I am not one who is comfortable sharing very personal information, especially when I feel vulnerable.
Actually, that’s not exactly true. it’s not that I don’t talk about it, it’s that I don’t discuss it as it’s happening. I’m a storyteller; I need time to put things into perspective and understand it as a story I can tell myself. Once I do that, I don’t feel as vulnerable or as fragile.
Since I’ve been writing this blog for a long time and I made a commitment to you to write it weekly, I think it’s important to be honest about my experiences, even if it makes me squirm.
I’ve been fighting some kind of virus for over two months now. It appeared as “just not feeling well,” lingering low energy, a serious cough that caused sleepless nights for everyone under my roof, a seemingly never-ending bout with acid reflux. I went to the doctors, took medications, and it lingered on and on.
The final straw was difficulty breathing at night; the minute I would get horizontal to relax or sleep, I’d be startled awake gasping for breath. I went to the Google machine and discovered that acid reflux can make it hard to breathe. I persisted, increasing my acid blockers to no effect. On the third morning I called my doctor, determined to not go through another night in this state.
Getting a doctor’s appointment at the last minute isn’t easy; actually I’d say it was almost impossible, but I succeeded—not with my doctor but with one of his associates.
I walked in and the nurse set about taking my vitals. There seemed to be something wrong with the pulse oximeter she put on my finger. She took it off, repositioned it, changed it to a different one, and wrote something down on a Post-it. When the doctor walked in, he started checking me again and then asked me why I was there. Acid reflux, I said, relaying all my ailments. “I don’t care about that,” he interrupted. “Tell me your other symptoms.” A little startled, I regretted not waiting to see my regular GP who I was certain would understand.
And then everything changed!
When he saw I didn’t understand, his voice changed and he announced his nurse was going to take an EKG of my heart. My pulse was erratic—high one minute and low the next. We’d wait and see about a definitive diagnosis but, in his opinion, I’d have to go to the emergency room immediately. In case I hadn’t understood how serious this was, he added that I’d certainly be spending the night in the hospital. “I’ll be back after the EKG,” he said, closing the door behind him.
As my body was plastered with patches, my frustration grew. “It’s acid reflux,” I repeated to myself with a bit less certainty each time. The nurse finished her job in silence and walked out of the room.
The doctor came back holding a sheet of paper and confirmed I had to go to the emergency room immediately. They’d get a wheelchair and call an ambulance.
“Wait,” I called out. “My husband is in the waiting room. He can take me. My normal GP had magically appeared and was confirming that this was serious and I couldn’t stand up and walk to the car.”
That’s when I surrendered, and they explained that I was in A-Fib. My heart needed to be monitored and stabilized immediately. My brain was still objecting, telling me I had other plans for the evening, but it became still when I entered the emergency room and was immediately ushered into a private room, avoiding the queue of people waiting to be seen.
Once on the gurney, I had another EKG. Intravenous lines were put in, medications attached to tubes, blood pressure monitors tightened and blankets please! It was freezing.
Mark and I watched my heart numbers go up and down for hours as doctors, nurses, and aides rushing in and out asked how I felt and rattled off quick stories to make me smile as they did their jobs. But most importantly, they kept answering my urgent questions as I fell into this bewildering experience.
Between the time they needed to get my heart out of A-Fib and back into a regular cycle and their finding a room for me, I spent twenty-four hours in the emergency room—something I wouldn’t recommend to anybody.
Three days later I went home feeling great!
But, I was preoccupied by one question: why did this happen? As it turned out it was probably a perfect storm. A virus that lingered, a cough that was so severe it wracked through my body causing strain on my neck and, and . . . until my heart reacted by going into A-Fib—it happens.
I’m grateful to have found myself under great care, at a time in history when there are drugs that could stabilize my symptoms and allow me to get back to normal.
Actually, I feel better than I’ve felt in months.
As the holidays are upon us, take care of yourselves and each other, and slow down long enough to enjoy each other’s company.
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