Grumpy Scrambles Up Pike’s Peak All in the Interest of Science
Grumpy didn’t know what to expect as he prepared himself for his stress test at the hospital. All that he knew was that he was to arrive early and wear loose comfortable clothing. Moving on a treadmill did not scare him one bit because Grumpys life is like a treadmill 24/7: with busy always on-the-go action. He knows he could out perform any Gerbil on a spinning wheel – in spades.
Also, Grumpy walks from 3 to 5 times a day – everyday; topping out at about 1300 walks per year. Walking is what Grumpy does – ever since he stopped running 20 years ago. Crawling, of course, might just be his next stage of exercise. But, for now, he walks.
Arriving at the hospital early, Grumpy looked impressive in his “loose comfortable clothing”. He might have been mistaken for a guy on his way to the gym or a marathoner ready to take on a very long run. Grumpy’s grey hair and tanned skin had distinguished-senior-athlete written all over it. His stylish shades just added mojo to his pimped out attire.
Was he pumped?
Well I guess!
Upon arriving at the STRESS LAB Grumpy was told to wait in the foyer until called. Once again, those surrounding him were more senior than he (70’s, 80’s, and 90’s). Indeed, Grumpy was the Junior Senior in this geriatric crowd. Though he had joined their club several years ago, even now, Grumpy didn’t feel a part of their cohort.
Actually, this experience reminded him of his mother, Hellfire Helen. She wouldn’t tag alone with his father when he played piano for a senior’s Choir. She’d adamantly state, “I’m not hanging out with all those old people, Joe. They’re seniors!” She said this when she was in her mid-seventies.
Her son, Grumpy, is totally on board with that sentiment.
As he watched the wall clock tick toward his allotted time, Grumpy thought, that in terms of STRESS, this test would rank way down on his worry list. After all, he had taught precocious kids for nearly 30 years, raised three of his own, balanced finances through thick and thin and had endured the antics of Pumba the Farting Dog for the past eight years.
When it came to stress Old Grumps had enough experience to hold a PhD. in “fight-flight” response time. He could produce a massive dose of adrenaline in a nanosecond. Maybe that’s why his ticker was acting up in the first place.
Just before he was about to be called to the lab, a little old octogenarian lumbered upon the scene. He was wearing nice casual clothes but sported some bright white runners. The guy’s red face and beads of sweat told Grumpy that he’d just returned from the lab. He used a cane to walk.
With a belly laugh and bright smile the old guy loudly announced to his wife, “Heck, Millie, they really had me running at the end!”
Grumpy had visions of gramps strolling in the huff and puff style of lumbering he had just witnessed seconds ago. And, how did he do it with that cane?
As he got up to head to the lab, the last words Grumpy heard from this comedic Rasputin were, “Good luck, Sonny. Remember to pace yourself on the hills!”
What the heck was this old guy talking about?
“Strip to the waist,” the matronly nurse barked. “Then sit over there!”
This nurse was the antithesis of the perky young thing that had spooned with him at an echocardiogram session a week earlier. Indeed, Grumpy felt that if this got to be hands-on, Nurse Nanitchka just might twist him into a pretzel. A compliant demeanor would be Grumpy’s only saving grace.
“Yes, mmmmm-am” he stammered, as he slinked away, doing exactly what he was told.
Grumpy sat as still as a statue as the nurse plastered his chest and abdomen with stickies. These stickies were in turn attached to wires, which were bundled into a long cable that was attached to some high tech computer thing-a-ma-jig. Grumpy felt as if he was the bionic man.
Dr. Kennedy sat at a desk with his own computer monitor and casually said, “Ready to go, Grumpy.”
Well hell, yes!
Grumpy wondered why there was no other instruction other than, “We’re going to have you walk on a treadmill that will get progressively faster as we go along.”
Mounting the machine Grumpy couldn’t help but notice that this treadmill looked far less high tech than the one he used at home. How easy was this going to be?
He did notice the big red nob positioned in front of him. It looked a lot like an emergency panic button found on dangerous machines or on some gas pumps. But, since no one mentioned anything to him, Grumpy felt he’d better not touch that thingy, since its purpose and function might be entirely different than he imagined. He remembered what that special button caused when pushed in James Bond’s Austin Martin.
At that moment the treadmill began to move. It moved at such a snail’s pace Grumpy actually had trouble walking that slowly. He was taking baby steps on his tippy-toes.
Moments later, Grumpy felt a jerk and the pace increased. Also, the whirring sound he heard and the feeling in his knees told him that the INCLINE had been increased. These jerk-whirs continued at intervals to the point where Grumpy felt he was jogging up a small hill. Now, he realized those words from the ancient one were not only in jest.
“Remember to pace yourself on the hills!”
There were hills all right and they kept getting steeper.
Now this is about the time male genetics kick in. That’s the one that says, “Don’t show them that you’re a pussy. Keep going harder. Impress them with your manliness!”
At one point, Nurse nasty, remarked, “You can slow down, Mr. Grumpy; you’re moving faster than you need be.”
You see, Grumpy forgot to lengthen his stride, so his choppy steps were at the rate of a 100 metre sprinter on steroids, tippy-toe style.
Grumpy was running faster and this damn hill was getting higher. Other than small talk, the doctor and the nurse gave no indication when all of this was to end. But, Grumpy was determined; he might bend, but he would not break.
Onward and upward he went. It was getting to the point that both his knees and back ached, his heart pounded and he was sweating more than profusely. Maybe they were trying to kill him. Maybe his first heart attack would be imposed upon him?
This was Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon.
Grumpy finally gasped, “I don’t think I can do the next level, Doctor?”
“That’s OK,” he said rather offhandedly. “You can stop whenever you want to!”
No one told Grumpy that before. Maybe they could have said, “Hit that big frigging red button if you need to stop!”
Grumpy would have stopped at the Pike’s Peak level, long before Heartbreak Hill and the dreaded Everest he now confronted.
In retrospect, Grumpy is quite proud of the level he attained. He was running at a rate and grade he would have encountered back in his forties. He knew now that he would have knocked that old octogenarian comedian out of the water in a head-to-head all-out sprint.
“Smell my exhaust, Gramps! Here come the hills and you are as old as THEM, buddy!”
Well anyways, Grumpy finally came to a stop and despite the fact he was soaking with sweat he managed to amble back over to the examination table.
That, of course, was where his hefty nurse was preparing to rip those stickies off one by one. Really it was much like the procedure they do when they do a body “waxing” – Grumpy’s limited chest hair was soon gone and long forgotten. And you guessed it; Grumpy did not even think about nor ask her to do a number on his Speedo Lines.
Dr. Kennedy smiled and said, “You did well, Grumpy!”
Grumpy was afraid to get him to further elaborate on that remark, as in, did he really mean:
You did well for a stumpy old guy with a paunch!
You did well for a guy with an irregular messed up heartbeat!
You did well despite the fact you nearly croaked five minutes ago!
You did well even though the little old guy before you did better!
Nonetheless, Grumpy felt good about his performance. He knows he’s in damn good shape for a guy over 60. If Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone can still make action flicks, well Grumpy can still be Grumpy and fit
So, what were the results of this test you ask?
Well, later that week, Dr. Kennedy said the test showed Grumpy’s heart performed well under stress and that the blood flow was good. That was music to Grumpy’s ears considering that the echocardiogram showed good heart structure and function.
But, my friends, the medical system does not let you off that easy. Grumpy could see the wheels turning in Dr. Kennedy’s brain. There was more to this mystery.
“So, let’s put you on a 72 hour Holter Heart Monitor and see what turns up,” he offered. “Even today when I listen to your heart I don’t hear that irregular beat.”
Grumpy will tell you about that experience next time around. Until then, sit back, pour yourself a cold beverage and enjoy the heat.