- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"You'll see your heart beating, and the dye, moving out of the tube and into the arteries." (This guy sounded like the lady in the traffic helicopter: "Tunnel traffic is barely moving, and the southeast artery is a mess.")
Why did I suddenly find Mordkoff so amusing? Maybe because the decision had been made and some of the uncertainty was gone, though I was still about to have a wonderful experience that might kill me. My coronary arteries were going to be normal, though two doctors didn't think so. I would go home that night, unless all didn't go "well."
I muddled through the next few days, running slowly every afternoon, hoping to raise my HDLs and lower my cholesterol, going for the lowest count in the Western Hemisphere. One night, I dragged myself to a party, where a friend greeted me with "If it isn't Napoleon Bonaparte." She pointed to my right arm, which was thrust inside my jacket, hand over my heart. I realized that I had been doing that a lot.
At 6 p.m. on Thursday, after an elderly technician at Mount Sinai took blood from my arm with one of the world's dullest needles, I was taken to the first $360-per-night room, hospital or otherwise, I'd ever stayed in. I had brought along a book, The Exercise Myth, to help me face facts in case my running career had to end the next day. The author of this book, a cardiologist named Henry Solomon, said exercise was a killer. In a chapter titled "The Dangers of Exercise," I read: "I know patients of exceptional fitness who have severe coronary artery disease.... They may have no symptoms and may be capable of outstanding physical performance with hearts that will kill them." I wished there were a way to unread those lines.
The next morning I was given 10 milligrams of Valium, routine for angiogram patients. Then I was wheeled up to the "cath lab" and strapped into a cradle, a troughlike inset in a table that rotates on its longitudinal axis. EKG leads were fastened to my arms and legs to monitor heart rate, and an IV tube went into my left arm—"In case," I was told later, "we needed access to a vein in an emergency." They jabbed the crook of my right elbow with a local anesthetic. I felt some pressure, then a sense of something going up inside my arm, and then I was staring at a fluoroscope screen, transfixed by the sight of a dark little stick poking around inside my chest. It looked like some protozoan blindly searching for a mate. As I watched, the dye spurted out and my coronary arteries filled; they blossomed, first the left one and then the right, both with multiple branches.
All afternoon, I waited in my $360 room for Mordkoff. First I decided that he had far more serious cases than mine; then I became convinced that he wouldn't keep me waiting if the news were good. Finally—I think I had dozed off—I heard someone say, "Next time you're out running, and you get a little pain, just run a little faster."
"What?" I practically shouted.
Mordkoff the Mysterious, henceforth to be known as Mordkoff the Magnificent, stood grinning in the doorway. He said, "Your coronary arteries are normal."
I did shout. "Unbelievable! But what about the three tests? How does the science of cardiology explain...?"
"There is no science," he said. "I was outraged when I saw the Thallium Scan. The inconsistency was too great."