From the Pastor: A Trip to the Heart Doctor
A few months ago the priests of the diocese received word that the bishop had teamed up with a top-notch cardiologist to give us an opportunity for a full cardiac exam if we wished to take advantage of it. I ignored the invitation, as I am a male. An unmarried male. As in, a man without a wife to nag him into going to the doctor. My last “real” doctor, as in the one who gave me Tamiflu when I got the flu one time and who made sure I had antibiotics whenever my normally bad sinuses went into full-blown infectious assault, passed away five or six years ago. Other than some allergy relief medication and another dose of sinusitis repellant, which has been swiftly supplied by a doctor from the church pews, I haven’t seen much of a need to have anything checked out. Our Lady of Good Health takes care of me. But then the diocese sent a nurse, Pat Mullarkey, out to give us a sales pitch. She had the initials RN and BSN after her name. I know the “RN” stands for “Registered Nurse” and I assume the other initials stand for the mandatory training needed by any nurse before dealing with the likes of me. (Let it sink in, you’ll get it.) At her presentation, she mentioned that quite a number of priests had already gone through with the screening and a couple were found with unexpected, undiagnosed, but potentially serious heart conditions which necessitated immediate action.
I signed up for a screening. I don’t know why, exactly. I always figure that I have to die of something sometime, so let nature take its course. Plus, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But I signed up. For four hours worth of tests. A list of do’s and don’ts was sent to me. No eating or drinking before the tests. No coffee from midnight. Early morning appointments were out of the question because of my Mass schedule. I couldn’t very well fast from Holy Communion, though, and still celebrate the two Masses of the morning. I got the OK to receive the Eucharist but was told no other food. No problem there, fasting comes with the job. But no coffee? That’s just cruel. I should have done this during Lent. A few days before my appointment, I was on the phone with an out-of-state cousin and she mentioned that her favorite priest had been out of action for a few months after an emergency heart operation. He never knew he had issues until his bishop asked his priests to get tested—wait, that sounds familiar—and he wound up going straight into surgery. I told her what I was about to do. “What if,” she asked, “the liberal bishops are doing this as cover to get rid of the conservative priests?” Dang. Why put that into my head? Like they could be so evil. It is to laugh. Ha ha...heh..um..gulp.
The morning of the tests I was met at the doctor’s office by nurse Mullarkey. She was already there with one of the youngest priests of our diocese and he was sweating and breathing hard, having just come from one of his tests. Hmmm. I almost had a heart attack just pondering going through whatever it was that he just did. They took me to a little room where they checked vital signs and hooked up wires to my chest to see if I had a heart. Back to the waiting room. The nurse and other priest had disappeared. I was sitting there, confident that I was in great health. Pulse? Good. Blood pressure? Good. Weight? Just 18 inches too short. But then a man came out to tell me that I had to go get a CAT scan right away. “Where’s your nurse?” he asked as he lead me to the door. “Gone? Well, you have to go to that building right now,” he said, pointing across the parking lot, “even without her. Did you drive yourself here? You might want to take your car. We normally walk but you might want to drive...” He seemed afraid that I was going to collapse just walking across a parking lot. I somehow survived the journey, got the scan, and returned to the building without keeling over. As I walked back in, I spotted the nurse and young priest and went to join them. But before I could even get comfortable in the chair, a nurse came out beckoning me to come. “The doctor wants to go over the test results with you right away,” she called. Yikes! What in the world was wrong that he was already looking at them?
I went in and the doctor introduced himself and as I shook his hand he said, “How did you pronounce your name? I didn’t quite catch it.” He was not expecting “Palka”. They had called the wrong priest. I was just the only one looking like a priest (the instructions said to dress comfortably, so I was wearing my cassock) but they really wanted the “incognito” priest. I don’t know how he fared for I was having other tests done when he got finished with the doctor, but eventually it was really my turn to see the results. I found out that, probably due to my obviously marvelous exercise regimen and carefully monitored diet (the cassock is heavy, not me!), my heart is in great shape and there is no plaque in my arteries. Whew! Just what I expected...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka