Starting the year off… somehow…
So, Tuesday, January 2nd, I went in to the office (I go in weekly…it’s fun). I was a little winded but I attributed it to my usual fat and laziness. When 5:00 came, I was a little more winded, but I let that go too. By 8:00 I started feeling tightness in my neck and shoulders and remembered that women’s heart attacks present differently than men’s. I told myself I was being silly and dramatic. I sat down at my computer, took my Klingon lesson on Duolingo, then took my meds, and went upstairs for bed.
Happy New Year written in gibberish
Climbing the stairs was a chore, but I managed it. I undressed, handled my personals, strapped on my cPap, snuggled under the covers… and started playing Worst Case Scenario in my mind. I lay there uncomfortably for maybe fifteen minutes, then got up and got dressed. I trudged down the stairs. My adult son (23) lay on the couch watching videos as I grabbed my favorite warm hoodie off of the rent pole (long story), put it on and zipped it up. By now it’s 9ish
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Out to boogie.” I said. Out to boogie is code for the library, or grocery store, or nail salon, or any place my kids wouldn’t want to go.
“Ok, have fun…love you!”
“Love you too.”
By now my head is spinning and I am fully aware that something is very wrong so I drive myself to the local hospital. No… that’s not quite right. I don’t like the local hospital. I go to the second closest hospital. The tiny emergency entrance lot is full, so I hafta go to the parking garage. It’s a long walk to the ER and I get about half way before I find an unoccupied desk (it’s 9:30 at night, what did I expect). I pick up the phone and dial an operator. I give my location and condition and ask for wheel chair assistance…then I wait…and wait…and wait…
It might have only been five minutes but I felt like I might pass out before help arrived so I pressed on and made it a few more yards and met up with the tech with the wheelchair. She wheeled me into the packed waiting room. The nice lady at the desk checked my oxygen (89), attached a tank to my wheelchair, and moved me out to the waiting room to wait for triage. An hour later the triage nurse turns up the oxygen and does and Ekg (yay, no heart attack)…then back to the waiting room. Oh yeah… on a Tuesday night, there’s a 4 hour wait. Just as the oxygen tank starts beeping empty, they wheel me back to a room.
After x-ray and two CT scans, the doctor says I have fluid in my lungs. The nurse mentions heart failure and scares the hell outta me. The doctor says they’re keeping me. My blood pressure is 220/117.
In the mean time they start pumping me with meds, install a fancy lady catheter, and I send a text to my family letting them know where I am and that I’ll be there for a while. Oh yeah… there’s a long wait for ICU beds so I’ll be moved to the surgical holding unit. In the mean time, here’s nitroglycerine. It will definitely lower your blood pressure, while giving you a mind numbing headache…but we’ll turn the oxygen up some too. Wait…WTH…ICU…? What the hell’s wrong with me?
Anonymous hospital patient that could’ve been me except I have butt-length hair
Turns out the meds I need can only be administered under extremely close supervision. I spend a night with the nitro drip, feeling like someone is dragging a jagged spoon through my brain, and then I’m moved to ICU for the good stuff.
In ICU, I’m given the good stuff and the fluid in my lungs is down. I’m off of the nitro, but it left me with the mother of all headaches, so now they’re treating my blood pressure (2??/1??) and a major migraine, while at the same time micromanaging drugs to prevent further kidney damage. Further? WTH? When did this happen?
I’m in ICU for 3 days, then I get moved to a regular room where the meds are mostly oral. I spend the day there and when my blood pressure is in the 160s, I get to go home. I buy a blood pressure monitor on the way home and get to sleep in my own bed with only a mid grade headache. The next night my blood pressure was 206/122 and my head was pounding. My son went with me this time…and…they kept me again.
This visit felt more organized. No surgical holding or ICU. Just a regular room and lots and lots of meds… and watching my numbers rise and fall like the stock exchange…except backward. After two days, my head stops hurting and my appetite is back and I feel fine… except my blood pressure is destroying my heart and kidneys. A nurse gives me a folder with information on diastolic heart failure. I still haven’t opened it.
They let me go after four days, and like I said, I feel fine, but I’m scared AF. I see the cardiologist in his office Tuesday but in the meantime, my numbers are consistently close to 200/100+. If I get high numbers and headache or shortness of breath, I’m headed back to the ER and likely another hospital stay. Tuesday, the cardiologist will talk about a surgical procedure.
But, like I said, I feel fine…but I’m scared as fuck.