Member Story

My Heart Story

By Phil Beltran

You know there may be something wrong when your doctor keeps repeating your pulse check, your blood pressure numbers and the stethoscope-to-the-chest thing. Gulp.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” the doc says, “but I would like you to go to the ER on your way home and have them do an EKG. Your heart seems to be slightly erratic in its pattern.” Big gulp. This is my first health issue in my 69 years on the planet!

Los Gatos El Camino ER…here I am. The intake nurse didn’t seem too worried until she checked my pulse and took my blood pressure, but suddenly I get the quick trip into the curtained patient bed and a lovely backless gown with ties. Three hours later after an EKG with small shaved circles on my chest, blood panel and a three-doctor visit, I am told I have to follow-up with a Cardiologist because my heart is misfiring every three beats. I am told it may not be a big thing and I am free to go home and do anything I want. Huh, yeah, like take my own pulse every 5 minutes — which became my new hobby. I actually confirmed the diagnosed “3 beat skip”. But…I felt fine. Weird. So I went to Aqua Fitness at the JCC as I have done for 7 years. Exercise actually made me feel better and my worry dissipated.

The next day a Cardiologist’s office called me and wanted to see me in the next 4 days. “Don’t worry,” the nurse said. More pulse checks by me, but now only every 10 minutes.

The Cardiology visit brought another EKG (more shaved circles on my chest), an Echo Cardiogram and BP checks. My new Cardiologist says she sees what everyone else saw and, yes, my heart is erratic. She says she thinks it is nothing, but wants me to wear a small bluetooth heart monitor for 7 days around the clock. “Okaaaaay,” I think as the tech affixes this small cube to my chest with the strongest adhesive I have ever seen. She warns me it will “rip my skin off” if I try to remove it like a bandage in 7 days. “Instead, use this space-age glue remover,” she says with a smile.

10 days later, another visit to the Cardiologist reveals a condition that could be an indicator of bigger problems; or it could be just my heart’s way of messing with me. So now we move on to a Nuclear Stress test. This is the Big Heart Test with isotope injections, PET scan imaging twice, one pre-treadmill and one post. It’s a 3-hour gauntlet.

Appointment one…I arrive on time fasting and no caffeine. Oops! They had entered the wrong patient info. We have to reschedule.

Appointment two is two weeks later. I am fasted and prepared and get through the 3-hour test with flying colors! While on the treadmill the two different techs proclaim,”Hey, we have to keep speeding this thing up because you are in great shape! What do you do for a workout?” I reply, “JCC Aqua Fitness, baby!!!”

I’m feeling pretty good until the tech says that the computer crashed and lost all my data, and tells me that we are going to have to do this AGAIN.

Appointment three, exactly seven days later. Mills Hospital is ready for me and I run the gauntlet one more time. Once again during the treadmill test, they had to crank it up to get my BPM up to the 130 target. Three staff members each ask me, “What are you doing to stay in shape?” Again I smile and say, “JCC Aqua Fitness, baby!!”

Later the next day my Cardiologist called to say that all my tests point to a very strong (older) heart with just a little glitch of its own. Something I may have had for years, but now that I’m older, I’m starting to notice it a little. The doctor says to me, “You are good to go! See you again in 6 months, and KEEP GOING TO THOSE WATER FITNESS CLASSES.”

My heart-health story ended with good news, but I give all the credit to three women in my life: my wife who insures a heart healthy diet and is my aqua workout partner, and my two aqua fitness instructors [at the JCC], Amy G and Deb H. They work hard to make sure our workouts are challenging and they really care about our health and well-being! They truly have Heart!!