In 2014, I was referred to a pulmonologist (pul-mo-no-lo-gist). He was well-experienced, one of the top lung doctors of the city. While waiting in the doctor’s visiting room, me and my daughter, Swati were quite nervous.
Ting-Tong the bell in the waiting room rang and my name was called.
I remember that walk from visiting room to the doctor’s chamber. Limping (due to rheumatoid arthritis pain in my left knee) in a colourful saree those few steps were full of hope & nervousness both.
“What will happen now? What will this doctor say? What has happened to me? My daughter had to come to hospital due to me. Hope there is nothing serious.” – These were the thoughts running my mind.
The doctor looked at my CT scan and other reports while I narrated the whole story. He looked up and put a pulse oximeter on the index finger of my right hand. He asked me to walk for few minutes in the waiting hall and come back.
It was the first time I met my future lifetime friend, a pulse oximeter. We both went for a walk which changed my life forever.
Within few steps, my breathing became harder and quicker. There was an intense tightening in my chest. I felt suffocated. I was air hungry and breathing became a difficult task. My heart was racing. I could hear my heartbeats. I could feel the struggle of my lungs.
Today I know the technical term for it, Dyspnea – Shortness of breath. Intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation are the common symptoms.
That test was the “6-Minute Walk test”.
I don’t remember the exact oxygen saturation or pulse rate of that day. I did not know how to read or understand the numbers that were reflected on the tiny screen of the pulse oximeter.
As soon as I returned to the doctor’s chamber, he asked me to sit comfortably and took away the pulse oximeter. He started scribbling something on the prescription pad.
He said to my daughter that I have lung fibrosis. She nodded with a shocked and confused look on her face.
He prescribed some medicines and more tests.
I did not understand then what it meant. My daughter explained to me like I’m a 5-year-old toddler. Till today I read biology and try to understand more and more about my lung health and the tests involved in it.
Read part 2 of this article in which I share my understanding of the 6-minute walk test (in as much as non-medical terms possible.)