Monday, March 17, 2008

My Big Dumb Heart (Part 2)

After waiting forever and not had anything to eat in about 12 hours my patience is rewarded. I have been assigned a room. So, they detach me from the monitor in my temporary room, attach me to a mobile unit, plop me in a gurney and wheel me to my room. Upon arrival my ER nurse completes paperwork with the cardiac ward nurse. It is like those prison transfer scenes in movies. I feel like Nic Cage in "Con Air" but without the receding hairline.

As I am getting set up in my new digs the ER nurse tells me "Hey, when everything is settled, come on back to the ER. We are DYING to know what the problem is. We've never seen anything like it." Nice choice of words, jackass.

Bobby, my new nurse, busies himself with hooking me up to a wireless transmitter. All the wires from the EKG equipment go to this little box that slides into a specially made pocket in my hospital gown. That little box transmits to the wall-mounted monitor displaying my vital signs. Kind of nifty. Now I can go to the bathroom without trailing wires behind me. When he is done I ask Bobby, no, I plead with Bobby for some food. I get a box lunch. Never has white bread with sliced turkey tasted better.

I fall asleep around 1245.

Somebody comes and takes my blood around 115. Great. This is what happened to my daughter (see my October 29, 2007 entry).

In the morning my new, new nurse stops by to check my vital signs, get my food order and give me aspirin. Somebody else takes my blood. I ask when I will see an actual doctor. Nobody can give me an answer. A tech comes by to get a print out of my heartbeat. He tells me it looks like I have PVC. My confused look prompts an explanation. A Premature Ventricle Contraction. An irregular heartbeat. No big deal. How enlightening.

Jeannine calls me on the room phone. She is trying to drive back down to Maryland from New York but some serious lake effect snow is hampering her progress. That and the fact our son managed to puke all over the inside of the car. Jeannine is stressed.

Around 1000 I finally see a doctor. For about 15 minutes. She tells me there is really no big deal. A PVC is pretty common and can be controlled through medication as well as some weight loss, exercise and reduced stress. I wonder how it is that she can be so blasé about this when the ER nurse was treating me with all the curiosity usually reserved for sideshow freaks ("Come see the man with the wacky heartbeat. Come see him soon, he may be dead if you wait too long. Step right up, step right up.") Oh, and about that “reducing stress” bit? Yeah right. I have a 5 ½ year old and a 3 year old to whom I am a human jungle gym. And in case you hadn’t noticed, there is this little thing called a war going on and it is my job to help support the men and women over there. Stress comes with the job. It is a standard feature, not an option.

I'm given a prescription for some drug and make an appointment for a stress test.

My tests, a week or so after the hospitalization, include having some radioactive stuff injected and then getting some sort of a scan to see what is going on. I think it was an MRI. I can't remember. (Plus, the radioactive stuff does NOT give me Spidey Sense or allow me to turn green and get huge when angered. Bummer.) Then I get hooked up to an EKG monitor and hop on a treadmill that increases in speed and incline to see how my heard reacts to increased work. Then I get that scan again. And then a sonogram where they can see my heart valves and muscles working. A few days later I get the results, I'm told everything is within acceptable parameters. Good to know. I still need to see an electro cardiologist to find out exactly what is going on with the weird heartbeat. It is controlled for the most part but if I have too much coffee it gets kind of whacky. Caffeine and alcohol get things jumping. A neighbor had a brunch a couple weekends ago and I had a couple bloody marys. My heart started doing flip-flops. So, booze may be a thing of the past.

In the end, it seems I am fairly healthy but before learning what was going on it was pretty scary. Boring at times but when I started thinking about things it was pretty scary. What did I learn? If you think you may have had a heart attack, tell the ER nurse up front. You get to the head of the line in a hurry. Also, iPods don't screw up precision medical equipment. If it is OK in the ER, you should be fine on a 727. Additionally, we human beings are pretty amazing pieces of precision equipment. It is astonishing how one small thing out of balance can throw the entire system out of whack. And as we age, how more tenuous the balance is. I guess this was my wake-up call to try to rebalance my system. Finally, it made real my father's saying about how you have to protect your health because without it we have nothing. If I couldn't run around outside and play with my family the quality of my life would be drastically diminished. If nothing else, this gave me some perspective I didn't have before.

posted by MGSoden, 7:36 PM

1 Buffaloes were bitter enough to post comments:

Blogger Bill Purdy, said:
This sounds terrifying, Matt. Especially because I can easily see myself in the same situation.

That said, the worst thing here is the part about not being able to drink any more. Not that drinking is in any way good for you (though it is, I think, but that discussion is for another post), just that your choice to do so has effectively been taken away from you by your big, dumb heart.
...on March 18, 2008 11:21 AM  

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