Since last weekend (at least), I'd not been feeling well at all. I'd tried to convince myself it was the flu or a cold (or even the bubonic plague), but by this past Thursday, I finally had to get real about what was going on. My heart was constantly racing, and walking more than a few yards at a time made me short of breath (by which I mean feel-like-you've-run-a-mile-short-of-breath). And finally Thursday, I thought I felt a couple of twinges of chest pain. That's what finally sent me where I should have gone days earlier--to the emergency room at UC Hospital.
Going to the hospital was the right thing to do. But it also initiated what was the scariest couple of hours of my life. When you walk into the ER of a major, urban hospital, you're supposed to have to wait for a bit. But upon hearing my complaints, taking my pulse, and noting how pale I was, the nurses took me right back (in a wheelchair, no less). I was immediately connected to a heart monitor. More scariness: the alarm on the monitor was going off. And I'm far from a medical expert, but I knew a pulse of 165 was a bad thing. My mind wasn't put at ease when I realized that "pacing pads" were stuck to my chest, just in case my heart needed to be shocked back to health. And having oxygen administered (just the tube that runs into your nose, not the full mask) doesn't exactly make one feel healthy.
Through it all, though, the amazing group of doctors and nurses on duty that day made the situation bearable. They explained to me what was going on, what was concerning to them, and what they thought might be wrong. And when they decided on a course of treatment (an intravenous medicine designed to "reset" the heart rate), a cardiologist explained the reasons for the decision, the possible side effects (hearing the words "shockable rhythm" applied to yourself is a singular experience), and exactly what was about to happen. Just in case that "shockable rhythm" came about, a team of at least six doctors and nurses was standing by. Knowing that was in equal measures terrifying and comforting.
It turned out that I was suffering from a cardiac arrythmia. It's not life-threatening. It'll probably recur, and usually it will fix itself. (And when it doesn't, it's unwise to wait several days to see a doctor: I realize now I'm quite lucky I didn't pass out.) The doctors and nurses had me fixed up and back on my feet in a few hours. I was able to walk back to my friend's car without having to stop to catch my breath. And that night, I slept amazingly well. (I hadn't during the time I was in the arrythmia--imagine trying to sleep with your heart beating about twice as fast as it should.) And finding out that I hadn't had a heart attack (a blood test of my "cardiac enzymes" was fine, as was my blood pressure) was a tremendous relief.
Early into my ER visit, I'd become convinced I was gravely ill, given my symptoms and the attention of the staff. I wasn't. But I could have been. And if I were, I cannot imagine a place I'd rather receive medical care. The doctors and nurses were great. They treated me (and all the patients with whom I saw them interact) with a great deal of respect and compassion, even laughing at my truly lame jokes. After a normal heart rate had been restored, an ER doc and two cardiologists each took the time to explain my condition, what to do about it in the future, and preventative treatment options. Thanks to all of them, I've been able to spend the last couple days making up for lost sleep. (I'd almost forgotten what it was like to sleep for more than an hour at a time without waking up to your own heartbeat.)
I also need to thank a couple of very good friends who helped pick up some slack at work for me over the last week (even though I was in denial about my health), and who were responsible for getting me to and from the hospital. You guys know who you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So this weekend, I'm grateful to have some great friends who were looking out for me. I'm also pleased to be living just minutes away from UC Hospital, where a bunch of people are always looking out for all of us.