24 hours of blood pressure testing and sense of humour failing

This week’s post is another by Becky, on high blood pressure and complaining: 

So I’ve simultaneously had a very weird 24 hours, and a very normal day. From the outside, I popped to the hospital (sadly very normal these days), met a friend for some freelance work, went home and had tea, tried and failed to get an early night, got up the next morning and went to work. So far so boring.

The weird element came from having my arm squeezed to pins-and-needles every half hour, and the wire wrapped around the back of my neck.

If you remember from my last post, my blood pressure was of the worryingly high side, and nobody – myself included – could quite work out why. There was a very good chance that this was because I was getting so stressed out about having my blood pressure taken (which if you read my last post I hope you’ll agree is fair), that the very act of having it done was raising it. This apparently is one of those ‘face your fear’ situations, and thus I was booked in for a 24 hour blood pressure test.

Now, when they told me this, I’m not naïve enough to have been expecting some futuristic metal band around my arm with a teeny screen that displayed my blood pressure at all times. But like, we do live in an age of iPhone whatever-number-we’re-on’s, and self-driving cars, and frickin’ virtual reality headsets. And I get that the NHS has much better things to spend its woefully thin budget on, but you know when you go to the doctors and they velcro your entire upper arm into the blood pressure cuff? Yeah, that. Except with a nice fat wire running up my sleeve, around my neck, down my front and into my pocket, plugged into what looked to me like a cheap walkie-talkie from my 90s childhood. I wasn’t allowed to remove any of these things for 24 hours, and they ‘went off’ every half hour with a nice loud buzzing as my arm was squished into putty. Except for at night – it only went off every hour at night.

I have to say that at this point I was looking at the nurse like:

are-you-serious

Just to save some hefty rambling, here’s a quick summary of when my sense of humour was and was not able to cope with this day:

Found It Funny

  • When my friend pointed out that, because the wire was dark red, it looked as though I had a thick stream of blood running mysteriously up and down my body.
  • When it went off as I was on the phone at work, causing me to totally zone out of the conversation I was supposed to be leading and instead wonder whether that buzzing was audible over the phone.
  • When, in the middle of the night, I half-woke up and thought the duvet had swallowed my arm.
  • The weird clothing conundrum of trying to get out of (and the following morning, back into) my bra.

Did Not Find It Funny

  • When I was walking home and instead of gradually squeezing my arm and then releasing it, the cuff squeezed my arm and then seemed to freeze. Like, just didn’t relax. Only for about three minutes, but long enough for me to a) completely lose the feeling in my fingers and b) wonder what would happen if it never let go.
  • The concern that after this little incident it was actually broken, and failed to record any readings for the remaining 19 hours (prior to this it had been showing me the reading, and after this – despite still going off on time – showed me diddly squat).
  • The six or seven other times it woke me up in the night, and I knew exactly what was happening and was just pissed off.
  • Having an itch under the increasingly sweaty velcro strap. That is some torturous shit.

One way or another, I ripped that thing off my arm (with difficulty, being in a public toilet cubicle and wearing three layers) and gave it back to the Cardiology department like:

throw

Unfortunately I think a lot of this grumpiness stems from an instinctive and totally unfounded feeling that the result of this test will not be what I want. The hope was that it would prove that my high blood pressure is, effectively, all in my head. That I have white coat syndrome, and am made nervous enough by hospitals, doctors and medical attention that it causes my heart rate and blood pressure to sky rocket. And my problem with this is that whenever I’ve taken my blood pressure at home it’s been just as bad. Which from what I can see means that either:

  1. I’m anxious about having my blood pressure taken, full stop – regardless of the environment it’s taken in. Which would mean the 24 hour monitor would make no difference.
  2. The problem isn’t actually caused by anxiety, and something else is going on.

Either way, this test won’t have made any difference.

But grumpiness aside, this was the next step the doctors needed to take to narrow down the list of potential problems. I get that, I respect the fact that they know much more than I do, and as my high blood pressure doesn’t make me feel in any way ill, I don’t really mind if it takes longer than is ideal to get to the root of the problem. And I don’t know what this test will have shown – I could very well be wrong in my suspicions.

So for now, I’m just going with:

okay

And be grateful that at least that stupid cuff is in the past.

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