Thursday, April 6, 2017

This Is What Happened: Part 1

Here are two of the things I thought as I lay flat on my back in the emergency room Monday afternoon:

I really should have cleaned out the refrigerator. I'm going to be so embarrassed when my compassionate friends come in to do that for Husband.

This is the absolute worst time of the year to die. 

I'm not sure what this post is going to be like. Over the past couple of days I've written it in my head several times. A couple of times it was funny, although more often than that it was quivering and shell-shocked. I suspect that today's installment will be the latter, but because I can't seem to tell this tale with minimal words, I'm sure to take more than one post to tell this story and I'll get to the funny parts before I'm done. Just maybe not today.

It's a story that began Monday as I was walking the few hundred feet from the parking lot to Husband's office. It was my morning to be his intern (as the lawyer down the hall teases me) and I knew there would be a stack of tax returns waiting for me to sort. I'd had a cold a couple of weeks ago and ever since then I seemed to be uncharacteristically short of breath when I walked up a flight of stairs, but suddenly I realized I was not going to make it from the car to the elevator without leaning against the alley wall to catch my breath.

"Well, this is not normal," I thought, and when I reached the office I called my doctor before I separated and stamped and filed tax returns. That pesky cold must have given me pneumonia.

A few hours later, though, the doctor listened to my lungs, and they were clear. His technician came in to set up an EKG, and ten seconds later, the word was back: The doctor wants you to go immediately to the emergency room. You appear to be having a heart attack.


I'm sure there are other ways of getting one's attention than this. Maybe "Madam, a velociraptor seems to be gnawing on your foot." Or "Did you realize that you are giving birth to a giraffe?" In my case, though, "You appear to be having a heart attack" were by far the most attention-focusing eight words in the English language.

They were pounding through my head as the doctor's assistant drove me the ten blocks or so to the local hospital. They were ringing in my ears as I called Husband, in tears, to ask him to meet me there. They were pulsing in my mind as I encouraged the ER nurse to tear holes in my pantyhose to attach diodes to my ankles, and admitted to her that I am the final woman in the Western hemisphere to wear pantyhose "and I always wear tights in the winter and bare legs in the summer, but right now it's too hot for tights and too cold for bare legs and...." I could not stop babbling about my pantyhose, and still the babble could not drown out the reality of YOU APPEAR TO BE HAVING A HEART ATTACK.

By now Husband had arrived and was watching the monitors. In the doctor's office my blood pressure had been shockingly high for me, a person who has taken great pride in her historically low numbers. (I'm out of shape everywhere else, but by golly, my diastolic and systolic are always stellar.)

"What was it in Dr. D's office?" he asked. 168/88, I told him. "Okay, you're still under that."

On the left side an efficient and calm nurse was taking my history. On the right an aide was sliding a large-bore access point into the crook of my elbow. I unclipped my Fitbit and handed it to Husband to stash with my purse and clothes.

And over and over I told the same story. A cold a couple of weeks ago. Undeserved good health all my life. Knee surgery in 1984. Four mostly-uneventful childbirths. A superficial blood clot in my lower right leg in 2008. Worked in the yard for three hours two days before. Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath.

I told the nurse, the student nurse, the ER doctor, while blood was being drawn and Husband watched the monitor readings go more and more dangerously high. He did not tell me the numbers but I could read on his face that they were not good.

They hit their peak when the doctor came back with the blood test results: My troponin levels were elevated. I had just graduated from "You appear to be having a heart attack" to "You are having a heart attack." Alarms sounded as my blood pressure hit (Husband told me later) 198/110.

And that's the moment I thought about my refrigerator, but the troponin was lying.

My word counter is telling me I'm going on way too long. I'll pick it this up tomorrow.


  1. I am SO GLAD to see you writing and your word counter is a lying liar so you should DEFINITELY ignore it from now on! (((hugs)))

  2. Goodness! My prayers are headed your way! This is the very story we all know can happen but don't believe will....

  3. Yikes! I'm so glad that you're all right, as I assume you are since you're writing here! Take care.

  4. I'm praying for you. I'm sure this has been a scary experience. How comforting that the Great Physician has you in the palm of His hands.

  5. Glad I am not getting this second hand. I believe you/I understand.My refrigerator is fine but maybe I should pick up clothes and papers on computer room floor. Hang in! Ginny Underhill.

  6. I was wet-eyed all through this post.

  7. Oh my goodness! Sending you all my best for peace and good health.

  8. I very much enjoy reading about your family adventures. I'd like to continue reading them for a very long time. So heal quickly and know that lots of prayers are headed your way.