Tuesday, June 2, 2009

No Bedpans

*first billed in 2005...that'll make sense in a mo'*

In an email to a sibling yesterday, I began a recap of my Monday night adventure with a heart-felt and profound (not), "I hate this aging sh**".

In a nutshell: a couple weeks ago this past Saturday, during my usual stretching routine, I pulled a muscle in the middle of my back. Done it before; a little ice immediately helped keep it from being more of a nuisance than usual, but it caused stiffness, pain, and a bit of restricted movement.

This past weekend, some of the residual pain remained. Nothing unusual there. Along with something else, which was. I sort of ignored it for a week, but made a light-hearted comment about it at work going into the Halloween weekend. My work colleagues thought it might be something I should not be so cavalier about, considering what had happened to a work colleague not a year before.

I asked what the horsefeathers a Chevy had to do widdit; *rolled eyes* in response.

At work on Saturday night, I continued to sort of ignore it. At work on Sunday night, though it was more noticeable, I was losing the 'ignore it' battle, as it was beginning to give me cause to think there might be more at work here than a pulled muscle. But I said nothing, and finished the shift as normal.

At work on Monday night -- Halloween night -- it was getting to where I could no longer ignore it. Earlier in the shift, two coworkers who'd experienced coronary issues suggested I change my thinking. At that time, I laughed and dismissed their thoughts. A little after 9pm, one of them was there with me when I reluctantly did accept their thinking, after having been reminded of a younger colleague who, after a month of complaints of "indigestion", and ignoring recommendations to have it checked out, dropped dead from a massive heart attack late the previous year.

With my very reluctant approval (you know us guys), she made the call that started the process. 5 minutes later, the paramedics arrived.

My pulse was normal; my O2 intake was normal; my EKG showed no obvious signs. Only my blood pressure was out of whack (at least for me). After querying me for what I was feeling and experiencing -- pressure in the center of the chest -- coupled with the monitor results, the lead paramedic was clear: the signs weren't conclusive, but there was obviously something wrong. He suggested, with some emphasis, that I should "take a ride".

But...with my lacking almost all of the classic signs of a heart attack -- along with my natural stubborn streak -- I wasn't prepared to accept that's what I was having. That, coupled with the thought of a $1500 bill for 'the ride', convinced me to decline. I didn't think the trip was 'necessary'. They had no choice but to accept my refusal.

Two hours later, with it getting more pronounced, I finally bowed to the uncertainty. But I hardheadedly did it my way, to the consternation of friends at work: I drove to the ER, about 26 miles away, arriving shortly after midnight, Tuesday morning.

After the usual rigamarole of checking in, I was planted in a wheelchair ("wazz widdis heah?" I asked, and was told, in essence, "SOP") and wheeled into ER. Unlike the TV version, this place was not a beehive of activity: it was pretty quiet this post Halloween morning. Guess that made me a center of 'something to do': I was suddenly descended upon, getting semi-stripped, prodded, poked, hooked up, questioned, an oil change and filter, a magazine for designer bedpans, and then left in curtained solitude to ponder the wires protruding from various parts of me, and the beeping monitor that displayed all sorts of numbers that had little meaning to me, other than to tell me my BP was still in "whack" zone. After about 40 minutes had elapsed, the first of five doctors I would see came to give me the news: the initial blood test for the signature enzymes of a heart attack were negative, but there would be two more blood checks at spaced intervals; if they were negative, I would undergo a stress test; if either wasn't negative, there'd be other options.

Assuming, that is, that I would accept being admitted to the hospital, which he now awaited an answer on.

There's a time for stubborness; I have plenty in my character, both for better and worse. But I was here now, and what'd brought me here was the reluctant knowledge that I didn't know what was up; I just knew that I didn't think it was what others thought it was. Then again, I'm not a doctor and never played one on TV or in the cornfield after school. I sighed and agreed to admission.

90 minutes later, I was in "a room with a view". Room 468. And yes, it did have a view: but not of much at 2:45 in the morning.

My view for the next three hours consisted of nurses and attendants, in and out, asking questions, checking vitals, and remarking at how funny and calm I was being, compared to some of their patients. Despite my alleged "ill", I didn't reckon it trumped others already there, so I elected to follow the path of quiestest resistance, and be as little a PITA as possible.

Though this didn't repress my irrepressible sense of humor. I almost proposed to one attendant (Tia, you're a doll), but I decided I wasn't delirious enough, let alone the fact that she already was (married, not delirious). 100% male and still arouseable, I retained a "look, don't touch" chivalry that I one day might have to dispense with.

This wasn't the time or place to be it; dem noises iz armed wid bedpans, y'know whadda mean?

A second doctor paid me a visit, and followed up with the same litany of events as the first; I was about an hour away from blood test #2. Her parting suggestion -- "get some sleep" -- was, of course, a joke. Besides the uncertainty of the situation having me wound up like a top (and with still out of whack blood pressure), my room was right next to the nurses' station in the section: constant phones, pagers, and the comings and goings of attendants, was like trying to sleep next to a bad review on Science Fiction Theatre 3000. I'd swear the alien gumball machine even looked in on me, once.

So I laid there, bored when I wasn't being checked on, and pseudoenjoyed 'the view' of a superb, purple/azure sun rise. I rarely had a motel room with such a view. Then again, I never had a motel room that had me wired up like this 'un did.

Hospitals being hospitals, there would of course be glitches and miscommunications: my 6am blood check didn't happen. Shift changed at 7am, and I got a whole new set of attendants, one of which assured me the next blood test would be 'shortly'. Meantime, I got a 'cardiac breakfast': fruit plate and cottage cheese.

Hooha. Remind me to one day try and figger out why hospital food and airline food -- at least those airlines what still offer it -- comes from the same, generically bland sources.

At 8:30, Doctor #3 stopped by and reinterated the usual litany of what was coming, though he missed the fact that blood test #2 hadn't happened. I mentioned the little oversight, and he *started* a bit, followed by a "I'll get back to you". Eh...it's a hospital; not like I'm the only one there. I sent him on his way with a casual nod at my wiring and an "I ain't going anywhere....very fast".

At 8:45, an attendant with a wheel chair showed up to take me to the stress test.

Time-out, I signalled ;-)

After a brief discussion with the attendant and his supervising nurse, Countess Draculette showed up and nailed me for a second blood draw (and I do mean nailed...DOH); then I was whisked away to the Cardiac Care Unit, and the confrontation with IT: the stress test.

After getting prepped, wired (again), equipped and told to 'relax' -- that had me laughing out loud, which got a like response from the attendant nurse -- Doctor #4 arrived, and it was time.

But here I was in my element: having climbed Green Mountain (for the exercise) and logged hundreds (if not thousands) of miles hiking, biking and on treadmills since 1976, I was more ready for this than anything else this morning. After being told what was needed of the test and expected of me, I met and exceeded both.

The doctor was pleased. The nurse was pleased. I was winded.

I was then treated to an experience I hadn't seen since the old FedEx commercial from years ago: the 90-mile-an-hour-talking businessman. Except this doctor -- reporting the test results into a phone message that would go to my primary care physician -- spoke with unbroken verbiage, using words of fearsome syntax and syllables, for 30 seconds, at 100 mph. After giving me a passing grade for the test and leaving, I remarked to the nurse about my astonishment of having met the Son of FEDEX.

She laughed again, remarking all of her patients should be so amusing. I guess maybe I should carry a portable *rimshot* with me for days like this.

Back at my 'room with a view', I was left to ponder the view of jet contrails over the western foothills for about an hour, until Doctor #5 showed up. A doctor whose English was impeccable, if I could get past his heavily-Indian accent (which I could, about every third word). Doing my best to follow along -- and not think too much about the Fisher Stevens character in Short Circuit -- I eventually grasped the gist of it: every outward sign indicated I had not suffered a heart attack. He couldn't tell me exactly what I had experienced; however (don't you hate when they finish good news with a 'however'?)...if I had a recurrence, it would suggest that an uncommon circumstance had occurred, and that I would have to return for a follow up test: the snaking of a fiberoptic camera to my heart for a looksee (for clogged arteries). Via my groin.

This had all the appeal of a porcupine enema, I told him with one of my eye-brow nods and a grin; he didn't get it.

So I went home with a pile of paperwork, a prescription (for aspirin?), some more debt (one thing I excel at collecting), and a scheduled physical with my primary care physician.

I reckon that, all things considered, it was probably worth it. And better still: not once did I have to deal with the dreaded bedpan.

At my follow-up physical with my PCP three months later, I was informed that what I'd experienced was some kind of viral inflammation of the sac around the heart (I asked if it was paper or plastic, and was, as usual, ignored) that would cause a degree of discomfort, especially at higher altitude (like, where I worked) but would go away on it's own (as it had by this time).

*2009 update: It's come and gone four times since; but now, knowing what it is when I feel it coming on, I ignore it. I reckon my visits to the gym will let me know if, one day, it's something else. Other than, of course, my having vaporlocked because of the young Amazon in a thong workout body suit, on the exerciser in front of me ;-)*

18 Comments:

Blogger Karen said...

OK, you and I need to stay away from hospitals for a long time. We've both had our share of fun. I'm glad the tests were negative and that things are OK. I hope you don't have to go back for the angiogram. THAT is miserable!

Take care! *hugs*

02 November, 2005 10:51  
Blogger Monica said...

you know I'm calling you today. I am SO calling you. Do you know how bad I feel now that I didn't know?

02 November, 2005 13:19  
Blogger FTS said...

That is NOT my idea of a good Halloween. We really need to discuss next year's agenda.

02 November, 2005 18:50  
Anonymous TSB said...

SO, did they ever tell you what was actually wrong with you or what happened? That makes me soooo mad. Was it an anxiety attack? My mother had 7 open heart surgeries in 18 years, I know this goofy routine inside and out. I feel for ya! Glad that nothing was wrong and that they sent you home "rested" LOL.

03 November, 2005 06:52  
Blogger phoenix said...

Sounds more like a mild stroke than heart attack... having been through them with my mother.

Please be careful my friend!! Keeping up the excersize is the best way to stay healthy!

Hugssssssss

03 November, 2005 19:46  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

To one and all: I am proceeding with a full check up next Wednesday; in the meantime, I am doing all of what was recommended (diet change, etc), and maintaining my exercise regimen (since I kicked ass in the stress test). My thanks for your thoughts; I'll keep you posted.

03 November, 2005 21:31  
Blogger The Dental Maven said...

Aww Skunk! Where were you when I was practicing nursing? I always seemed to get the sourpusses.

02 June, 2009 07:00  
Blogger Sniffles and Smiles said...

"I'd swear the alien gumball machine even looked in on me, once..."~Priceless, simply priceless! You are so witty!!! This was full of your terrific sense of humor...just loved it!!!! And oh, can I relate!!! You have outdone yourself again, my friend...thanks for the big smiles! And so I bid you adieu,"remarking all of her [blogs] should be so amusing!" Fantastic! ~Janine

02 June, 2009 08:56  
Blogger Two Dogs said...

I guess you have already had that Wednesday check-up since that comment was posted in November 2005. So are you okay, then?

Three words that send shivers up any man's spine, "Via my groin."

02 June, 2009 09:08  
Blogger Frank Baron said...

I had the groin thing done and had a stent put in when I had a heart attack a few years ago. It's not (quite) as scary or uncomfortable as you might expect - the procedure itself, that is. (There's darn good drugs in those hospitals.) What's painful as heck is the next few days, trying to walk around after a Volkswagen has parked on your naughty bits.

I was a total idiot. Over the course of a few days, I ignored four separate bouts of angina that had me on the floor gasping with pain. Finally, the fifth one got me to hospital.

Anyway, like you, there's a happy ending to my story too. I'm still around. Touch wood.

02 June, 2009 10:42  
Blogger Sandee said...

I had a stress test last year. Age related and I'm fine. What a story here. I've heard of this infection, and I'll bet it's a bit scary too.

Have a terrific day. :)

02 June, 2009 10:48  
Blogger Two Dogs said...

Frank Baron delivers the Humor Trifecta of the Day.

1. Volkswagen in your naughty bits.

2. Happy ending.

3. Touch wood.

Sue me, I am thirteen years old.

02 June, 2009 10:52  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

Two Dogs: I 'specially liked the "Volkswagen in your naughty bits" image...*mega-wince*

02 June, 2009 10:56  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

Dental Maven: my teeth are still around ;)

Janine: yeah, having read your blog, I know you know the routine, even better than I do. And thank you, my friend; you're an equal joy to read.

Two Dogs: yep, had that physical in early '06, and all vus in orden. I'm still stubborn about hospitals, though ;)

Frank Baron: I think we guys have a general "stupid" gene in us, when it comes to health issues. And your Volkswagen image had me laughing and wincing in one reflex LOL.

Sandee: it is the first time it happens; but now that I know how it feels when it comes on, and that it goes away on its own, I basically ignore it (typical guy thang).

02 June, 2009 11:02  
Blogger A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

What an exciting, expensive adventure! I'm glad it was "only" inflammation.

02 June, 2009 18:22  
Blogger Serena said...

Oh, my! I'm as stubborn as you are when it comes to doctors, but I'm glad you went. Hope you haven't had any recurrences!

02 June, 2009 19:59  
Blogger Debbie said...

Most emergency rooms are nothing like on TV, everything is calm, organized and methodical, much to the dismay of some patients and their families who want someone to rush up to them the minute they walk in toe door.

Heart problems are a scary thing for individuals, because the symptoms can be so hard to pin down. You did the best thing getting it checked out. Now you know and you can have peace of mind.

I bet the doctors and nurses really loved your sense of humor. Tommy jokes with all his patients in the ER (except for the drug seekers, slackers, drunks, ...)

Sorry it took me so long to get over here, it's crazy around here this week.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Grouch Hamilton
Grouch at Right Truth

03 June, 2009 08:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I worked at that hospital! I can vouch for the alien gumball machines on that unit. LOL!

03 June, 2009 22:51  

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