Monday, November 15, 2010

what I did on the weekend

As weekends go, that last one was memorable. And not in a particularly pleasant way.

It started out on Friday afternoon when I started feeling some upper chest pain. I figured it was just from the strain of working in the shop on some rather detailed pieces for a new sculpture. But when I was unable to stretch out the tightness and began feeling some jaw pain as well I started to get more concerned. Friday night was the worst night of my life. I felt like I had just gone ten rounds with Ali. I was tossing and turning all night and even got up several times to try to stretch my tightening muscles. I have never been so uncomfortable. I frequently have issues with stiffening muscles and rigidity due to Parkinsons but this was way beyond that.

Saturday morning Mary had had enough of my suffering (she is so empathetic that she was feeling every bit as bad as I was) and hauled me off to the urgent care center. The fact that I didn’t object too much was proof to her that I was in a bad way since I only see doctors reluctantly and usually with vehement protests. I didn’t have to wait long at the urgent care center because anytime you mention chest pain they immediately assume heart attack and rush into life saving mode. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack but I didn’t want to discourage their efforts on my behalf. They dosed me with nitro, started an IV of some sort and had an ambulance cart me away to the hospital. (as a side note—why is that ambulances have such terrible suspensions. They have incredibly rough rides—jarring in fact. You feel every crack in the road. I have had several rides in ambulances for a depressingly varied list of reasons and have always suffered more during the ride than seems acceptable.)

At the emergency room I was hooked up too all those space age monitors with the pretty colored lights and reassuring beeps that are so familiar to anyone who has ever watched television medical shows. And then we waited. And waited. And just for good measure we waited some more. Finally the doctor on duty (so young. Or am I just that much older?) told me that I would be staying the night and getting a stress test in the morning to check up on the quality of my heart. I received that news with ill humor. I am not overly fond of hospitals or the necessity of being in one, but they all ganged up on me and made me stay. It seems that the patient has the least say in what’s happening. Anyway, I was feeling too weak to put up much of a fight so after waiting somemore, I was taken to the room I would call home for the next 24 hours.
Properly drugged up with a variety of substances, I finally got the good night’s sleep that has eluded me for so long. I was so deep into my drug induced stupor that I never noticed them taking blood samples and blood pressure readings throughout the night. The nurse had to nearly smack me upside the head to get me to wake up in the morning. I had no appetite either so the gruel they claimed was oatmeal certainly didn’t temp me. Luckily my so-called breakfast was cut short by the call to the stress test.

The typical stress test involves the testee walking and then jogging on a treadmill to get the heart rate up to a predetermined high for the age of the person being tested. But in my case that procedure would never happen since with Parkinsons Disease my top speed on the treadmill is just above stationary. So I got what they called a chemical stress test. That involved my lying on my side while they injected me with a drug that caused my heart to beat faster and faster and harder and harder just as would if I was running. That was an incredibly weird feeling. My heart was pounding away while I lay there. It was actually kind of scary, but the nurse and the tech and the doctor who were in attendance assured me that they wouldn’t allow anything bad to happen. I came through the test with flying colors, all systems go, no apparent abnormalities. They assured me that I had the heart of 60 year old man. I’m 62 so I guess that’s good, right?

After the stress test (I really did feel like I had run 5 miles) all I needed to hear from the doctor was that I could leave and go home. My possible heart problem turned out to be no problem at all. Better to err on the side of caution, of course, and I am grateful for the concern and good care I received. The original upper chest pain that started the whole ordeal was explained as a virus of some sort that would run its course in a few days.

So now I am at home fighting off the virus that has me feeling fluish and achy and unable to eat much of anything. I did get a prescription for the wonder drug that gave me that great night’s sleep and I am abusing it to great advantage. Time for a recuperative nap.

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