Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nasty scare!

Wednesday night I had a bit of a stitch in my side throughout rehearsal, that got more persistent and prolonged as the evening wore on. Driving home, I got the added sensations of tightness across the front of my left shoulder and tingling all down my left arm. That got me nervous enough to pull into a grocery store parking lot and call 911! They sent not just one but 2 ambulances, whose crews checked me out, determined I wasn't going to keel over in the next half hour, and asked me what I wanted to do next: drive myself to the nearest ER or let them take me. (Notice that forgetting about it and going home wasn't seriously considered as an option.) The fact that driving myself was an option was reassuring enough that I decided that would be the way to go.

So off I drove to the local hospital. I was relieved to see fewer than a dozen people in the waiting room; "oh good, short wait." Little did I know that chest pains are an automatic pass to the head of the line. I had barely handed in my check-in sheet (name, age, symptoms) when they asked me to come around for preliminary processing. After a few questions and a very quick EKG, they took me back and hooked me up to a monitor. They drew blood, took a chest x-ray, and decided things were stable enough that they sent me home w/ instructions to contact my doctor first thing in the morning to arrange for a stress test.

I didn't get home until nearly 1 a.m., but woke TW, whose first words were "Where have you been?" Seems he'd stayed up until 11, much past his usual bedtime. When I told him what had kept me, he let me have it for not calling him. He didn't yell, just shook his finger at me in mock ferocity and gave me that "look" - you know, the one that says "and what if I'd pulled something like that?"

Thursday morning had me on the phone trying to set up my stress test, which was something of a stress test in itself. (Some days I would cheerfully subject the inventor of voice mail to a very s-l-o-w, excruciating demise!) While I was on the phone, I started getting the pins-and-needles down my left arm again. Since I'd been having the stitch-in-the-side feeling for a while, that had me calling my HMO's advice line; the nurse's verdict - back to the ER.

This time TW drove me to a hospital closer to home (and where my HMO's cardiology department had an office). Once again, chest pains and left arm tingling zipped me to the head of the line and they took me straight back to be EKGed again. This time, when they sat me up to move me to another area, I got a nasty twinge, so they rolled me instead of walking me back. Again with the monitor, which of course didn't use the same leads as the EKG, and the blood draw, and since this was my second "episode" in less than 24 hours, they decided to admit me instead of sending me home while awaiting my stress test the next morning.

If you've ever spent the night in a hospital, you know how hard it is to sleep there. I got to my room around 6:30 or 7 p.m., actually had a halfway decent meal, but still had the IV port in one elbow and all those leads stuck to me, some of which were hooked up to a little box that had some sort of wireless connection to the heart monitor above my bed. As a stomach sleeper, I knew there was no hope of assuming my favorite sleeping position w/ 5 leads stuck to my chest and that little box to try to avoid sleeping on. Then of course there were the interruptions; a roommate wheeled in around 10:30, the nurses who came in around 11:30 to take my blood pressure and do another blood draw, another visit around midnight:30 to ask me yet again my name, date of birth and also such urgent questions as what was important to me and what worried me most about my illness! At 1 a.m., the first answer that came to mind to that one was "getting anything resembling a decent night's sleep!" Oh, and then they told me I could have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, not even water. Seems you have to fast for a stress test.

By the tme they came in around 6:45 a.m. to tell me to get dressed so they could take me for my stress test, I was a wreck. Worse, I was headachey and was resigned to being able to do nothing about it until after my stress test. Imagine my "delight", then, when they told me that could be 4-5 hours! Seems there's more to it than just the treadmill test: first you get a heart dye, which needs an hour to work; then you get "pictures" of the heart; then the treadmill test, then more heart dye and more pictures. So when the tech gave me the first heart dye and told me I needed to drink at least 4 cups of water, I was so thirsty by then, I coulda kissed him! Unfortunately, by this time the headache was definitely becoming a migraine. Only when I went in for the treadmill test and warned them that I was starting to feel migraine nausea did I learn that I hadn't needed to wait to take my imitrex. I took care of that omission immediately, knowing that the imitrex would need hours to kick in but hoping it would work just the same.

I didn't get through the whole business without getting sick, but I did manage to wait until we got home before getting sick again, instead of getting sick in TW's car. By this time, between sleep deprivation, thirst, hunger and one heckuva killer migraine, I was pretty well useless. I went straight to bed, slept for 3 1/2 hours, tried to eat some dinner, lost it, and went back to bed a few hours later. When another blasted migraine woke me around 4 o'clock this morning! At least this time I could hit it with the meds early enough that I was able to get rid of it instead of letting it pick up momentum and completely clobber me.

Today I was still a little wobbly, of course, but I was finally able to eat and to check my e-mail (for the first time since Tuesday!), though nothing else. However, TW bought me a flat of assorted impatiens when he went looking for some log screws. I'm hoping by tomorrow I'll feel up to planting them. And taking a very thorough shower and shampoo afterwards, since the tree pollen count is through the roof right now.

When I'd heard the term "chest pains", I'd always assumed for some reason that they'd be more internal; mine felt subcutaneous. If there's a history of heart problems in your family, pay attention to that symptom - don't assume, as I did, that it's just a stitch in your side.

As if trying to take a stress test w/ an untreated migraine weren't sufficient insult added to injury, the weather's been gorgeous since Wednesday. Worse, we had prepaid, nonrefundable reservations for a B&B weekend starting Thursday as an anniversary present to ourselves. So much for that! We'll have a nice dinner out tomorrow, but I still feel cheated - we both were so looking forward to a nice, long, pampered weekend with nothing to do but some leisurely sightseeing, exploring local eateries, etc. Suddenly we're seeing the point of travel insurance...

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