Saturday, September 08, 2007

Working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack!

The title of this post is from Billy Joel's song, Movin' Out, and comes to mind after the events since Thursday afternoon. The good news is that I did not have a heart attack!

It is approximately 1:30 am Saturday morning, and I am wide awake with my biological clock all out of whack. I have been up for about three hours. Why is my clock so turned asunder? It all has to do with what started out as a fairly normal Thursday afternoon. I was talking with a coworker when all of a sudden, I felt very hot. I even mentioned it to him at the time. Then I noticed that I had moderate chest pain, especially when breathing deeply. As the afternoon wore on, I felt very strange. I had a bit of a feeling that can be described as a mixture of mild nausea with a light-headed feeling. It got so bad that I took some work material to a conference room, as I didn't feel like sitting in the open cubicle area at my office.

I tried to stick it out for the entire day, but ended up feeling so bad that I left work at about 4:30 pm. When I got home, I began to be concerned about the possibility of a heart attack. I took two Alka-Seltzer tablets, hoping that the aspirin and antacid in the medicine would help. It didn't.

My wife tried to get me to consider going to the Emergency Room early in the evening, but knowing the inconvenience of a hospital visit, I said I wasn't going. As we were getting ready to go to bed at 10:00 pm, she went on WebMD. There she saw that my symptoms were indicative of needing to seek medical attention. So, off to the ER we go.

We arrive and begin checking in. As soon as I mentioned chest pain, the staff jumped into action. First alarming thing was my blood pressure. Typically, it is around 125/85. Not this time. The reading was 175/115! The nurse's look of alarm was disquieting to say the least. I was told to get into a wheelchair, and promptly rolled down to an ER treatment room.

During the course of time between 10:00 pm and 5 am, I was continually hooked up to a vital signs monitor, poked for an IV, given nitroglycerin tablets to dissolve under my tongue, given 2 electrocardiograms, had blood tests for indicators of heart attack and blood clots, injected with contrast dye, and had a CT scan of my chest. Oh yeah...and hours and hours of just lying in a cold treatment room, worrying about my wife being up all night as well.

At one point at about 3 am, I thought they were going to let me go home and come in for tests on an outpatient basis. The blood work was negative for heart attack indicators, and the ekg seemed pretty normal with what the doctor described as a minor irregularity. The nitroglycerin had gotten rid of my pain and the blood pressure was down. The doc decided to do one more blood test to check for blood clots and also another ekg. That's where it got sticky!

The blood test came back indicating blood clots, which he said is meaningless. The test is good if it comes back negative, but a positive indicator may mean nothing. Hence, the CT scan. Also the second ekg was different than the first. Hooboy! The CT came back fine, but my BP is creeping back up, and since the second ekg varied from the first, they decided to hold me over for more tests and observation.

Finally at 5:30 am on Friday, I am rolled to a regular hospital room for more taking of medical histories, and a few minutes of rest. At about 8:30, my doctor comes in and recaps what I had been told by the ER doc. He recommends a stress echocardiogram, which will give a clear picture if I have any heart blockage. So it isn't long before two ladies come and take me down to a room with a treadmill and a small bed. In comes a man with a big machine that will capture the ultrasonic images of my heart. So first, he takes images of my heart at rest. Then the cardiologist comes in and the team has me get going on the treadmill, all the while monitoring my vital signs. Once my heart is going at a fast pace, it is quickly back onto the bed for more ultrasound movies. The good news is: 1. I have a heart, and 2. There is no blockage in my heart. That is good to know, after 50+ years of eating transfats that none of us used to know were killers.

SO, back to my room, more monitoring, more blood tests, lunch and finally release from the hospital. So now, I have to get a blood pressure monitor, take daily aspirin and BP meds, and go back to the doctor in a week.

After release, I took my wife to her eye doctor appointment, and so by the time I got home at about 4 PM, I lay down on the couch and am out. Goodnight! I wake up at 6 and go to bed and instantly back asleep until just before 11:00 pm. So here I am awake, it is now 2:00 am, and I just finished eating some ramen noodles, since I only had a tuna sandwich in the last 38 hours. Somehow, I need to go back to bed and get 3-4 hours more shut eye to get back on a regular time schedule.

Now I am wondering...why did my BP shoot so high? I sure don't want to get a stroke, so I guess it is a good thing that I went in to the ER, but why did this happen? The BP didn't want to come down, so I have to take these meds daily and monitor my blood pressure like a hawk until I get to the bottom of this. At least it's good to know that the Heartbreak Hotel Hot Dog I wrote about last month didn't kill me! I also went through a similar episode of chest pain, overnight hospital stay, and tests about 4 years ago, but the BP wasn't through the roof that time. I am just glad I am here to tell the tale!

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