Stress test

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Friday morning was like any other at the fire department. I arrived at work about a quarter to eight and opened the door to the station ready for another day of saving lives and protecting the citizens of our great county.

But all the training I had received over the last nine years hadnt prepared me for what was about to happen. Little did I know the horror that lay in waiting for me as I stepped through the front door and walked into the office. Had I known, I might not have come to work that day. For you see, IT was there.

The large brown envelope that I had heard so much about over the last couple of months had finally arrived and now was lying in my mailbox. All the blood drained from my face as I stared with fascinated horror at the ominous looking envelope. IT had caused much ballyhoo. The brown envelope now waited for me.

Slowly I inched my way across the office to the mailbox as the butterflies in my stomach took flight. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat that a moment ago wasnt there, but I couldnt. As my palms grew clammy, I nervously reached out for the envelope and turned it over, hoping against hope that the efficient folks at headquarters had somehow made a mistake. That somehow it wasnt intended for me, that it wasnt my turn but alas, no. It was my name that appeared on the brown envelope with tattered corners, and it was my turn to take the Health and Wellness Physical.

Inside was one page of instructions and 10 pages of medical history that needed to be completed before the test the following Monday. As I read, I suddenly realized that they were right to fear this exam. It was gonna be harder than even I thought to pass. There was one line of instruction that caught my eye above all others: No food or drink 12 hours prior to reporting for the exam. Oh, the horror!

Early Monday morning I drove past my favorite barbecue place with the best sausage-and-egg biscuits and sweetest tea in town, making it to the doctors office by the appointed time. My stomach growled its objections on missing breakfast as I entered the doctors office at the end of the long hallway.

Quickly I surveyed the room: 15 burgundy chairs lined one wall with nice oil paintings above them, countless cards from happy patients adorned the opposite wall, and a giant flat screen television hung in the corner. When the nice nurse saw me, she walked over, took my large brown envelope with tattered corners containing the 10 pages of medical information painstakingly filled out, smiled and handed me the remote,

You can watch anything you want; well be with you in a moment. A giant television and I had the remote in my hand the exam certainly started off the right way, but wait. Theres much more.

First test was to draw blood. Found out I had plenty. After that, they said I could eat something and offered me a breakfast bar and juice. I asked if they had a sausage-and-egg biscuit and large glass of super-sweet tea. The nice nurse just smiled and said no.

The next test was hearing. The nurse gave me a set of ear phones, crammed me into a little soundproof booth and handed me a button to push each time I heard a series of beeps.

This was by far the hardest test. With no food for 12 hours, and no sausage-and-egg biscuit or tea, my stomach was growling LOUDLY. So loudly in fact, I could hardly hear the beeps.

Finally after 20 minutes, I passed, the nurse unfolded me from the little booth, and it was on to the eye exam which of course, they found out that I had two. Next up, the dreaded stress test.

I informed the nurse that The Wife says Im an expert on stress cause I stress out about everything. She just smiled, then stuck stickers all over my chest, clipped wires to the stickers, plugged me into a machine, and told me to start walking on the treadmill.

The walk soon turned into a fast trot, and as beads of sweat started to roll down my face, I started to really stress whether Id pass the stress test.

Then the nice nurse pushed a button and announced that it was over and the breath test was next. I told her it should be easy; Id had a lot of practice breathing. A smile crept across her face; she knew something I didn’t.

All I had to do was breathe into a little tube. Sounded simple enough. The nurse instructed me to stand up, take a deep breath and blow, and blow, and then when my lungs started to turn inside out, she told me to keep blowing.

The bell went off on the machine just as my eyes fell out of my head. She announced that I had passed. Then told me I had to do it twice more.

I bent over, picked up my eyeballs that had rolled across the floor and sat down in the corner with the 1,000-yard stare of someone whod just been knocked out. I needed to rest; the breathing test was stressing me out.

I was still trying to catch my breath when the doctor came in to do a couple of additional tests. She said it looked like I was in fine shape for a man my age. I wouldve thanked her, but I still couldnt breathe.

Looking back, I guess its good that the county wants to make sure all of its firefighters are in top-notch shape, that our blood pressure and cholesterol are down, and catch any hidden health problems before they become serious and a life threat.

Just hope its not a yearly thing. Don’t know if I could survive another 12 hours without my sausage-and-egg biscuit and tall glass of super-sweet tea.

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