Monday, January 13, 2014

Yes Virginia, I Did Have A Heart Attack

So, up until last week, I thought I was in pretty good health. Well, sadly I was mistaken because I just suffered a heart attack.  What?  Yes, that is exactly what I thought.  How could this happen? I go to the gym a couple times of week, eat pretty well, and am physically active all year round. Sure, I was being treated for a cholesterol problem, but nowadays who isn’t?  The CDC reports that a third of all Americans suffer from high cholesterol.  So I wasn’t alone.  But yet...

I was plowing the recent snowfall when I felt a tightening in my chest.  It was bitter cold, so I naturally thought that was reason.  I went in, sat down and it went away.   But the rest of the day I felt kind of off. I had, what I thought, was a lot of indigestion; some mild discomfort under my breastbone. Annoying, but not too serious.  That afternoon, I took a nap, woke up and wasn’t too hungry for dinner.  That was a warning sign to my wife, who know I have a pretty good appetite.  As the evening wore on, the symptoms got worse.  The chest pain would come and go, each time getting a little worse.  I consulted with Dr. Internet and wasn’t really convinced.  I didn’t have pain radiating down my arm, I wasn’t sweating, and I didn’t feel nauseous.   About 8 o’clock the pain suddenly got severe.  So severe that I couldn’t breath. I took some aspirins just in case and got dressed.  Now the pain was excruciating and we called an ambulance.   They arrived, hooked me up to an EKG machine.  The results were somewhat puzzling.  The readout said no heart attack.  They transported me to Middlesex Hospital.  I was wheeled into the ER and was immediately set upon, and interviewed by a bunch of nurses and techs.  More EKG patches were attached to me.  More EKG’s were taken and still no indication of a heart attack.  I was then taken to the Cardiac Care Unit.  The doctor in charge came in and discussed the possibility that it was simply an esophageal spasm.  Now that was something I could wrap my head around because I still could not believe that I could be having a heart attack.  That was until the pain started coming in faster and faster waves.  When they describe the feeling as an elephant sitting on your chest, they are not freaking kidding.  It was a pain that was positively the worst I had ever experienced.  Intense, crushing, debilitating pain.  I was screaming and writhing in anguish.  The entire cardiac team was in the room, taking blood samples, more EKG patches and readings, nitroglycerine and finally morphine.  The EKG tech and the cardiologist were having a pow-wow and I could tell that they weren’t discussing the NFL playoff picture or the current cold snap.  The cardiologist looked at me, smiled sweetly, and in her beautiful Barbadian accent informed me that, yes, indeed, I was having a heart attack.   This did nothing to diminish the pain.  Now panic set in.  Heart attack.  People die from heart attacks.  People are disabled from heart attacks.  I’m looking at this room full of strangers and thinking, “So these are the last people that I’m going to see on this earth. Could they have at least brought up a couple of scantily clad women?”  Oi Vai!  They stabilized me, gave me more morphine and transported me to Hartford Hospital, where they had an emergency cardiac catheter team ready and raring to go. 

We roll into the hospital and they take me to the “cath” unit.  I am immediately stripped of my clothes, and two ladies, whom it never met before, pull out disposable razors and immediately start to manscape my junk.  Afterwards, when I checked out their handiwork, it appeared they gave me something of a porn star design. I don’t know if that was by design or some sort of cruel revenge for getting them out of bed three o’clock in the morning.   Kinda creepy, and very itchy to be quite honest.  Ladies, I don’t know how you do it. They inserted a balloon through my groin, inflated it in the affected artery and installed a stent.  Forty-five minutes later we are done.  I’m wheeled into the intensive care unit, slapped with more EKG patches, stuck with IV needles, and tucked into bed. 

And what a bed it was.  To avoid bedsores, hospitals now have anti-decubitus (pressure sores) mattresses.  They have this wave-like action that continuously moves to prevent pressure points.  Yeah, that’s all well and good, but this “wave action” literally moved me from the head of the bed to having my feet dangling over the edge. As soon as I got comfortable, it shifted again.  ALL NIGHT LONG!!!   The nurses would haul me back to the head of the bed and as soon as they finished, I “waved” myself back to the foot.  Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep in the hospital. 

When the cardiologist came to visit, he looked my straight in the eye and said, “Mr. Scott, you are one lucky man.  There was no damage to your heart.  You’ve been given a second chance!”  When he said that, it was as if, the clouds parted, nymphs started playing lutes and lyres, and unicorns gaily leaped over rainbows.

 I spent the next two days in the hospital being visited by an assortment of doctors, nurses, techs, and aides.  I was given pills and potions, stuck innumerable times and fed the most God-awful food imaginable.  But, in the end I did walk out under my own power.  And that is the bottom line, walking out rather than being carried out.

As I recuperate, I have some time to reflect upon this entire ordeal. A second chance.  Not too many people get one of those.  I’m a real good cook and usually eat pretty healthy stuff, but I suppose that some of my more un-healthy habits have to come to an end.  No more searching for the perfect burger.  No more snacking on cheese.  Bye-bye butter.  Hello, oatmeal. How ya’ doing no-fat? Salt? We don’t need no stinkin’ salt!   Anyway the bottom line is, if you have a pain in your chest, don’t consult Dr. Internet.  Get your ass down to the hospital! Oh, by the way, I ended up removing twenty-eight EKG patches from my arms, legs and chest.  And about three pounds of hair from my chest.  Ouch!

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