Monday, March 23, 2015

The fist in my chest (part 3)

The third time I woke out of a sound sleep with a fist gripping the inside of my chest, I drove myself to the emergency room. (1st time was over a month ago.)

That's a relaxing ride.

"No, after you!"

It occurred to me as they jammed the fucking needle way up my vein (not no pin prick like when you give blood, they lodge that shit in there nice & deep to prepare for possible open heart surgery), I'd never been in the hospital like this before. I mean, aside from a fairly "routine" (planned) hernia surgery for a hernia (that they said I was probably born with), this was new. Like, pain brought me here. And not obvious pain like that time I fell off my bike at 14 and needed stitches.

I tried to tell them it wasn't actually my heart. It might SOUND like that from the description but I knew in my bones it was not cardiac. I was actually thinking gallbladder at first. When biliary ducts get clogged, the pain slaps you at your shoulder blades. Check.

"Describe your pain."

"Well, it's like there's a fist inside my chest right at my throat, gripping all the way to my shoulder blades, up the back of my head and throughout my lower jaw."

"How long has it been going on?"

"About an hour. It woke me out of a sound sleep."

So, say that shit to an ER doc and they start pulling out defibrillators and swabbing the table, practically ready to crack your chest open. I mean, those are classic heart attack symptoms.

I was so sure it was not a cardiac issue, however, that I refused a CAT scan. Do I really have to be exposed to that kind of radiation? I mean, CAT scans are intense. They're not anywhere NEAR as benign as x-rays, which still fuck up your DNA. You're only allowed 4 chest CAT scans in your entire life. Radiation exposure is cumulative, son!

They allowed me to decline the scan but still wanted to admit me for "observation." I mean, something was wrong, and wrong enough for me to seek help. We had to start somewhere. I didn't fit the classic profile. I was fairly healthy. I'd only had a salad for dinner, not, like, a fatty bacon cheeseburger, and there wasn't much significant family history for cardiovascular disease.

Although this is true!

Over the next 19 hours, they proceeded to draw blood to look for troponin, an enzyme produced by damaged heart muscle and every time I fell asleep (OMG was I fucking exhausted), someone woke me to prick me, take my blood pressure, ask me how I was or drop off a tray of fatty, cholesterol-laden eggs. (Okay, that only happened once, but shouldn't it be off-limits in the cardiac ward?)

I finally relented to the CAT scan the next morning when another doctor explained, "Sometimes that kind of pain can be caused by a blood vessel beginning to rip open inside your chest. The only way to see that is to do this particular kind of scan."

That scared me. Fine, make me radioactive. Whatever.

After several additional tests and torturous times of blood vial filling, I was cleared of cardiac signs and released.

I made an appointment with my doc when I got home and showed him all the test results.

He smirked, knowing instantly what it was.

"You had an esophageal spasm," he said. "Text-book case."

I was aghast. "WHY didn't anyone else realize that?!?"

"Well, they look at the most life-threatening thing first. Maybe that biases them on the diagnostic route. But I can say that fairly confidently because we ruled OUT heart. If you'd come to me with those symptoms, I'd have wanted to run those tests first too."

Crises test relationships, especially new ones: Amazing Boyfriend had seen me with Sex Hair (which I somehow unwittingly pull off whether or not such has happened) but he had not seen me with ER Hair. Matted clumps hung unceremoniously onto my hollow face shadowing the dark circles of sleep deprivation. I worried he'd see all this -- the "For Worse" part -- too soon but the look in his eyes was tender and warm and I felt very cared for when I was, frankly, quite scared. I hadn't wanted to burden anyone -- indeed, had driven alone -- but to have an advocate when you're at your most vulnerable... now that is love.

Sweet friends texted and offered to visit, but I have to tell you, the ER isn't exactly the most entertaining locale to catch up, unless you're keenly into people watching: I've seen enough backsides now to last me a lifetime. (Then again, my friends might actually enjoy that...!)

Now I have to figure out why my throat decided to close up during sleep (three times). Fun!!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah... stop doing that.

    Also, I have theories, but none of them are very medical or science-y... so... ;)