My Visit to the Emergency Room

The year is coming to a close and my writing is starting to flow again. Where to start?

How about we go way back to the beginning of the year. Not quite the beginning. March, really.

What was happening? The short story is I spent four hours with a bunch of ER doctors and nurses waiting for me to have a heart attack. My wife, who used to work in the ER as a Social Worker, said I was in the serious stage category of observation of triage.

What happened in March to bring on all this excitement?

To start with, March marked my first anniversary month in a regular cubicle dwelling day job. Last time I was in a cubicle job was 2005! Suffice it to say this was a major adjustment for me. I had spent most of those years since that prior job as a stay at home home schooling dad and part time consultant.

How did my adjustment go? Okay. I guess. In the end. I think it was more stressful for me than I realized.

I was used to my home office. No clocks to punch in and out etc… My new desk was right next to a very busy outside door. Everyone walking by could look over my shoulder. I really hate people looking over my shoulder. I quickly became hyper-vigilant. Which probably added to the stress of my adjustment.

The people at the company I am working for are all nice. All things considered not a bad place to work. Decent culture. The work itself is certainly something I am capable of doing. I am analyzing databases, writing code to get data out of those databases, and delivered to the right people in a manner and form they can use. Basically SQL and Python are my language tools to get the job done.

How does all this relate to being in stage 2 observation triage with monitors attached to me for four hours? Wait, I want to make sure I don’t forget the shaving part. I think I had up to 6 EKGs that day. The nurse at the Urgent Care Clinic shaved enough of my chest to get a good connection. Dry shaved. Sounds worse than it was but the hair did take forever to grow back.

Okay, back to the work ER connection.

I was stressed. Thank goodness I don’t drink coffee. Lack of sleep, hyper-vigilance, trying to figure out this new cultural system, other things really added up. I was also unaware of how much it was impacting me. Given the near total freedom I had for years I am a little surprised I made even a half-assed transition.

Did I tell you about the total bathroom remodel we were in the middle of at the time? Yeah. Total gut job. Which might sound like a minor inconvenience but can and did add to my stress load.

On the afternoon all this began I was sitting at my desk. Gripping my desk actually. Good posture really helped me too. Just trying to keep everything under control.

What was out of control?

My heart had this pattern of prematurely firing and or skipping beats ever 30 seconds to 5 minutes. All day long. All night long. This started a week or two earlier and was getting worse every day. I felt like my body was losing it’s ability to regulate my heart.

Now, here’s the um funny part.

My wife texted me while I was sitting there wondering if I was having a heart attack.

Wife: “How are you doing?”

Me: “Good.”

(I suspect my wife will be commenting on this post. Stick around if you want to hear her side.)

I clung to my desk until it was about time to go home. Probably around 3:30 or 4. I forget. Anyway, by this time I am thinking I might need to see a doctor.

So I decided to stop at the urgent care clinic since it was right on my way home and see what they said. Then again I don’t know maybe I should go to my doctor? I had only seen him by that time maybe 5 times in 10 or 15 years. I asked the urgent care receptionist what she thought. She suggested seeing if I could see my doctor.

I called my doctor, his schedule was full, so I started the paperwork to check in to the urgent care . While I am waiting to go back I decided I should probably call my wife and let her know I was at the urgent care. If you recall this is about 3 hours after she asked by text how I was doing.

First Call to Wife: I gathered from her tone of voice she wasn’t impressed.

Once I get back in the exam room the nurses did their thing. Remember the dry shave. I get a few EKGs and they finally catch my heart acting up on the tape. Oh and my heart rate going from baseline to 166 like a drag racer with a green light.

The Physicians Assistant (PA) who was in charge of my care at the clinic debriefed me after a bit. She said I needed to call someone or they would call an ambulance to transport me to the hospital.

The hospital was about a 5 minute walk from the clinic. Oh dear. This is starting to look serious.

Second Call to Wife: Okay. This call didn’t go quite as smoothly. All in all though I think she handled it pretty well. She picked me up and drove me to the ER across the street. Her warning that we would be having a conversation after everything was cleared up was a bit ominous.

The ER was a whole other experience. Sitting in the oversized plastic wheelchair surrounded by people who really sounded sick was not fun. Especially, given what a beautiful spring day it was outside!

Four hours later after more EKGs, some kind of xray (no blockages!), blood tests, flu test (pretty sure they scraped my brain with that swab up my nose), and laying around with monitors attached to me I got to go home.

Man was I hungry. All I got to eat at the hospital was a cough suppressant.

The final result was I had three nerve centers in my heart misfiring. Typically, while they are not dangerous one cluster was associated with being a serious problem for some people. What they did find when I went in for an Echocardiogram ( I might have that name wrong) was a mild dilation in an upper artery of my heart.

Pretty cool to see my heart beating! Hey buddy keep up the good work!

Now we are keeping watch on that dilation.

For a while though we had know idea what was wrong with me. They put me on beta-blockers to control the misfires. But not knowing if your heart might have a serious problem can inspire some introspection as well as at least a small recognition of one’s mortality. Luckily in my case I should be around a while barring any mishaps or accidents.

And at work they finally were able to find a spot for me out of the flow of traffic.

Getting the bill for all this excitement is another story for another day.

3 thoughts on “My Visit to the Emergency Room”

  1. Eric, I love your perspective on this. 20 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had a completely benign episode leading to an ER visit and nice fat hospital bill LOL. I thought I was having a heart attack; deep chest pains, numb extremities, severe nausea, shortness of breath. No sensation like you firmly believing you are dying. Turns out, it was gastrointestinal LOL. I drank too much coffee on an empty stomach. Gas cost me peace of mind. And a pretty penny.


    1. Sorry I missed your comment Ryan. WordPress threw you into spam jail. We had a chat and the situation has been corrected.

      OMG – yeah there is something really clarifying about thinking your heart is gonna stop beating at any moment!

      All the bills came to 12-14K. I nearly had to go back to the hospital! Luckily, I had met my deductible by the end of the first hour in the ER. Haha…sigh.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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