I spent Tuesday night in a hospital Emergency Room. It wasn’t my first choice, but it seemed like the entire day had it out for me. Here’s the complete story…
I generally stay up late and Monday night was no different. After spending some quality time online at Twitter and Facebook; I had decided to turn in around 3AM. As is my custom, I went to the ‘fridge to pour one last glass of tea and smoke my last cigarette for the evening. Upon opening the fridge, I noticed that “de-frosty” smell you get when your refrigerator is not working. This led to the next couple of hours of emptying the refrigerator, digging out a cooler, chipping ice, and saving the perishables. At about 5AM, I crawled into bed for a few hours sleep before work on Tuesday.
Now, work is just work. I answer phone calls from customers of a cellular company and hash out their bills, fix their phones, and answer questions. Some customers are nice, some are not so nice. There’s goals to meet, expectations, rules, and stress. I handle it all pretty well.
At about 9:30 or so,Tuesday night, I finished a call; said “Thank you for calling” and experienced a sudden sharp pain in the middle of my chest. I catch my breath a couple of times and put my phone software on hold. Another sharp pain in my chest and my right arm begins to hurt. Right away, I’m NOT thinking heart attack, because it’s supposed to be your left arm and the pain is supposed to be more to the left, not in the middle. I’m thinking some indigestion is at work. Generally, I eat lunch before work and just wait until I get home at night for dinner. My lunch break is only 30 minutes and I generally use it to de-stress and smoke an extra cigarette before returning to take calls.
But the pain doesn’t subside, and I catch the attention of my supervisor, and call her over. By this time, my fingers feel a little tingly, I’m kinda “clammy” and I’m not feeling so sporty. She calls Security, and they grab my stuff and walk me to the front of the building. I’m not walking too good by now and for some reason I’m feeling kind of disoriented. My wife is called and arrives and on the advice of the security guard, my wife takes me across the street to the local fire department.
After I explained my symptoms, they sit me down, they take my blood pressure,(157/90, put some Oxygen on me, start an IV and hook me up to an EKG machine. The EMT tells me that something doesn’t look right and gives me a spray of nitroglycerin and some aspirin. I tried to stand back up but my legs went out from under me. An ambulance is called; much to my dismay, and I head to the local university medical center. I’m not liking all this. I have no medical insurance and I’m stressing about the money. On top of all this; now, I have a headache caused by the nitro.
The nice EMT, Donna, tried to relax me in the ambulance and asked me questions and I was slow to answer her and couldn’t really think well. I couldn’t remember my phone numbers, but I could tell her my Social Security number. We finally arrived at University of South Alabama Medical Center.
At the hospital–they hooked me up to another EKG machine. This is the third EKG of the evening, The EMT in the ambulance had also wired me up for the ride into Mobile. I have the little sticky patches all over my body by now. The hospital staff do a chest X-ray, draw blood, take my blood pressure(127/90) and asked me a hundred questions. “Rate the pain on a scale of 1-10” (7-8) “Use drugs?” (No) “History of heart disease?” (Yes) “How old was your Father when he died?”(89) and then I begin to wait. By now, it’s about Midnight and the pain is a dull ache and I’m kinda hungry. Remember, I was going to go home at 10PM and eat.
The doctor came back in and said that my heart rate was good and the EKG looked normal. I answered more questions, but my two questions; “Can I go home? and Can I eat something?” are answered, “NO”. The doctor said I needed to stay at the hospital for a second round of blood tests. I didn’t know this, but the second round was for comparison purposes with the first round. During a heart attack, our hearts are kind enough to release an enzyme marker to let us know if we experienced any heart damage. Thankfully, my pain had subsided by now.
My wonderful wife who had been let into the room by now, decided to leave me to drive back home to gather up some stuff for me for what appeared to be my stay at the hospital. (By the way, did I mention that this was HER BIRTHDAY? Yes, she wakes to a busted ‘fridge and is now at the hospital with her apparent “busted-heart-husband)
I laid in the hospital bed, listening to my heart monitor. I messed with the Oxygen Saturation monitor on my finger and made the wavy line on the monitor mess up and I read the same posters over and over again. “CALL BEFORE YOU FALL” and “YES YOU CAN ASK US IF WE CLEANSED OUR HANDS”, with a smiling nurse washing her hands. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have called some one to ask them, but I missed that opportunity. Instead, I kept adjusting the hospital gown as it fell off my shoulders, tried not to move my IV-needled hand, and moved all the wires around so I could put a sheet over me. I also watched my blood pressure cuff as it automatically kept checking my BP(120/80).
At around 3AM, more blood is drawn through my IV tube,(That hurt like a “mother”) and my dutiful-beautiful wife arrived back at the hospital.
A little after 4AM, the doctor said that my test results were negative for a heart attack. She said that I’m under a lot a stress and I smoke. (I knew that part) and that the chest pain was stress induced, possibly reflux, the pain raised my blood pressure and I probably had some anxiety and panic from it all. (I don’t remember being that panicked) She also said I needed to schedule a stress test with my regular physician and that I needed to relax more, and quit smoking. To add insult to injury, she threw in, “You know if smoking doesn’t kill you, it eventually causes impotency in men”. (How,rude!) But the good news was that I could go home and take Wednesday off from work. My wife stayed home with me today, as well.
Today, I’ve been sleeping a lot. I received some well wishes from Twitter and Facebook friends that read my status updates today and my wife’s boss called to check on me. I’ve been thinking about my little “wake up call” that Tuesday decided to give me. Ambulance rides are not funny and I certainly don’t want another one for quite some time. I suppose some changes are in order; Doctor’s orders.