I spent the entire morning and half of the afternoon in the Emergency Room over in Torrance today. I'm fine, but I sure was mad this morning.
I spent last evening rushing around to put together a slide show for this Sunday's after service coffee hour in commemoration for my recently departed grandfather. Pops came by with his DLP for the slideshow and I'd only put in about 60 pictures out of the 150 that I need for the powerpoint. So I'm grumbling around trying to get that done when I start getting these zaps through my chest.
I'm not saying anything about it, but they hurt. It's like somebody sticking a voodoo needle in and around my heart. It's real sharp for a second and then it disappears. Several times this happens. The kids are being complete pests. Everyone is getting on my nerves. I can't wait until I get them all in bed so I can relax. Brother, the stress is finally getting to me.
So finally the spousal unit gets home (we are back to being a two entrepreneur family, god help us) and we're ready to crash on the sofa and watch The Sheild. Ouch. It happens again. About six times that hour. After the show, I google up chest pains. Now I'm convinced its Angina.
My wife's father dropped dead of a heart attack when she was a young teen. I ain't going out like that, but all evening I'm trying to think whether or not I should go to the emergency room. I'm not exercising. I'm not short of breath. The pain doesn't go to my arm or my neck. I can handle the pain. In fact, this is what bothers me the most. What if I've already had a mild heart attack and I'm walking around on 80% heart muscle? I cannot afford to be sick. I cannot afford to drop dead.
I go to sleep without speaking.
I wake up blam at 6 am. Nothing hurts, but what if? I go to the bathroom. I go back to sleep. I can't sleep. 7 am; the alarm rings. I get up and wake the magic children. They're up. I jump back into bed. Pow, I get zinged again. Pow again. OK it's settled. I'm going to the emergency room. I drop the kids off to school, come home and tell the spousal unit.
We arrange to be seen at urgent care. Like who knows how many millions of Americans, I have no health insurance. I've only paid myself once in my new business and I have withdrawn for Medicare, but I haven't sent any money to the state or whomever it goes. No matter, I'm going to have to eat this. And today I was supposed to be onsite. I can't afford to be sick. I'm pissed off now. Urgent Care says we can be seen at 10:30.
So I'm sitting at my desk, dressed for work. My wife and I have faced the reality, as we do so often in our life of drama and marriage, and we're thinking. She's worried but not really worried. I'm worried but not really worried. How much is this going to cost? I'm supposed to be healthy. My grandfather just died at 91. I've got 50 years to go. I don't need this. My father beat prostate cancer. I eat too much Carl's Jr. OK. If I get another pain we'll go straight to emergency. It's 8:30, my head is in my hands.
She calls the emergency room to see what the traffic is like. They're empty. Fine, let's go. We drive over.
The receiving nurse isn't sure if she should hookup the EKG or let Leo. So she takes my blood pressure and temperature. I walk into the ER and the head nurse tells me to leave on my undershorts and get into the ass-out robe. I have my own private bay #24. Wifey is out parking the car somewhere away from the ambulances, I'm waiting for the cart with needles.
Leo trundles out with the '12 lead' and heads off in another direction. I sit and wonder, somewhat relieved, if anybody is going to see what's really wrong with me. OK it's not what's going on with my heart, but they're going to find it in my blood. Soon enough, the head nurse comes in and starts hooking me up to the monitoring system. By this time, I'm about ready to make jokes, because I can see that they are moving slow enough to assure me that I'm not critical. I've answered enough questions in my head from over at WebMD, but it was good to see the looks on the professional faces as I repeated 'no'. That didn't stop her from giving me a good jab with the IV needle. I didn't realize the technology was such that only one is needed for extracting blood and injecting various fluids. I didn't watch her take the vials, but I was accustomed to the sharp pains.
The administrator took my driver's license. I signed paperwork. I got my armband. I signed that I am not an organ donor, not that you butchers are going to have a chance at them. A doctor my age impatiently scritched his thick black hair with his bony fingers. He thumbed through charts and talked about an associate from UCLA and the ER facilities at one of the other campuses. You couldn't fake your way around a hospital for long. Doctors do know a thing or two. I tried to make parallels between their careers and mine. Are there surgeons who specialize in dying procedures?
Now with a needle valve taped into my left arm and a half dozen leads taped to my body, I began the wait. Accompanying me in this wait was a writers curiosity, and 'Deadline Poet' by Calvin Trillin. As more casualties and emergency personnel came to and fro in the ER, Trillin's humor made me laugh out loud with embarassment. There was moaning, groaning and blood elsewhere in this joint, and I'm grinning like an idiot over poetry about John Sununu. Soon enough, the XRay Tech came by to break up the monotony.
Seated up in my bed, she kept up a one-sided conversation with a smile as she dropped the shield over my 'nads and aimed the XRay machine at my chest. When the plate was behind my back and my breath drawn in and held, the machine started whirring. XRay machines do have a kind of comic book wizardry to them - they actually sound like something powerful is going on inside of them. She grabbed the plate and buzzed away with the portable machine with power steering. I decided to sleep.
As nurses came and went, the conversation might drift to me and I'd waken from my light sleep. Catching the eye of the head nurse who was increasingly harried by the fact that some family had not been able to get their child released, I hoped that my light needs would make their day easier. The old woman across in bay 28 dozed herself. Somebody down the corridor kicked a nurse, who yelped with pain "Don't kick me.". Somebody else was having siezures and a nurse spoke in apologetic tones about needle sizes. A young woman whom I swear looked like Debra Brown from 1979 went to the bathroom directly facing my bed. She had no bra on. I became vaguely aware of my body, half naked and entangled in wires and needles. I'm helpless here. I hope there's not a fire. I don't want to run out into the street ripping wires and such off of me. I fell back asleep, my butt gets real sore real fast. I hate this bed. Where are my results?
It's already noon. I call the spousal unit to tell the guys I won't be making it in today. I have too much to think about. The head nurse comes back in and tells me that everybody is pretty sure that it's not my heart. Just some muscle spasms of some sort - but everybody presents differently, we'll see. I tell her that I was on Lescol several years ago, the anti-LDL cholesterol drug. She writes a few more things on my records, and I start to worry about more of the ordinary things I worry about - like how much this is going to cost, and what kind of contract work I'm going to get in April.
The doctor finally comes over at about 1:30 and says he's pretty sure it's not cardiac. The pain didn't knock me on my ass and I breathe fine. It's something else. What? Who knows, but nothing a little motrin shouldn't handle. It's official, I'm not going to die soon. The kids are safe. We talk about kids and the odd numbers back from 2 of my 40 blood chemistry results. One of them has to do with my 'muscle blood' the other with my liver. So I should drink less coffee and sodas. Good idea, I've already got the discipline for that, but I have been slacking. Damned Vanilla Coke. I get a referral to a cardiologist, copies of my results and a hearty handshake. Fine. Unplug me so I can go home and sleep.
The wife, who has been off to work all this time gets back to the ER roughly 20 minutes after I sheepishly walk out under my own power and hang out in the waiting room. Everybody has that defeated hospital look despite the pleasant decor. The TV blares about some explosion in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal has a full page ad about Cingular swallowing AT&T Wireless. The world is turning, and I am walking. Good enough.
Now that I've written all this up, I have enough closure. I'm still somewhat curious about my bloodwork. My hemogram WBC is 4.5 thou/uL which is low and my MCH is 27.5 pg which is low. In my metabolic PNL my ALT (SGPT) count is 65 which is pretty damned high, whatever that means. also my CK is at 310 which the doctor circled. But I bought myself a chicken sandwich at Quizno's and I came home to relax. BTW, no more sharp pains since this morning. Good.
Finally, I loaded up the film camera and took some defiant looking pictures of me topless with a half dozen monitoring patches on me still. I'm still fighting.