Real RealityI wake up yesterday morning with a tight chest. I go to work with earlier mentioned tight chest, when about an hour and a half later, my tight chest turns into a feeling where someone just reached into my chest and is squeezing my heart with all their might for about ten seconds. I set up an appt with my family doc who is across town. I get there, the nurse looks me over, then gives me an EKG. Two minutes later, they are hooking me up to an oxygen machine and are calling 911. They say my EKG looks abnormal and the oxygen absorption rate is ~70% when it should be 98-100%.
I'm whisked away to the nearest hospital via ambulance, less than 10 minutes away, and I'm met by a team of doctors and nurses. They get me inside, start hooking me up to machines, and tell me I'm having a heart attack!!! They're double-checking, but they want to know how to proceed just in case and depending on the severity: taking pills, open-heart surgery, or angioplasty. Doc says he'd recommend doing #3 if I was his brother.
It's too much. I, 37-years old, regular exerciser, but so-so eater, am having a heart attack! Doesn't the biking, at least every other day, count for nothing? Oh yeah, there's the little family history thing. My dad's dad died of a heart attack in his forties (I think) and at least three of my dad's bros have died of heart-related conditions. My dad has had a quadruple bypass, and here I am, still eating fried chicken, greasy fries and burgers with regular abandon. No worries, methinks, since I bike so much. Well, reality don't much care.
I'm rushed to another lab upstairs. They need to shave my nethers, make a cut, and stick a catheter up the hole to go straight to my heart and dye it so they can do more scans. It's surreal, the whole time never less than six people in the ER and now the cardio-scan room (or whatever they call it) are running around, explaining things, and telling me that time is of the essence. I'm freaked, but I go with the flow. They determine that I'm not having an outright heart attack, but they aren't sure what's going on, which means...more big machines and more testing.
They bring me upstairs to my room in the Cardio Unit, and start poking me with all sorts of needles to draw blood. I let them know ahead of time that there are two things that scare me more in the world than anything else: public speaking and needles and that I've even fainted at the latter a few times. It's then they discover that everytime they prick me with a needle to draw blood, my heart rate drops way below "normal", which worries them. They eventually are able to get a few vials of my plasma.
Meanwhile, the cut above my groin is really sore, but I can't move that leg for eight hours. They put a collagen plug in the hole, and if I move funny, it can come out, and it being an artery, I can bleed out. Greaaaaat.
I explain to these cardio nurses that I bike a lot. They realize that may the reason that my heart rate is registering so low. (I later discovered that I scared my night nurse when she peeked in and my heart rate was down to 34 bpm.) My blood pressure seemingly appears too low, but with the knowledge of the "athleticism", they realize that it's really good also, which begs them to ask, "What are you doing here?" They're used to seeing much wider patients, meaning, well, you know what I mean.
I'm kept overnight for observation and more testing. This morning, I'm given a heart sonogram. Good. Clean. Then later, I'm given a VQ scan, which basically meant inhaling and getting injected by radioactive dye to see if I have a blood clot in my lungs. Uh-uh. Nada. Finally, my fourth EKG in two days. Same ol' same ol', i.e., normal.
The cardiologists and other types of docs look at all the test results, and they can't explain my chest pain. I have a little plaque around my heart but nothing that should have prompted a heart attack. My bad cholesterol levels are a little high, and they recommend a heart-healthy, low-fat diet. 'Nuff said, done. They conclude that it might've been acid reflux, but I need to check back next week and three weeks from now.
I'm out of the hospital and back at home now. I'm sore from needles, not being able to move my leg for eight hours, and the cut they gave me above my groin. Selfishly, I'm glad it's supposed to rain and stay hot for the next week so I can't be tempted to get on the bike, which I need to do for at least three days.
Three lessons learned:
- Fried chicken ain't the greatest, after all.
- Jo, my omnipresent wife, is my rock.
- I'm lucky to be alive.