Friday, August 30, 2013

this was weird

I am not the one in the hospital bed.  I'm the one who sits by the bed.  Or takes others to the hospital.  But I am never the one in the bed hearing the scary words.

At least not until this week.  First, remember that while they don't really know what happened, they assured me they had ruled out the really bad stuff.

So there's that.

It all started Wednesday night after work when, per our usual routine, Jack dropped me off by the sidewalk so I could walk the ten steps to the mailbox to bring in the mail.  Except this time, I walked five steps and felt this enormous weight and pressure on top of my shoulders, left side especially.  I was carrying an empty glass and a bottle of diet coke (of course) and my purse, and by the time I'd walked the other five steps to the mailbox, I thought I was going to drop all of them.  My mind wasn't very clear, but I decided to drop the bottle into the glass into my purse, which I did, but then my purse was so heavy I didn't think I could hold it with my left arm anymore.  So I tried to switch it to my right arm, but it was still too heavy so I dropped it to the ground.

This was not making any sense to me.  I remember thinking that my jacket felt too tight around my shoulders (but I wear that jacket all of the time and it fits just fine).  I thought I just needed to pick up the mail and go in the house.  But I wasn't strong enough to open the box.  This was weird.  So I tried to pull it open again and couldn't.  My arms felt heavy and weak and my whole body was close to collapse.

So I did the obvious and leaned my head on top of the mailbox.  Because that wouldn't be weird, right?

I stayed that way for a minute and then noticed the sound of a bicycle coming down the street.  I tried to say hello to the guy on the bike, but I couldn't focus enough to form the words.  I recognized that he looked puzzled, but I just couldn't say anything to him.  He rode on by and I went back to trying to open the mailbox.

After several attempts, I finally got the box open.  I reached inside only to discover that I wasn't strong enough to pull out the mail.  Probably because there was a letter package for Jr that contained a softcover book for school, but it took me several attempts to figure out that if I bent the package just a little bit, I could slide out the mail, which I did.  This all seemed to take a long time.

I took a couple of deep breaths and headed up the driveway into the house.  Once inside, I set the mail on the table, walked to the back door and let in the dogs, and then collapsed into my chair.  Jack asked about the mail, I told him it was junk and a book for Jr.  Then I told him I wasn't feeling well and described the events at the mailbox.  I decided I needed to lay down and remove my jacket and my bra because they were both too tight and I was feeling squeezed.

I headed into the bedroom, removed my jacket and laid down under the covers on our bed.  Jack wasn't far behind me.  He sat down on the edge of the bed and I could see the concern on his face as he looked at me.  He asked if I was okay, did I want to stay in bed, did I want something to eat?  I said yes.  He narrowed it down to something to eat and brought me a plate of leftovers that were still very tasty.  I changed into a nightgown and tried to rest.

After a bit, I headed back out to the kitchen with my empty plate (well, except for a couple of bites of sweet potatoes I thought he might like to finish up for me) and then sat back down in my chair.  Jack and Jr were talking together, and when the conversation paused, I said that I wasn't feeling well.  I had an achy pain in my jaw, my neck, my shoulder, and down my arm.  Jack got up and went immediately to the medicine cupboard and returned with four baby aspirin and water that he told me to swallow.  We then headed back into the bedroom where I changed out of my nightgown into yoga pants and a shirt and we headed to the hospital.

Let me just say right now that if you ever want to move directly to the front of the line at the ER, you just tell them you have pain in your jaw, shoulder, arm, and neck.  You will be instantly transported to a room where they will immediately attach devices to do an EKG or ECG and someone else will immediately start an IV and someone else will show up with an x-ray machine so they can x-ray your chest right there in your bed.  They will draw blood and listen to your heart and check your blood pressure.  Stat.  Then they will put a nitro glycerine pill under your tongue, which in my case, stopped the pain almost instantly.  There.  That's stat for you.

I told them all that this was getting very scary and they agreed that it was.

In a very short time, the ER doc arrived to tell me that my blood didn't show that I'd had a heart attack, although that could take 4-6 hours to see.  My EKG was normal.  This is all sounding good to me, like, maybe I'd just had a little hiccup and even though I'd never experienced anything like it before and it was really intense, I would be going right back home. 

Not so fast, missy.  The doc said they had done a test that would show if I had a blood clot in my lungs and it had come back positive.  So off to radiology for a ct scan, which showed no blood clot.  So that's good, right?

Again with the not so fast, missy.  It seems that when someone is apparently healthy like me and then suddenly has an episode like mine at the mailbox, they take it all very seriously.  It's one thing to have a gradually developing case of heart disease, but when you are under 65 and female and seem healthy, they worry about you having a sudden massive heart attack that kills you right on the spot.

Again scary.  I was having a hard time even processing what he was saying.  I mean, I'd heard those same kinds of things at the hospital with elderly relatives before.  But not when I was the one in the bed.  

So no going home for me that night.  Instead, they taped some nitro gel onto me (which they replaced a couple of times through the night) and were going to send me upstairs so they could monitor my heart all night, check blood pressure and heart rate, take and test more blood to see if the heart attack enzymes had appeared after all.  And also, by morning, I would be scheduled for a stress test and if I didn't pass that, I was headed for an angiogram.

This all seemed more than weird now.  I mean, I am healthy and thin and young.  Okay, at least healthy, right? 

Yes, but that's exactly what had them so concerned.  If I were his mother or daughter or sister or aunt, he'd admit them and do the stress test and so would the cardiologist he'd consulted with about me.

What.  Wait.  A cardiologist?  I'm not old enough for this stuff.  But it turns out I am.  So upstairs I went to the floor where they send you after you've been in the ICU. 

See, it could have been worse.  I wasn't going to the ICU.

They kept me up most of the night, asking questions, checking vitals, drawing blood.  They stuck all kinds of little pads onto me that they used to connect me to machines that monitored my heart.  Apparently there are several types of pads they use depending on what machine they're going to connect you to.  And the pads must match up with the machine. 

And they gave me tylenol for the headache that comes with the nitro gel and also to help with the headache that arrived the next morning when I couldn't have any diet coke.  Had to wait to eat or drink until after they decided whether or not I needed the angiogram.

All of the people I encountered there were very kind and very competent.  So there's that, which was really something.  Seriously.  It meant a lot to have kindness.

Mid-morning they took me in for the stress test.  It involved fancy x-rayish stuff and a treadmill and more fancy x-raying with radioactive stuff they injected into my IV.  Radioactivity?  Heck yes.  Hence my new super powers.  But wait, the guy who administered the radioactivity said the super powers would only last for six hours.  And I had had such grand plans. Again.  This was all so very weird.

But I was the boss of that stress test.  

Back I went to my room where the cardiologist came in to tell me I had not had a heart attack and I did not have a blood clot but he really didn't know what had happened.  He said that if I had a family history of heart attacks at an early age or if I'd been in the psych ward or something he'd be looking at this differently.

Wait. Psych ward?  Well, if we're going to go there, why yes, I did spend a week in the psych ward six years ago.  But what does that have to do with anything?  Turns out my old buddy anxiety can cause heart problems.  Now I don't know if we're talking genuine heart problems or the ones your mind causes just to mess with you, but they seemed more willing to let me go after I told them about my stay at UNI.  I really hate that I can't trust that physical pain in my body is caused by physical illness, that I have to wonder if it's just all in my head.  Especially when I haven't been feeling particularly stressed of late.

So weird.

What I didn't know until after I got home yesterday afternoon is that my mom's gramma and my mom's aunt both died of heart attacks before they were 65.  So I guess I'll have to mention that to the cardiologist when I see him in a couple of weeks for a follow up visit to see if that changes anything.  And yes, now I have an appointment with a cardiologist.  And I promised to come right back to the ER if I feel anything like that again.

This is all so very weird.  But fingers crossed, right?


Lisa B. said...


I'm glad that you're here with us, writing it all out. Sending you best thin-blood and no-clot and super-awesome-heart wishes from up here in Idaho.

and also xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo.

Jessie said...

What Lisa said. But from California.

Also, did you tell the dr that Dad gave you aspirin? Isn't that a blood thinner? Would that have possibly dissolved a clot?

So scary. We are so glad you're ok.