Jerry Zezima: Stressed for success

When it comes to stress, I put others to the test. That’s why my cardiologist ordered a stress test for me.

“Now that you’re 70, you should have one,” he said. “Have you ever had a stress test?”

“I can’t remember,” I answered.

“Why?” the doctor asked.

“Because,” I said, “I’m 70.”

So I made an appointment for what I feared would be a cardiac calamity.

On the appointed date, I was taken to a room with a treadmill, a computer, all kinds of medical equipment and two very nice nurses, Ivy Brandafino and Angela Townson, who would administer the test, monitor my heart rate and, I fervently hoped, revive me if I keeled over.

But first, I had to be shaved. Yes, like the Wolf Man during a full moon, I have chest hair. The absolute worst thing a guy can experience is having surgical tape or a bunch of adhesive devices ripped from his quivering anatomy.

“I once had a root canal,” I told Ivy, “but it was nothing compared to that.”

“This will be painless,” she promised, using a small razor to clear a couple of spots so electrical wires could be attached to my furry pecs, as well as to my smooth, flabby flanks.

“I feel like the Frankenstein monster,” I said. “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

That assessment was correct when Ivy took my blood pressure and oxygen level, both of which were normal.

“It’s the only normal thing about me,” I said.

Ivy smiled politely and took a reading of my heart while I was sitting down.

“This is easy,” I said.

“Wait until you get on the treadmill,” said Ivy, who asked me to step onto the machine.

It was a little difficult because I was hooked up like a car battery.

Angela got me situated and explained what would happen.

“You are going to start very slowly on a flat surface,” she said. “Then we will increase the speed and incline.”

She added that I would be on the treadmill for nine minutes and that my heart rate was supposed to go up to 128 beats per minute.

“Do you have any questions?” Angela asked.

“Yes,” I said. “If I collapse, will I get pulled under and come out as flat as a flounder?”

“If this was a cartoon, you would,” she answered.

“Then I could be on ‘Tom and Jerry,’ ” I noted.

At that, Ivy started the treadmill.

“You’re doing fine,” she said as I strolled easily but didn’t go anywhere.

My heart rate was in the 90s, so Ivy turned up the speed and raised the incline. I saw that my number went up to 100.

“You haven’t even broken a sweat,” Angela remarked.

“I just hope I don’t break a leg,” I said as Ivy again increased the speed and incline.

A minute or two later, my heart rate reached 128.

“I did it!” I exclaimed.

“You did,” Ivy said. “But you’re not done.”

I had a minute and a half to go.

By this time, with one more ratcheting up of speed and incline, I felt like I was being chased up the side of a volcano by a pack of hyenas. My heart rate topped out at 133.

A moment later, Ivy turned off the machine.

“You did great,” Angela said as I stepped off, slightly winded and fresh as a skunk cabbage.

“Have you ever given a stress test to someone older than I am?” I wondered.

“We had one guy who was 80,” Angela recalled. “He was a marathon runner. He showed up in running shoes and a racing outfit.”

“We also had a woman who was 90,” Ivy said.

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” I said, “but how did she do?”

“Fantastic,” Ivy replied. “Just like you.”

“Good,” I said. “Don’t stress over this, but I’ll see you again in 20 years.”

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of seven books. His latest is “The Good Humor Man: Tales of Life, Laughter and, for Dessert, Ice Cream.” Reach him at [email protected] or via