Today marks the three year anniversary of my very strange trip down the rabbit hole and into the Land of Mystery. Make that, the Land of Medical Mystery.
Three years ago today, I found myself inside the cardiac Intensive Care Unit of my neighborhood hospital here in my beloved adopted homeland of Virginia.
No, I was not pulling duty as a Candystriper. I was the patient. A heart attack patient. Who had good cholesterol, low BMI, does not smoke, does not use illicit drugs, has mega-low blood pressure, does not routinely remove my heart and use it as a kickball, yadda yadda.
And yet. There I was. Wired for tracings. Clutching a shallow "you're going to need this" bucket. Jacked full of nitroglycerin, morphine, anti-clotting meds, prophylactic calcium channel blockers, and more i.v. saline than you can shake a bedpan at.
Nor was I the only one in my crowd to endure such delights.
As you may recall, my BFF Concrete Bob also had heart issues three+ years ago. Bob tried to make his chest pain go away by icing his heart on the bathroom floor overnight before being forced to lie still for a quintuple bypass surgery. Another of my pals, "an old percolator, still blowing steam," known as Coffeypot, also endured an MI - and lived to tell the tale.
Obviously, so did I. And here is my story - in negative tutorial form.
How to Ignore a Heart Attack
1. Wake up in the middle of the night with killer chest pain.
2. Realize to your surprise that your chest now takes up your entire body. Even your belly, back, arms, and legs are consumed with killer chest pain.
3. Decide to roll over to see if the pain goes away.
4. Fail to roll over because you cannot move.
5. Wait one hour. Use the time to contemplate the fact that the pain is getting worse.
6. Decide you probably should call someone.
7. Change your mind because it hurts too much to reach for the phone.
8. Decide to ask your daughter Courtney to call someone.
9. Change your mind because you don't have enough breath even to talk, and Courtney is all the way down the hall and in another room.
10. Decide to go back to sleep.
11. Lie paralyzed in the dark until you no longer are aware of yourself.
12. Wake up when the sunlight comes through the blinds and lands on your face. Notice that the killer pain is worse, but now involves only your chest.
13. Tell yourself, "Good. It's getting better."
14. Talk on the phone about Afghanistan to your friend Lynnie. When she says you sound funny, tell her you think you might have pulled a muscle or are having an asthma attack or something.
15. Rub your chest frequently throughout the day. Wonder if your bra band has shrunk three sizes overnight. Wonder why an inhaler does not help you get more air.
16. Repeat. For two more nights.
17. Get annoyed when Lynnie calls to see if the pulled muscle or asthma attack or something is better.
18. Get more annoyed when Lynnie doesn't believe you when you say you're fine, and threatens to personally cart you off to the doctor.
19. Drive yourself to the E.R. so Lynnie will stop bugging you.
20. Tell the E.R. nurse you think you might have pulled a muscle or are having an asthma attack or something.
21. Sit patiently while the nurse takes your blood.
22. Go to the waiting room. Read a book.
23. Wonder what the fuss is about when a med crew bursts into the waiting room, throws you onto a gurney, pulls your clothes off, and breaks two needles inside your hand before the morphine makes you forget all about that pulled muscle or asthma attack or something.
At which point, the lesson on How to Ignore a Heart Attack ends. Because now - in those last fleeting moments before the morphine takes hold, you are paying full attention to your freshly diagnosed heart attack. You will spend the next five days in the ICU, recuperating from this event. During this time, you will listen to multiple sets of doctors say, "We don't know why you had a heart attack."
But there always is a reason. And lessons, if you are willing to pay attention. Over the past three years, I've decoded the reasons and lessons to my satisfaction.
A couple times I've come very close to sharing those gleanings. I've written most of the story surrounding my heart attack, and previously promised to post it. But I just haven't hit that rectangular orange "Publish" button. My readers have asked, often, to see the story. I've let them down. One of my formerly frequent commenters, Cow Girl, continues to boycott the comments until I follow through on my promise. One of these days - perhaps before the next anniversary rolls around - I'll prompt her to break the boycott. In the meantime, I'm content to mark this anniversary by posting the negative tutorial, and with renewed appreciation for many, many things on the sunlit side of the dirt.