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My Own March Madness – part 1 March 27, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Healthy.
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O.K., so it actually started in late February, but I couldn't readily think of a clever title to accomdate that. Really it began long, long before that. That's digressing too much, though. The thread of my thoughts here should become evident directly.

On Saturday, February 25, 2006, I had a heart attack. I awoke at about 5:00 a.m. with the most severe chest pain I had ever experienced — a squeezing, crushing sensation centered in the middle of my rib cage.

Yes, I was frightened. I've been asked scores of times since then why I didn't call 911. There's no simple answer. In part, my symptoms were odd enough that I wasn't sure it was a heart attack. In addition to the chest pain, I had intense pain in both wrists. It felt as if huge spikes had been driven through each of them. Also, my forearms hurt. Ached. Were so sensitive to touch that I could hardly bear to let them rest on my lap as I sat on the couch.

Oh yes, the couch, where I had fallen asleep late Friday night while watching TV well after Lara had gone to bed. Which meant that it took a while before my groaning and gasping awakened her at the opposite end of the apartment. During those so very long minutes of solitary agony, the inner debate continued.

"It's bad, but there are all these crazy other symptoms. It's probably not a heart attack. I'll just wait it out."

"If it's not better in five, no, ten minutes I'll call for an ambulance."

"I can't afford a trip to the ER and days in the hospital! Unless it gets worse, I just grit it out."

And so on. Ultimately, Lara did hear me and came to see what was wrong, but I was not particularly communicative. I was able to make her understand which parts of me were hurting, but I don't think I really conveyed how excrutiating the pain was. This may have been at least somewhat volitional on my part. In spite of everything else, I did not want her to be as frightened as I was.

Eventually the pain did subside and I made it through the day o.k. But like seismic follow-ups after a major earthquate, I experienced chest pain "after-shocks" daily from then on. Sometimes the angina seemed to have an exertion or stress-related prompt. Sometimes it seemed to come from nowhere. I knew this did not bode well, but ever the fiscal conservative, I waited until I could see a doctor at the Fayetteville Free Clinic (where I had been receiving treatment for hypertension during the last year or so).

I saw a Clinic doctor on March 2nd, the day before Lara left for Florida to visit her partents (a barely four-day trip that had been planned weeks before). The physician did not seem particularly alarmed as I recounted for him the event of five days earlier and described for him what I'd been dealing with since then. He did, however, indicate that he was going to send me to the county hospital for a "fusion scan". Eventually I learned that the procedure was properly called a Myocardial Profusion Scan, and that I was to undergo it one week later on the morning of March 9th.

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