Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thoughts from the body-n-fender shop

Thursday night, 9 PM.

I was at the Thursday night Men's meeting when I started to feel this twinge in my left chest, and a little numbness in my left arm. I thought back over the evening - Chris and I had been to two standing-room-only restaurants before settling on "comfort food" at Bob Evans, and my first thought was "...too much caffeine for one evening," and gave it no mind.

When I got home, the little twinges were a little sharper, but nothing to be alarmed about. I took an extra aspirin (just in case, you know) - and (since I have been prone to 3-4 panic attacks a year) a half-doze of medicine for that, just to be sure - and went to bed.

About 4:30, I woke up, fully awake and alert, and realized the twinges were now what I would call between "discomfort in my chest" and "chest pain." The left elbow still hurt, and the left fingers were still numb. And then "the debate" started...

From what I have heard, everyone who has had a heart attack has had this debate in their head. It starts off with, "Well, how bad IS this, really? It's not really THAT bad, is it?..." And then that thought is followed by...

- Nah, it's not really that bad...
- ...but it's not going away.
- And it's been six hours since you took the drugs.
- If it was going to go away, it would have, by now.
- But it's not that bad. It's not even painful, really.
- But - you're over fifty, over-weight, hypertense, and diabetic.
- A four-star risk-factor list, if ever there was one.
- And you're eleven miles from the hospital.
- And who knows how far the ambulance would have to come.
- But if you go, you're not gonna get out for at least a day.
- And it's gonna be a pain in the ass.
- You hate IV's worse than the prospect of a gasoline enema.
- And your partner has had a long day, and needs his sleep.
- He's had a hard week.
- And he's not an early-morning person - you KNOW that.
- And a trip to the emergency room will not help any of that...

But the deal-breaker always comes back to this: Are you sure - absolutely sure - that if something happens, you'll get him up in time? And how bad's his day gonna be if he wakes up and finds the love-of-his-life cold and dead next to him, or sprawled-out on the kitchen floor?

And the answer (for me, anyway) always comes back to Well, that would pretty much suck forever and ever, wouldn't it?

Talk about God speaking to you in a clear voice....So, off to the hospital we went, at 5 AM.

Thank God, St. Luke's in Maumee, OH had an empty emergency-room and a "chest pain to the top of the list" protocol. As soon as they had gotten the blood tests back, they knew I hadn't had a heart attack, which was good. However, since we knew that they would admit me anyway (the ER doctor said, "An admission of diabetes and a complaint of chest pain means an automatic 24-hour stay at Hotel St. Luke's, for monitoring"), I sent Chris home. No sense in two of us having to sit around, doing nothing...

Part of the ER protocol for chest-pain is administering a drug called Lopressor, to ease the load on the heart. That drug, however, also screws up the chance to do any kind of stress-testing for 24 hours. So my 24-hour stay got stretched to 48, by mid-afternoon. And the next morning, they told me that the stress-test would have to be done in two parts (the double-scan would pump too much radioactive tracer into me in one day).

So that's why it's 3 PM on Sunday, and I'm waiting eagerly for the results of the second portion of the heart scan, so I can get the hell out of here. So far the only real benefit of this stay (other than knowing that I haven't had a heart attack) is to catch up on sleep and to see the Battlestar Galactica marathon and finale on Friday night.

I've watched about all the Food Network and National Geographic I can stand. I've had it with 99% of the nonsense I've seen on SciFi, and more Catholic priests and black gospel preachers than I would have ever imagined I'd watch. I've caught up on my sleep, and am ready to go out and hit the YMCA and a Thai restaurant, each with a fervor I've not found previously.

And I'm damn tired of sleeping alone, to be honest. I've grown accustomed to the big ol' bear I live with, and I miss him terribly. (No matter how unnatural a couple of the Sunday-mornin' preachers would call it...) I've been hearin' Can't Help (Lovin' That Man o' Mine) more times than I choose to, and I'm ready (as Richard Marx would say) for him to be Back In My Arms Again.

It's been a blessing, though, to see how the community of recovery has rallied around me. I called my friend Red when it became clear I'd be here for a couple days, and he sent out an email to his list of half-a-bazillion people letting them know I was in the hospital, and my room number. About ten minutes later, I got a call from a buddy I used to go to meetings with in Kansas - who used to go to meetings here in Toledo - who got the email and wanted to know what was up.

I did the same thing on Facebook, and got a similar response. Dozens and dozens of messages, prayers, and "listen to your damn doctor" texts from across the country.

And that's the way it's been all weekend - call after call, prayer upon prayer. If ever I needed reminding how I'm blessed, I would certainly have gotten that reminder this weekend.

And I have to commend the nursing and dietary staff at St. Luke's for making the very best out of a bad situation. The dietary folks have done a wonderful job of making "low-salt, low-fat" seem tolerable, and the nurses and nurse-techs have done a great job of putting up with a whiner like me. They have made an unfortunate stay into a more-than-decent experience, and who can ask for more than that?

(Note to self: next time you have to do this, have them shave your chest AND your IV arm, right up front, in the ER. The absolute worst part about having an IV is dealing with the hair-and-tape nightmare at the end...)

I'm debating work on Monday - frankly, I could use a day of downtime after my "Less Than Excellent Weekend" here. And The Evil Empire will be there when I get back, for sure. (Well, that was a short debate, wasn't it?...)

For now, I'm just giving thanks for another day above-ground, and (as my friend Bob L in Kansas would say) "sunny-side-up, suckin' air and sober." For someone who briefly contemplated the possibility of "cold and dead on the kitchen floor" on Friday morning, that's a pretty wonderful way to be Sunday afternoon.

Thank you, to all who wrote and prayed. I know it's a gift from God that I get this day, and any that are yet to come.

Update: I am staying here another day - I now have a cardiologist, which I didn't have before, and a tentative date for cardiac catheterization Monday afternoon. Prayers would be welcome.


Erin said...

Glad to hear you've got a cardiologist. Still praying. We want you around for a good long time!

Vic Mansfield said...

Never EVER mess around with chest pain. You did the RIGHT thing! Even if there is no damage, they get a good base-line of your heart and function.

I will keep you in prayers through Monday. A heart cath., eh? There must be something they want to look at. I pray it will be something easily treatable.

I want you around a bit longer, man. And I'll bet some others do to. THANK YOU for taking care of yourself!

Hope said...

I will be lighting a candle for you my friend. I've had a cardiac cath. They are serious stuff.

Heidi Renee said...

i too am so glad you are safe - but i pish on your 48 hours - wimp! try 18 days with an 11 year old! :p

Sunny said...

Bless your heart....I had a Cardiac cath last week as well, scared the bejesus out of me......They found nothing wrong- BUT just the experience is quite unsettling to say the least.

I came here from Tom's Page(Layabouting) and am saying prayers for you and yours.
Take it easy, hun.
Easier said than done....I Know.