Friday, July 07, 2006

Death Notes & Beth's big trip to the ER

Last night Elizabeth went on her very first trip to the ER(I don't count that skiing accident when they had to come and get me with the skimobile and sled; but that’s a story for another day). And unlike Curious George, this trip had nothing to do with puzzle pieces...or heroin.

You see, yesterday afternoon while I was getting a facial I had a painful surging attack of arrhythmia in my heart. I am not sure what this looks like to others but I think I tend to roll around clutching my chest making mewling noises. What it feels like is the part in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when the evil priest is reaching into your chest, grabbing your heart and slowly, every so slowly, ripping it out of your body. After about 90 seconds it stopped and though I was feeling weak and punky, I was able to ask the beautician, who was now standing slightly away from me looking at me as if I was about to explode if we were going to continue. Errrr...not.

Two days before I had gone to my doctor’s appointment at a heart clinic to take a stress test, involving a treadmill and a bunch of heart monitors. I think the idea is to try and create a heart attack. After which they revive you and confirm you have a heart problem? Anyway, I really got into the spirit of the event and convinced the woman administering it to take it several levels beyond normal. So first walking then jogging, then running, all while trying to maintain a conversation on the difference between British Canadians and the “real” British (the technician was British). I was determined to surpass and set a new record for my maximum heart rate. After 10 minutes I had gotten past 190 beats per minute when the technician wimped out and stopped the treadmill. She did say with the right financial inducement she might be able to sneak me in again (I can break 200!). I must have passed the test because they didn’t send me upstairs to see the cardiologist.

After the attack at the beautician I was feeling weak and kittenish the rest of the afternoon. I took it easy, Linda came home, left to pick up some groceries and I started writing emails. To tell the truth, my body has always been a bit of a whiner, so when my chest started hurting again, I ignored it, and continued writing emails. But the pain kept growing, so much I couldn’t sit still anymore. Even after I got up, the pain just kept growing plus I was getting dizzy and the ends of my fingers were numb. “This,” I thought to myself, “Is a bad sign.” Don’t you wish that was what I thought? I do. What I really thought was “FUCK! Help! OWWWWW! Linda make bad pain go AWAY!”

I’d never felt this bad before and started to worry that if I died, Linda would still be out buying frozen lemonade. I found a marker and a pad of papers by the phone and started writing love notes. The pain was too intense for me to stay in one place, so I staggered around scrawling down “I love you”, dropping the pieces of papers as I hit walls. Then called for a ride to the hospital.

Linda arrived back in time to come with me. By the time we drove up the hospital, I was feeling better, not great, still what Linda loving called, “Slick and pasty” (or was that sick?).

Linda was dumped with the paperwork and I was soon in one of those hospital gowns at bed A-3 of the ER. Actually it still hurt too much in my chest to lie down so I sort of leaned by A-3. Many, many attendants came by forcing me into bed, including two, one who hooked me up to a cardiogram while the other took my “incident” history (they took my incident history three times, but the doctor never saw them). Truth is, I was pretty wacked, and once I got in the bed just lay there, spaced out, except when I would make non-sequitur statements about the nurses who came in “You smoke” I muttered to one who walked by, and asked another couple if they wanted the bed back. I was pretty scared, since I’ve watched ER and I really didn’t want to be admitted. It would only be a matter of time before I had tubes all over me and someone was on top of me yelling for a sternum saw.

Linda was let in to keep my company but instead stared at my heart rate and breathing monitor above my head. Then she would say things to make them go up and down. “Oh, wonder if you are getting a big needle!” she’d say and then smile, “Look at the heart rate go!” I had to keep reminding her that I was not a toy, and if I was, I was a broken toy.

When the doctor came he was blunt and seemed to be in caffeine withdrawal. I did not have heart disease. It could be stress, it could be thyroid, it could be the adrenal going nuts, but none of those are ER tests. They take days. I was getting turfed. Had I been under a lot of stress, he wanted to know. Well, it had been a very bad night. What does that mean? Well, for example Linda had to restrain me at 2:00 a.m. from trying claw off my own skin. Doctor says, that sounds like stress.

When it comes to the heart there is the pump, there are the tubes and there is the electrical. At the ER they checked and my tubes are fine. The previous echocardiogram showed that the pump is fine. So something is wrong with the electrical. Problem is, unless they actually see it happening, they can’t figure out why it is happening. Is there anything I can do when it happens again, I asked. Yes, the doctor replied, count your heart rate, particularly if it goes over 100. Uh doctor, I was actually thinking more in lines of something to stop the agonizing pain. Nope.

A nurse did say that certain anti-depressants can cause electrical problems with the heart, she said they get people on Zoloft in all the time (Take Warning!). She also kept a close eye on us when I let slip that I tend to "liberate" doctor's office supplies (I already have a Zoloft pen!)

So, I came home, collected up all the “death notes” I left for Linda and am depressed. Two reasons: first is that when I have chest pains again, I know there is no point trying to get help and second because I see a lot more medical tests in my future. Linda and I have different philosophies about what to do next about the heart pain. Linda says I should “lie down and take it easy” while I feel that since it is hurting me and nothing can be done about it, every time I get heart pain, I should go for a killer 10 mile run. Ha ha, try to cripple me will you body, well I can cripple you with pain too! Linda says trying to extract revenge on your own body is slightly deranged. Well, we’ll see...


Wendryn said...

Glad you are doing reasonably well and it didn't do you permanent damage.

Heh. Trying to extract revenge on your own body seems perfectly reasonable to me - my reaction to finding out I had premature ventricular contractions was to see how hard I had to exercise to get them to go off. It was kind of funny at the time.

If it's an electrical problem, my cardiologist had me taking CoQ10 and magnesium to get it settled down and it helped a lot. I also had to cut out caffeine (the horror!) and lower stress (which was helped by leaving the abusive bastard). I don't know if the CoQ10 or magnesium would help in your case, but it might be worth asking.

Good luck!

Woody Cavenaugh said...

All this makes me rethink the philosophy of "Pain is weakness leaving the body."

It makes me wonder if pain isn't life leaving the body...

I'll report back after my stress test on Monday.

kathz said...

It sounds horrible and very scary. I don't like hospitals either. I've absolutely no advice except that if it were me I would do my best to retreat to bed (or the bath) with a good book. In fact, I've just got a good book from Amazon - called Zed (arrived this morning) - but as I've been horribly busy I've only read the first few pages. Luckily I have several long train journeys in the next week or so ...

Anyway, I hope you look after yourself if you can find a good and enjoyable way to do so. (Linda might have a point and she sounds quite good on the looking after front too.)

all the best


Wiccachicky said...

Oh that sounds awful!! I hate going into the ER. My experience with those people is they never know what they are doing. When I went in for my hives outbreaks, they kept giving me the wrong stuff and finally I got a smart one who figured out that it was eczema. So maybe the next time you will get a better ER doc or something and s/he will know what to do!

Yoga Korunta said...

Please let me attend the heart; Linda doesn't need to know!

Sober @ Sundown said...

Sometimes my heart beats a little too fast and irregular, but I don't have health insurance, so I pretend it isn't happening....... In a few seconds the irregularities go away. I feel for you. My situation is scary, but not painful.

The love notes to Linda are sweet.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I will ask my doctor about magnesium, strangely the next day I couldn't stay awake longer than 4 hours and found that simply walking would send my heart rate up over 120 - so besides blogging, I didn't do much yesterday - using TV as my guide, this means that I will likely have julia roberts coming into my life to give me a motorcycle ride before I die (not!)

In every scary situation there is always comically elements, like at the hospital when linda tried to comfort me by petting my head, and ended up getting her hand stuck in the tangles in my hair (note to self: get better conditioner). Or when she was trying to convince the doctor I was on drugs - me: "I am not on drugs", She: "Yes you are." me: "Doctor, what drugs did you mean when you asked if I was on 'alcohol or drugs'?" Dr: "Heroin, cocaine, methaphetamines, LSD" Linda: "Oh, no, not THOSE drugs."

Sfrajett said...

I am so sorry that this happened to you but I have to confess that your descriptions made me laugh out loud. Especially the part about running into walls writing farewell I Love Yous on post-its. OMG. Hope you feel better soon. Maybe put off the 10-mile run a bit?

elizabeth said...

Holy crap. Glad you are alive. That is beyond scary. (but very sweet that you left love notes - really)