I write to you today from my local library, where it is cool and quiet and calm.
So yesterday afternoon at work a perfect shit-storm of things happened that threatened to send me into an anxiety/panic downward spiral, but immediately after everything calmed down I was allowed to go on my 10 minute break. I went outside, walked around a bit, smoked a cigarette, did some deep breathing, and then went back in. This was maybe around 3, 3:30.
Around 4:00, while I was doing my turn at gathering all the trash, I got an insanely awful stabbing pain all through my back. I could barely move, no stretching in any direction would lessen it. Then I got that pain that’s usually linked to indigestion, that stabbing straight through the middle of your back to your sternum. Then I realized my chest was a little tight. Then I took my BP & pulse. My pulse was 120.
Now, I’m not a hypochondriac, and I’m usually more logical than not when it comes to medical issues seeing as I work in the field, but I then thought “Oh. My. God. There’s a chance I’m having a heart attack.” (Public awareness announcement: the warning signs in females are much different than the classic elephant on the chest/numb left arm that men experience – often the only symptom is bizarrely extreme back pain)
So by this time it’s like 4:30 and all admin managers had left for the day. I talked to all the girls still in the office, had them get me to aspirin out of the first aid kit, and asked if anyone minded if I called my chiropractor.
Because THAT was obviously the logical next step, see. I convinced myself that after 6 hours in the car over the weekend and how tense I had been all weekend, there was a much more likely chance that my spine was simply disintegrating all of a sudden. I mean, c’mon – a heart attack? I called them and they told me he could work me in as long as I was there by 5. Well, I didn’t get off til 5, but they were literally 2 blocks down the street. I told them okay and asked the girls if anyone minded if I left around 5 minutes early. Everyone said go, go, no problem, hope you’re okay, etc – I left my office at 4:57. (This morning I was reamed out for “simply walking out with no notice” – its like a game of grade school telephone went horribly wrong. Talk about almost throwing me into another tailspin – I defended my actions vigorously and was let off the hook with a warning.
After 10 minutes on the EStim & with hot pads all over my back, darling Dr B came in and checked my pulse again. Still 120. I told him my “Either I slipped a disk or I’m having a heart attack, so obviously the former seems more likely” theory – I was so tense and in so much pain he could barely adjust a thing. He admitted the latter option was a bit out of his field of expertise, and advised me to go to the local urgent care and ask to have an EKG run just to be sure.
After 20 minutes there, I left for the ER – thinking perhaps this should be taken a bit more seriously. My good friend M, bless her, met me there. The triage nurse, of course, was someone I graduated with so I had to do the whole hug and how are you thing with my answer being “I may or may not be having a heart attack.” None of the automatic BP cuffs could even measure my pressure, it was so high – she had to give up and get a stethoscope and go old school. She immediately ordered an EKG and cardiac enzyme labs. I was scuttled to a bed in the hallway for an EKG, seeing as no beds were readily available. I wasn’t allowed to go back to the waiting room until I was “cleared” – at this point I was beginning to feel a bit ridiculous, and told the tech “look, I admit that if anything happened it probably happened 2 hours ago so I’m beginning to wonder what you would even be able to see.”
M kept me company and kept me in fairly good spirits, and I was taken back and hooked up to a cardiac monitor, pulse ox meter, and oxygen. By this time I was starting to feel fairly okay but M demanded I stay there and go through the workup. Labs were drawn by a hilariously spunky nurse, and luckily I had my ridiculous bandaids handy in my purse so we chose to cover up the site with “JOUSTING.” This seemed like an even better choice after having a large bore IV placed ended up splattering blood everywhere.
Every other time Ive been to the ER Ive had a borderline incompetent and definitely overly nonchalant Dr who for unknown reasons is always in Hawaiian shirts. This time I got an amazing woman who actually validated my concerns and was treating me medically (as opposed to seeing my psych history and tossing me) – she was very thorough with her questions (apparently during the Q&A portion of all this my cardiac readout went a little nuts and my BP spiked) and she ordered a chest xray and a contrast CT to check for a pulmonary embolism. This is when the next hilariously spunky nurse caused the accidental spatter prepping my IV that thereafter was referred to as “the crime scene.” Again, bless M for staying with me through all this.
Public service announcement #2 – when you are injected with contrast dye you WILL immediately feel certain that you’ve wet yourself, though after thorough examination you will realize you have NOT. No one warned me about that little fun factoid. Even though I talked to the adorable, funny, and unfortunately married CT tech about everything else in the world (including that he is some sort of part time Civil War reenactment merchant, he sells them their uniforms and provisions and such) and being told I was a super fun patient and even was given dating advise after the “are you SURE you’re not pregnant?”/”Yes, if I was I could start a new religion” conversation. According to him I just have to “put myself out there!”
At this point I felt absurd. Watching my monitors, everything was fine. I was starving and it took everything in me to resist eating the half sandwich in my purse. I felt so dumb. I was actually hoping there was something horrifically wrong just to validate my being there.
Dr. Competent came back in with the results. Chest X-ray was clear. Cardiac enzymes were normal. CBC/BMP (just for good measure, I suppose?) came back normal. Only thing odd was that my CT showed that the bottom of my lungs weren’t fully expanding properly, which she told me was usually a telltale sign of pneumonia, which I obviously was not suffering from, so she was officially stumped. At this point I felt beyond dumb. I can’t even find the right adjective. And now it was nearly 10pm and I had spent the past 5 hours investigating what happened ending in the same information I started with: very slim chance, but I may or may not have had a heart attack. Apparently sometimes cardiac enzymes “lie”, you see, and given my symptoms, etc etc etc.
When I was told I was being released M seized the chance to rip off all my cardiac leads, but we still had to wait for the IV from hell to be removed (I fucking HATE IVs – yes, I have 7 tattoos and a bunch of piercings but I can’t stand the creepy idea that something is half inside, half outside of me. I can’t watch myself having blood drawn either)
We went to Hardee’s to top of the night, at which point I noticed a voicemail from the personal cell of my beloved chiropractor, Dr. B – just checking in and asking me to text him to let him know I was alright. Not gonna lie, it made me feel a little extra warm and fuzzy inside that he was concerned enough to have a late night text-a-thon with me over what happened.
Then I was accused of abandoning my post and nearly had another maybe/maybe not heart attack. But in the end I kept my job, am still alive, and made it through the work day. Now I’m at the library avoiding going home, because home is where harsh reality lives.