Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

I’ve been having these pains, just under my left, uh, boobucles (rhymes with Hercules – don’t ask, it’s a whole ‘nother blog post). Oh, yes, the pain – it started, oh, I suppose about a week or so ago, pretty much coinciding with the beginning of the Decision Not To Make a Decision week. It was a sharp twinging pain, ranging anywhere from a minor annoyance to a Hey! Sorry To Wake You Up at 2am!

As the week progressed, so did the pain. I chalked it up to stress and anxiety. And once we had our Non-Decision, I figured the pain would subside for another month. I was wrong. It stayed around, and started getting worse. I tried Tums, thinking it was heartburn, but when I would wake up in the morning and have the pain before I ate anything, I quit taking Tums. Besides, that’s like eating fruit-flavored chalk. Bleck.

I felt like hell on Monday. I was tired, even though I’d gone to bed at a decent hour, and slept pretty much the entire night. I just felt “off,” I knew something wasn’t right but I couldn’t exactly pinpoint it, other than the ripping pain I felt every 5-10 minutes. I kept looking down, thinking I was Sigourney Weaver and that Alien was about to poke its head out of my sweater. I wasn’t hungry, and passed up the peanut butter M&Ms my co-worker was trying to give me. I knew then that something was awry.

I went home, made some soup and a grilled cheese, and put on my comfy pants. I couldn’t get comfortable, and the pain was getting really bad, to the point I had to double over. I told Craig that if it was just a bit south, I would swear I was in labor. I couldn’t take a deep breath, I couldn’t sit and I couldn’t lay down.

While Craig took Maddy to basketball practice, I did what I swore I wouldn’t do – I went on WebMD. Yeah, I know, bad idea. After reviewing my symptoms, and managing not to be distracted by the other random symptoms, I decided I had an angina. It made sense – it was exacerbated by stress, and maybe I was so tired and run-down because I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Ok then, I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.

I woke up Tuesday morning and discovered that Pain had invited a friend to my chest, Pressure. Now I felt like it was trying to push my lungs out of my chest. Fan-frakin-tastic. I was definitely calling the doctor today. I got ready, went to vote (gotta do the civic duty while I’m still breathing), and headed for work. As I was driving in, I ate my breakfast bar and it hurt to chew. Oh great, jaw pain. I remembered reading that on WebMD, it’s a sign of an impending heart attack. Just breathe…oh yeah, that hurts too.

I wait impatiently for 9am, then call the doctor. The nurse takes down my symptoms and says to me, “I’m pretty sure he’s going to tell you to go to the ER, because of the symptoms you’re having and your age.” My age? Kick me while I’m down, why don’tcha? Commence Minor Freak Out Def Con 1.

The nurse calls me back and says that he wants me to have an EKG and since they don’t have that equipment in the office, head to the nearest ER, do not pass go. Commence Minor Freak Out Def Con 2.

I email Craig, he tells me to calm down. Sure. I'll get right on that. I mean, I know I have a tendency to overreact and think the worst, but this really was scaring me. This had been going on for over a week. I’m 42, and heart disease is the number one killer of women my age. And of course it would stand to reason that once I quit smoking, started eating healthier and working out more that I would now die because my body was rejecting the healthy.

I left work and headed home. While en route, I called my dad to get our health history (no heart disease) and so he could talk me out of my tree. He’s good like that. He made me laugh, but I sensed some concern in his voice. And when my dad is concerned, it’s bad. Commence MFODC 3.

I get home, change my clothes, and debate on whether to pee or not. It seems like everything can be diagnosed by either a urine test or a blood test. I decide I better wait – I will later discover that’s the wrong answer.

We get to the ER, and it’s empty. Of course. You know the only way to be seen fast at an ER is to say “chest pain,” or “profusely bleeding.” I don’t even get to jump the line. The nice intake nurse calls me in as a CP, and next thing I know a nurse is putting me in a wheelchair. She says “we’re going to move pretty fast” and I tell her “no rush, I’ve had this pain for a week.” But that’s the protocol when they hear those magic words – move and move quickly. She’s not kidding.

We zip down the hall to the room, I get on the gurney and she tells me to take off my shirt and bra, another one starts sticking little white tabs on me and then she says that Doug will be starting my IV. Oh, hey there Doug, nice to meet you, can you hold my bra? Normally you’d have bought me dinner for this view but ain’t it your lucky day? Well, I don’t say that, but I do warn the crowd that I have a pathological fear of needles and if I pass out not to be surprised, it’s completely unrelated to the condition at hand. As he does his thing, my blood pressure goes from a respectable 120 over whatever to about 85 over 12. Ok, maybe not 12 but it’s pretty darn low, to the point the nurse says, “wow, your lips are white, let’s lay you down for a minute.” Yep, I told you. And to his credit, Doug was pretty good and I really didn’t feel much – it’s just the thought of it makes me feel woozy.

Doug takes some blood, the nurses take a health history (any recent nausea? Aside from the IV, no.), the ER doctor takes his notes, and then I get wheeled down for chest x-rays. After being zapped with radiation, back to the ER room I go. And then I wait. The nurse had explained that they took all the blood and readings to establish a baseline, and in about an hour and half they’ll take more blood and chart readings, and then compare them and see if my heart is giving off Help Me! enzymes and they’re also checking for high blood pressure, cholesterol, CBC and all those other terms you hear them say on Doogie Howser.

Beauty tip – if you are planning to visit the ER, don’t get that OPI Axxium manicure that lasts for two weeks in a dark color, like Lincoln Park After Dark – the fingertip oxygen clippy-reader thing won’t work and it will wind up on your toe, where you will knock it off every time you move your foot and the machines will beep. You’ve been warned.

I ask the nurse if I can go to the bathroom and she says she’ll bring me a bedpan. Wait… what? Apparently because I’m a CP, I’m not supposed to get up and walk around, so bedpan is my option. I decide I’ll hold it. I mean, Craig is sitting RIGHT THERE! Although he reminded me that at home I’ll go with the bathroom door open but that’s because our toilet has its own little closet area and I get claustrophobic in there. And I’m sure he would have left the room but the nurse would have to be there, and I’d get performance anxiety and it’s just not worth it. So, again, if you plan to visit the ER, go to the bathroom prior to being admitted. You’ll thank me.

After a few hours, the ER doc comes back and says I’m not dying of a heart attack. Actually he says there’s no sign of a Cardiac Event. Sounds fancy – is it black tie? He’s giving me a prescription for Nexium because it might be acid reflux, and my regular doc wants me to do a stress test, just to cover all the bases. Now that’s a test I can pass – I’ve got stress to spare.

All kidding aside – I was freaked the hell out. I’m still having the pain but it seems to be subsiding. I’ll start with the Nexium and hopefully it will get better. I’m just glad to know that it’s not a heart attack or any heart disease. That’s not something I want to mess with.

I also have to say the staff at Anderson Hospital in Maryville was amazing – they kept me informed of what was going on, were compassionate and caring, and never made me feel like a dumbass. They even got my inappropriate humor, which I rely on in times of crisis.

So how was your day?


MamaB said...

Holy Crap Kim!!! I'm glad to hear it was just to many chipotle burritos and not something way more serious, although this sounded really serious. Gah...hope your feeling better!

Hope said...


I'm glad that it wasn't a heart attack and I hope that you're feeling much better now!

Kristy said...

Gallbladder. Do you still have yours? I had mine removed when I was 25 and your symptoms sound extremely familiar.

Melody said...

Lawd have mercy! I am not ready for you to get all sick on me, so I am really glad you are ok. I hope they figure out what it is... and I wonder if Kristy might be right?

Nancy R said...

I second the gall bladder- did they check that? My Dad went through that twice, plus multiple follow-up investigative checks. The second time they suggested he might have a pinched nerve. So, when it happened a third time he called his chiro at 9pm on a Sunday night. Chiro, being the awesome, meets him at the office, listens to him describe the symptoms, adjusts his back and says, "go home and try to sleep. If it's still bothering you in the morning go to the ER-it's probably your gall bladder."

He had his gall bladder removed that Tuesday.

Gall bladder, man.

Krys72599 said...

Glad you got yourself checked out, Kim. Glad it's "only" acid reflux! Just a comment, pay attention on the Nexium. My husband was taking it and it worked great. Except for the headaches that started about a month into the prescription...

Jill of All Trades said...

Oh my how scary. I'm glad it was not serious. Take care.