Room for Emergencies

Dearest Rachel –

It isn’t as if I write these letters as a call for help; I’m just telling you exactly what it is I’m dealing with (with a few names changed for security’s sake). Still, every so often these things happen. I’ve heard of folks being diagnosed with rare diseases due to an eagle-eyed viewer or reader, and catching the ailment at a point where it would be much more easily treated. I just didn’t expect it to happen to me.

To be sure, I had a suspicion or two about Tuesday’s episode; however, as the sensation passed, I thought less of it (aside from relating it to you) as time went on. I sent it off to you, and carried on with life. However, I’m not the last one to read what I’ve written. And this morning, Mom showed up in my ‘office’ to talk about my blog. Of course, I was already thinking in terms of my last letter, and what sort of problem she could have with that, only to have her express concerns about my health, and that I need to take myself to the emergency room, as the symptoms I described were in line with those of a mild heart attack.

I mentioned to her how I already had an appointment with my general practitioner, since it was required in order for me to refill my current prescription for blood pressure medication. However, his schedule had been such that I couldn’t get in until mid-May, but if that was the best I could do, well… but this wouldn’t fly with her. She didn’t demand it, as such, but she sat next to me while I contacted my doctor’s office, and described my symptoms. And, like her, they instructed me to get myself to the ER straightaway.

You know, no matter how free one’s schedule is, there never seems to be room for emergencies like this.

The irony of this whole situation is that I assume whatever is happening to me has to do with the amount of stress I’ve been dealing with. Heading to the emergency room, with all that entails, is not going to do me any good as far as stress is concerned, at least from my perspective. But if there’s been any damage to my heart (at least, physically), I guess it’s best to have the professionals take a look at it, and if they can patch it up a bit, have them do so before things get any worse.

And so, I find myself driving to the hospital, stopping along the way for such trivial stuff as dropping off Daniel’s T-shirts to be made into his own quilt once all of yours are taken care of. Hey, they were already in my car, and the shipping place was more or less on the way, so what harm? It had already been a day and a half since the incident – what’s another few minutes?

I arrive, and am handed a mask pretty much as soon as I try to explain my symptoms and why I’m there. It’s all I can do, when they ask me about shortness of breath, to keep from making a crack about that. That’s one of the funny things about what happened on Tuesday; for all the ways I could describe how I felt when it was happening, shortness of breath was not one them.

Interestingly, as I wait to be called upon in an otherwise empty waiting room (well, I assume they have to set up a few things for me before bringing me in – and I’m not in an all-fired hurry, in any event – so I’m fine with this), I get a text from Yvonne, telling me that she’s thinking about me on this, her day off. Her timing couldn’t be any better, and I fill her in on the situation, to which she offers prayers and advice to relax. I get what she’s saying, since whatever I’m dealing with is probably due to stress of some form or another, and that needs to be reduced, but in the middle of a hospital emergency room – even an empty one – relaxing is easier said than done.

Fortunately, I don’t have long to think about it. A nurse calls on me, and inside the first room, she has me lie down for an EKG. It takes a moment to get situated, as for some reason, the mattress seems lopsided enough that, were I to position myself just right (or rather, just wrong), I could send it, and myself, crashing to the floor. Once in position, however, everything goes fairly smoothly – including the readout, which shows nothing out of the ordinary as far as my heart functions are concerned.

But of course, the concern is whether something happened in the recent past, not necessarily right now. And modern medicine has gotten to the point where there are several ways to determine that. The first is taking a blood sample, and determining if I have elevated levels of troponin (which I had to look up later, as I kept processing that word in my mind as ‘tryptophan,’ which is only likely to put me into a food coma after a heavy meal of Thanksgiving turkey, rather than a real one from a myocardial infarction). The second is to take an x-ray, to see if I might have an enlarged heart. The new and improved grinch notwithstanding, it’s not necessarily good to have a big heart in real life. So I’m wheeled on this gurney over to an ICU room, where they draw blood out of my arm – much like when we would donate the stuff over at LifeSource or whatever they call themselves these days – and then toward a ‘Staff-Only’ section of the hospital, where they stop outside of a room and ask if I can get up and walk into the x-ray room.

It’s a bit like getting a mug shot taken, at least from the side, as long as you ignore having to hold your arms over your head at an angle. The full-on chest photo, however, has you facing the machine, rather than the camera. And not just facing the machine, but wrapping your arms around it, like you were hugging it. I suppose, if I were in more dire straits, it could easily hold me up. Two pictures each, and I’m allowed back onto the gurney, where I’m wheeled back to the ICU to await the verdict, which should take about 20 minutes.

Various nurses and at least one doctor flutter in and out, and I tell the same story I told you yesterday at least four or five times to each of them. I guess it passes the time while the lab works on the results. I also wind up having to take care of my co-payment while I’m there – hopefully, it will be all I have to deal with in terms of payment. Finally, all of them leave, as one enters with the results.

First, the good news; everything is normal (go ahead, make your jokes. I know you want to). Standard levels of troponin, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of heart size. Furthermore, this means that I should be able to go, as soon as they disconnect the electrodes and the IV connection. The bad news is, of course, that they don’t know what happened to me on Tuesday, just that it doesn’t have anything to do with my heart. The recommendation is that I schedule a stress test – you know, the one I was going to take a week after the accident, except the accident happened, and I figured I was dealing with enough real stress at the time to not bother.

In order to do that, I have to get an order from my doctor, which means scheduling an appointment with him tout suite, rather than waiting until mid-May, after all. Which I’ve managed to do – so, you’ll hear more about this on Monday, I guess.

Anyway, that’s the story. How was your day, honey, with that glorified body that doesn’t ever break down like this? One of these days…

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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