Sunday, 8 July 2012

Human Guinea Pig: Part 3 - Actiheart Monitor & Step Test

This is the third part of the story about my overnight stay in the hospital's research department, having lots of tests to look at the effect my pituitary tumour is having on my body and metabolism. You can read the first part here, and the second part here.

Actiheart Monitor & Step Test

Once my body composition scan was finished, there was a certain amount of fretting that I would be late for my MRI scan appointment, so I was immediately whisked off to have my step test and Actiheart monitor fitted. This meant I was still wearing giant scrubs and no bra when I was supposed to be doing mildly athletic deeds, which proved somewhat inconvenient.

The Actiheart monitor is a teeeny tiny heart monitor which attaches to your chest by means of two sticky pads coated in glue so vicious it's almost impossible to wash off without taking the top layer of skin off too. I was informed I would be wearing it until midday Friday (I had not had any kind of advanced warning about that!) and that they wanted to carry out a step test to calibrate it. Essentially, while standing in a room full of cycling machines and a giant treadmill, you have to spend eight minutes stepping alternately onto and off of a purple plastic step, in time with a computerised voice which says "Up. Up. Down. Down." and gradually gets faster. The Actiheart records your heartrate as you do so, and then this is compared to the recording of your heart over the next few days, and used to gauge your activity level against your heartrate.

It's so tiny!
This explanation seemed pretty bizarre to me, because they were recording my exercising heartrate while I was off medication and therefore had an unusually fast heartrate, and then using this to calibrate the results of the heart monitor recording my heartrate when I was back on the medication. I have not yet had a satisfactory explanation of why this isn't stupid, but I live in hope.

Anyway. The computerised voice started up, and after only a minute or so began to take on a strangely hypnotic quality as I stepped endlessly up and down. By 5 minutes 30 seconds, the voice saying "Up. Up." started to sound more like an evil "Ha. Ha." and I became convinced the computer was laughing at me. The whole time, I had to hold up the trouser legs of my giant scrubs because they were too long as well as too wide, and I was concerned I would trip and fall on my (apparently worryingly fat) arse. Pro tip for the creators of Actiheart: I have to say that the whole experience would be vastly improved if you set the "Up. Up. Down. Down." man's voice to trance music.

Having just been told that I was 36% lard, I became quite concerned that I must be hideously unfit and would utterly disgrace myself by being unable to complete the step test, but in fact it was totally fine and even when he got quite fast at the end I was still happilly stepping away.

There was no printout of results to take away with me; I have to wait until the five-day recording has been analysed and then I should get some feedback through the post. I can't believe quite how small and awesome it is, compared to the 24-hour heart monitors which I've had to wear previously, which have invariably been vast, bulky and inconvenient.

My experience of the Actiheart Monitor and Step Test:

Hassle: 5/5
Fun: 3/5
Weirdness: 4/5
Results: 2/5
Total score: 14/20

1 comment:

  1. I am loving these, really informative and fun - and all the characters of the staff! I am seeing a Gompus-and-Goobus-style book in the future, 'Emer Goes to Hospital'. 'Is this the day my test is on?' 'No, this is not the day the test is on.' 'No, that kitten's heartrate is too high.'