squeezing hard. My hands won’t even come off the handle bars; I’m that knackered. I couldn’t commit murder if a life depended on it. I put that idea aside quickly; I do like the man and he is a talented doctor, I remind myself.

But it’s enough. At this point the worm turns, the mouse becomes a man, the fridge becomes a freezer or whatever other metaphors you want to use. I refuse to do any more exercises after this one. God, it appears is in his heaven at this point as Drs Nice & Smiley agree. This time they give me just two minutes on the device from Hell and I slump one final time on the bed and weep softly to myself.

Final Blood pressure: 110/65. Final pulse?

A gloriously high 120. 150 my eye – that really was never going to happen.

I can’t feel my legs, I can’t get enough air in my lungs fast enough, my head hurts with the heavy metal music pounding away in there. I want to die.

But do I have chest pains?

No.

Not a flicker of a hint of the possibility of even the slightest tightening of a chest muscle. Not a pinprick of pain. Well, not in the chest region anyway. Everywhere else, hell yes, but not in the one place it was actually required. The actual aim of this whole tortuous exercise is completely absent from the proceedings.

Somewhere in ‘chest pain’ world my chest pains are watching this and bloody laughing at me, I just know it.

Actually, at this point everyone is laughing at me really. I suddenly have this horrible sinking feeling that the whole thing is a joke. I look around from the bed to see if I can see any hidden cameras perched somewhere. I re-think the date: It’s not April the 1st is it? No, it’s not and, no, there are no cameras and no cheesy TV presenter about to leap through one of the doors and shout “Surprise!” to a hail of laughter and applause. It’s just my performance on the bike and, it would seem, the few protestations I uttered that seem to have brought great hilarity. I thought I was being quite calm and reasonable to be honest…

“Well,” says Doctor Nice, “I don’t think there’s any serious risk of heart disease.”

No, but I’m about to have a heart attack in front of you, mate!

“Oh that’s good to know,” I respond, hating the Britishness inside me that stifles the urge to kick, punch and scream and, instead, believes that all problems can be settled calmly – like with a nice pot of tea.

Dr Smiley steps close to me, giggling away. I try to ignore how much I love that smile and the fact that she is a very lovely lady and a good friend and scowl at her instead.

“You know,” she says with great glee, “you really should get more exercise!”

After all the times I’ve been told not to do too much: to rest, to take time off teaching, to avoid strenuous tasks, to not over do it. Then to put me through this onslaught of pain.  Now to tell me I’m not doing enough exercise!! (Yes, it really needs that second ‘!’)

gfumphneshunx!” I admonish her in as angry and disbelieving a tone as I can manage, sitting up briefly to deliver this brilliant retort and then I collapse back into a coma that lasts…well, at least a few minutes any way. Peace, at last.

Epilogue

It has been two days now since I began this epic and started getting it out to you all. In that time, life has returned to normal. I’m back at school now, the kids are playing, the Wifey sings to herself as she cooks, the neighbours shout a cheery “hello” as I go by with a skip in my step. Bunnies also hop in the garden, or would do if there were any rabbits in Bangladesh.

Few realise the trauma I went through, the agony, the torture and the unnecessary near loss of life. No one truly appreciates how close LAMB came to be in mourning for the loss of a dear one.

Drs Nice and Smiley are still our neighbours, no divine retribution coming their way. In fairness and in the cold light of day they were brilliant and a lot of fun (for my Wifey, at least). But I will never again trust a doctor to be on my side and be gentle with me. Watch out, all of you. They will pursue you until they cure you. Whatever the cost to your self-respect.

My Wifey now lives with the shame of letting me down and is coping with it with remarkable ease actually. Instead of coming to my rescue, throwing herself across my suffering body and saying: “No more! Have you no pity in your souls?” she, instead, sided with the dastardly duo, aided them in the note-taking and twisted the knife in the ribs through her laughter. I swear I heard a cackle at one point but I can’t be sure.

The bike, to my knowledge is still in use. I imagine it sitting in a locked room in a box, brooding and planning its next great evil moment. Like the ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I see an ominous dark patch burn into the side of the box and a ghostly, barely audible, ‘cunning plan’ kind of  laugh permeating the air one last time before it rests. Waiting.

The chest pains are still there. Yes, they trotted back the instant the coast was clear. First time I went for a walk the chest became tight and the head started pounding. We still don’t know why, we’re just pretty certain it’s not likely to kill me. Actually I’m pretty certain nothing could kill me after all of that nonsense.  So now we’re doing what all good scientists do when all the tests have been exhausted and the results are still unclear about what we found.

We’re ignoring it.

What is certain, however, is that I will never, ever, ever get on a bike – of any sort – again. I have my pride, you know.

Am I happy? Oh yes…

About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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21 Responses to Never Trust Doctors – part III

  1. What a horrible ordeal Ken!
    What do you think could be causing the chest pain then if there was no indications of in the “exercise” they inflicted on you??

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  2. Tracy B says:

    Have loved this series – shame it’s over!🙂

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  3. Rinth says:

    I could soooo imagine a black-and-white silent movie based on this story!! xD

    Glad that you’re back on track, Ken!

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  4. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I hope you feel better my friend. Maybe if you stay away from the bikes.

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  5. I am truly amazed how you managed to restrain yourself from transforming that bike to a lovely hat on the doctors heads!!😆 Many doctors here suggest that stress tests are a very bad idea, especially if there’s a heart condition! You are a true survivor and I am ever so glad to see you smiling!🙂

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    • Well Dr Nice here is actually a Cardiologist who knows what he’s doing and had exhausted all other tests other than invasive ones to be taken down in Dhaka in one of the big hospitals. This was a much preferred alternative (or at least seemed that way BEFORE I took the test!). The difficulty, when living in a developing country like Bangladesh is that you REALLY need to know fast what’s going on when your body isn’t working rather than take months of referrals and consultations – which is what would happen if we were back in the UK. You can’t afford that kind of luxury here.

      But yes, I’m still smiling and very happy that my heart is fine and I can get back to getting back to my life!🙂

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  6. That sure is one experience that you will not forget in a hurry… But its great to see that you took it all with a sense of humour… I guess that is what sped up your recovery and brought you back safe… Do take care…
    Regards,
    Sumithra.

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  7. Rach says:

    Hahahahaha Oh dear KFP! At least Mrs FP won’t be as worried now🙂 Glad to hear you’re on the mend xx

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    • Yes, she has been much, much brighter since it all happened. Partly because she is no longer worried about my heart. Mostly, I think, because she can still remember how funny this all was! Thanks Rach for your kind comments.🙂

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  8. jacqui7272 says:

    Oh Ken…..the tears are streaming down my face. I am genuinely very sorry that you have been so ill and am glad you are on the road to recovery, even if that road is a little bumpy. However, they do say that laughter is the best medicine……and for me, that has done me the world of good. Thank you for sharing that with us🙂

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