Saturday, August 29, 2009

ER Musings

In trying to come up with a clever title for my recent hospital stay, I thought about how much I miss ER the TV show. I watched the show years ago when Dr. Ross and Dr. Greene were the hottest things on TV, then I dropped the fixation for most of ER's run, but this past year, knowing it was the 15th and final season, I decided to give it another try. I cried every Thursday night and awaited the next week to see what would happen to the ongoing story lines with the added bonus of getting to see all the actors who had been on the show reappear for their final farewells. It was a good year and I was satisfied when it ended - always a nice feeling.

Little did I know I would be experiencing the reality of the ER this year. On Wed., the 19th, I awoke with moderate chest pain. I went downstairs to my desk to have devotions, but the pain did not decrease or go away and an hour later I got up to take some ibuprofen. (yes, I know, I should have had aspirin on hand...many have reminded me.) Within 20 min. of taking the medication I was becoming more uncomfortable - my left armpit felt like it was in a vice grip; the ibuprofen had done nothing to abate the pain. I told my husband that I thought maybe we should go to the ER to have it checked out and then paced the room crying trying to figure out if I really had to go to such extremes. Of course, Mark thought so and off we went.

In triage they took my blood pressure and an EKG (both were not very pretty) and then they admitted me to the ER. There the nurse took some blood (to check for enzymes) and proceeded with treatment. She informed us that the fastest way to eliminate cardiac pain was to use nitroglycerin. It sounded good; I was ready after 3+ hours to get some relief. She put the nitro under my tongue, explained that I would experience a head rush and a slight headache for a couple of minutes and left the room. After 2 or 3 minutes the tiny pill dissolved and I went from zero pain in my head to the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my entire life. I was writhing in pain on the gurney, holding my head and sobbing. Poor Mark was doing a dance mid-door frame, trying to get someone's attention in the hallway and trying to keep watch over me at the same time. (almost funny) The nurse returned and noticed that my blood pressure had shot to 240 over 214 and that my heart rate had gone through the roof, quite the opposite reaction a person is supposed to have. Mark and I thought to ourselves that I must be quite a wimp, but after I told the nurse my thoughts, she said, "Trust me, your body responded to the pain in a dramatic way. It was quite severe to get that type of reaction." Yay, I'm not a wimp! The nurse went and got the main doc on the floor and he gently informed me that we would be doing that again - two more times. Sweet man! The nurse watched over me and twice more I went through the most shocking pain that within minutes would be gone. By the third nitro I did not have any chest, arm or back pain, but the Dr. quickly admitted me to the Cardiac Unit for tests and observation.

Thus began my pin cushion, fasting stay in what I'm sure will be an expensive "luxury lock down." I was hooked up to oxygen, a continuous EKG machine, and two IV's (after 16 pokes). I had one meal in 36 hours so I could take a few tests that required an empty stomach. I do not recommend a Cardiac Unit diet, although 5 pounds lighter, it did work!

I do, however, recommend everyone get a CAT Scan. That was the toastiest test I've ever experienced! The technician said right before injecting the iodine, "Ok now, you will feel a warm sensation all over your body. This will include your bladder where you will feel like you wet yourself or that you will want's not true. You'll be fine, just warm. The sensation will go away after a minute or two." Interesting! He injects the dye and here are the thoughts that went through my head, "Oh, my eyeballs are toasty from the Oh, my throat, wow! Oh, he's right I do have that sensation...this is neat. Oh, my toes...I LOVE this!" Crazy woman!!

I also recommend, without cause, that everyone get an echocardiogram where you can watch a sonogram of your own beating heart. The contrasts used to show the blood flow were cool and I was just amazed at watching my own body at work. I wonder why God didn't give me talent in math and science; I have such a morbid curiosity about all things anatomy. I would have probably been dangerous! Ha!

I was released Thursday night and am now taking 3 medications. My blood pressure is now better controlled and I go in on Monday to see the Cardiologist for a 3 hour appointment/stress test. Sounds like fun! Not!

After my hospital stay I went right into registration responsibilities for American Heritage Girls. Between Friday morning and Sunday morning I was either sleeping or doing registration work. By the time I got to church on Sunday I realized that I hadn't "processed" any of the week's events. Mark had saved me a seat in church while I checked our girls into their classes so when I joined him, worship had already begun. I started to sing and then just broke into raking sobs thinking, "I'm so glad to be here!" I then immediately thought, "Yeah, 'cause worship in heaven wouldn't be that great." (yes, I'm very sarcastic in my own head.) Continued thoughts..."Well, I mean, I'm glad to not be in the hospital and in church this morning." (the "tomorrow is another day" psychotic tool used to think about grave issues.) Then I thought about a distant family member who told me this summer that my birth father had had his 1st heart attack in his 30's. I thought, "What a gift." Had I not had that information, I don't know if I would have actually gone to the hospital. I have a very hectic year ahead of me and I feel like the Lord put this "intervention" into place so that I'd be on medication that would help me survive the pace/stress. Doesn't mean I still don't have to do my part to eat healthfully and exercise, but I can have a better chance of survival while I work on it, than I did before.

In the end, I was diagnosed with a "cardiac event." That means there was no tissue death (attack), just stress or injury to the heart. It was an early warning sign and now something I can keep my eye on to, hopefully, live a long full life. Much like the caring Dr.'s on the show ER, I was well taken care of and had a satisfying end to the story.

Just like many who have medical scares, I treasure my family just a little bit more. We don't know the Lord's timing in our lives so we need to make the best of each & every day!

"war" wounds - they were blowing through my tiny veins.

(I don't have needle phobia so it was more cool than creepy to me.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found your blog in my email this morning. I don't know how I missed your email. I'm so sorry you had to endure such a scary cardiac event. I love the way you wrote about it -- a neat mix of funny and serious. I hope you're doing well. It must be hard to think about (and even forget!) that experience. I hope that as time goes on, you're doing better and better.