You know how they say when you’re facing death your life flashes before you? Well...it also happens when you hear the word “should.”
Let me explain.
I spent last Friday in the hospital. Not actually on my to-do list.
I woke up at 4 a.m. with a screaming headache. I tried to nurse that a bit, but then my heart began to race. Now, my heart has done that all my life. I have carefully monitored my caffeine intake and learned to deal with it. It’s never been that severe.
But last Friday, it was beating so fast I couldn’t take a deep breath, and my left shoulder began to hurt. We all know what that can mean, so I prepared to get to the emergency room.
Before I went, I did feed my cat and clean out her litter box which, in retrospect, maybe wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But hey, I didn’t know how long I’d be gone. Priorities, you know.
Then, I threw on a jacket and the first pair of shoes I could find and drove, in my pajamas, to the hospital.
Let me tell you, when you walk up to the window in the ER and tell them “It’s my heart,” they move. And fast.
It wasn’t long before I was on a table, and they proceeded to stick me 14 times looking for a vein for an IV. I didn’t speak up until they started nosing around my foot and my neck – didn’t want them to stick me in either place. After a sonogram on my arm, one nurse found a vein, and stuck an enormously long needle in my arm to get to it. My teeth are much shorter now because I ground them during that whole delightful experience.
But I understand why they had to do it, so it’s all good. No hard feelings – they were trying to help me.
My heart rate wasn’t slowing, so one of the doctors looked down at me and said, “What we are going to do is give you a shot of medicine that will stop your heart. It should start again on its own. Then it will restart in a normal rhythm.”
What I heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher... “Wah wah wah wah, waaah wah wah, should, wah wah waaah wah.”
All I heard was should, as they prepared me in case I had to be shocked to restart my heart. Should was literally ringing in my ears.
It was at that point I seriously wanted my Mama. And I thought, “I don’t want to die. I am ready, but I’m not ready...”
Let me just tell you that having your heart stopped, even for a few seconds, is a seriously frightening experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Weirdest. Feeling. Ever.
But my heart did restart and it did so at a normal rate. So I was left to rest for a while and eventually, got to see a cardiologist, who explained to me that my heart hasn’t been racing all these years just because of caffeine. After looking at my EKG, and later an echocardiogram, he told me that I have Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome. What that means is that the electrical impulses in my heart sometimes, due to a faulty valve, will get stuck in a loop, which is when it beats so fast.
Once things had settled down in the ER, I called my mother, and she drove down from her home in Lincolnton to be with me. Thank God for Mama. It was incredibly comforting to have her here with me.
I was admitted to the hospital, and spent the day hooked up to a heart monitor, and I wasn’t allowed to get up, for any reason. If you know me at all, you know that drives me nuts. I tried resting for a while. Then I tried watching television. Then I resorted to trolling Facebook and checking my e-mail. I was bored out of my mind.
There was the periodic checking of the vitals and the blood being drawn, however, to break the monotony.
Eventually, the cardiologist came in to let me know the diagnosis. I can’t take beta-blockers to treat it because I have asthma, but there are some things I can do. And there is a procedure that can be done to fix it, if it becomes necessary, the doc said.
While I’m taking a very tongue-in-cheek look at all of this, I write about it because A) I am thankful to know that my heart is healthy except for the faulty valve; and B) It is treatable. WPW can be fatal if it goes undiagnosed, so I am incredibly glad that I know now what I have and how to live with it.
I also wanted to take this space to thank the doctors in the ER who were there with me. My favorite was a distinguished looking – and sounding – gentleman, who had a rich accent that sounded like he’s from Africa. At one point (and this is my favorite comedic moment from all of this) he told me, “What I like about you is that you are being so calm.” That’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are.
My ER doctors were kind and attentive, and I thank you for your care.
The nurses – and there were several of them –were also great. From the first one I saw in the ER to the last one who cared for me in Room 241, I appreciate you. When you were poking me trying desperately to find one of my hide-and-seek veins, you were apologetic. You were all kind and sweet, and oh, so attentive to my every need. Thank you so much.
And to my cardiologist, Dr. Hancock (I mention him by name only because I can’t remember the names of the others), I have to say, at the risk of sounding like I’m 12, you completely rock. You made me feel at ease right from the beginning, and made sure I understood everything you were saying, despite my fatigue and confusion. You approached me with gentleness, and a great sense of humor, and I am glad you were the doctor that I got to see.
I will be seeing Dr. Hancock again in six weeks for a follow-up, and I will be sure to thank him then also.
I also want to thank my neighbor and coworkers (you know who you are) who offered to do anything they could to help, should I need it. I had my Mama here, but it was so reassuring to know that you guys were all there for me as well. It’s sometimes tough to live where you don’t have any family nearby, but you all made me feel like I do. Thank you from the bottom of my very sound and very grateful heart.
You may reach Angye Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org