We all go through it. One day we find our self waking up, having aches and pains everywhere. From a stiff neck, (that simply could mean you may have cricked your neck or slept in a awkward position), to a incredibly sore back, (which might lead to a suggestive “replacement” of your bed mattress). No matter how bad your pain seems, it often feels like a waste of time, effort, and money to go to your family physician to get a check-up, only to be told to just “wait and see”.
The one pain that seems to frequently alarm us however, is the one that involves the heart. Any flutter, tension, cramp or mysterious feeling in the frontal chest region, always makes one stop and think of all the possibilities. What did you have to eat the night before……maybe you have indigestion. Did you pull a muscle? Maybe it was the lifting of that heavy box over your head yesterday, when you were cleaning the garage? Perhaps you raked the yard of it’s leaves just a little too much and over worked yourself. You think you might want to take it easy today, and put off the housecleaning.
Not oddly enough, other feelings may enter your mind. Slowly you begin to feel your chest, as if to massage the pain away. Maybe even assume that if you found a lump, a bruise, or discoloration; it might solve your dilemma. Something, anything, may just as well be better than the thought or assumption that it may just as well be your heart. When we think of the heart, and problems with it, it seems like an end all or a final blow. At least, that is how I feel.
After you ponder for a while, before climbing out of bed, you try to think of many different “happy thoughts” that will ease the pain you may be imagining you’re having. You putter through your morning. Enjoy a cup of tea, maybe some toast or a good breakfast with all the fixins. Your pain is still there. Not getting any worse at this point, you continue about your morning routine. Getting showered, dressed etc.
Now, before I go any further, I must say this. Far too many people like myself, take the “wait and see” approach. Be smart. Do NOT do that. If you have any of the symptoms I have had and will continue to explain…..GO to the doctor immediately. What I did was wrong. What I did, was stupid. By not going to the emergency room right away, I very well could have endangered my life. Be smarter than me!
That being said, it all happened to me, this past week. I headed out the door to go to my foot doctor, (another ailment. Plantar Faciitis with a bone spur) and to run some errands and do a little shopping. After the typical hour drive and some time spent on my aching foot, I continued to have an awkward feeling. A bit of an unsettling calm. In the mix of other twinges of ill feelings, I started to have pain in my shoulder blades that felt like the chest pain, going straight through the back of my body.
I started getting little pin pricks or needle like pokes in my elbows (or arm) that just seemed so strange, but went just as quick as they came. Now, by this time, my mind is starting to question myself. Could this be some symptoms of a heart attack? My blood pressure has always been relatively on the low side, and for the most part, I “guess” I’m healthy. I mean, I do have some health problems that interfere with my daily life, but nothing that I can’t handle. (Or so I tell myself).
You see, having been diagnosed with many medical ailments, such as Occipital & Trigeminal Neuralgia, Mitral valve prolapse, heart murmur, and migraines, along with some disc problems and the start of Osteoarthritis, I find it very hard and difficult to determine at any given time which ache or pain goes with, or is symptomatic to what illness I have. It is frustrating and worrisome to say the least. As an aging woman, (and I say that reluctantly, as most of the time my heart and mind leads me to believe I will always be a young adult), but my body, the bitch that it is, reminds me that I am nearing a half century years old).
I intended to go browse a junk store (one of my hobbies is antiquing/thrifting), but for the third time in less than a half hour, I had a sharp, severe pain in my left side, to the left of my rib cage. I have had little irritating pains there in the past over the last year or so, but this was so intense it made me feel as if I was dizzy for a brief moment during each of the times that it happened.
With my hand on the door handle of my car, I was all set to get out. My phone rang. My husband had called me, and I explained to him everything that was going on. He encouraged me to go to the ER, as just to be on the safe side, and also since the hospital was only a few short blocks away. Not wanting to “waste my time”, after I hung up, I did a quick stroll through at my favorite store. In just a few minutes, I managed to find 2 treasures for my cottage. I kind of hurried through. My body was telling me something wasn’t right.
Along my way to the hospital, I convinced myself, that I didn’t want to spend the next 4 hours in the ER on an empty stomach. I went through the drive-up at Micky D’s and ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a coke. Since I had given up on junk food chains, this was a real treat. I hadn’t eaten junk food in quite awhile, at least six months or more. I sat in the emergency entrance parking lot eating my divine cuisine, while debating if I even wanted to go in. I pretty much devoured my food. When you don’t eat junk for a long period of time, it feels damn good to get a taste of it. I felt like a bear attacking an abandoned picnic basket at a park.
I checked in at the front desk of the ER. I gave them my symptoms, sat down, and before I could grab a magazine they were calling me back. I kinda got a little panicky, just thinking that they considered my symptoms alarming enough to move me to the front of the line ahead of the other folks who had been waiting. My blood pressure was gaining. They brought me to the exam room, and all within about an hour and a half, they drew blood (more on that in a moment), took an x-ray, hooked me up to an EKG machine, wires going everywhere and I saw the Doctor twice.
[about the blood] The RN was giving hands on training to an intern. I was to be his “guinea pig” while he drew blood from my arm. The nurse spoke him through it. He did a great job, up until she “meant to tell him” to back the plug off, but rather told him to simply back it out. So after he had the needle in my vein, he listened to her instructions, and blood went all over the floor. In his defense, I felt comfortable with him, and for a first timer, I didn’t feel his needle at all. Unlike the one ‘she’ had to put in, in a new location on my arm. She used the “Do as I say, not as I do” approach. She too, backed away from the needle, and reached to the counter behind her while letting go of it, and my blood went all over my bed, my arm etc. My blood pressure spiked pretty high.
Time seems endless during moments like those. While waiting for results of x-rays and blood tests, my EKG monitor rang nonstop, of a dead battery. Apparently, it hadn’t been plugged into the wall in a while. After what seemed like forever, a nurses assistant came in and plugged me back in. The doctor arrived shortly after.
My Doctor drew a diagram showing the arteries to the heart. For informational purposes only, he showed what a complete blockage would look like, and also a partially blocked artery. Explaining what happens in both scenarios. While immediate tests weren’t completely determined, he ruled out that I could have had a heart attack, however, there was the possibility that a blocked artery is giving me the warning signs of an upcoming heart event. In order for a more conclusive result, I needed to be admitted for the night. While obviously I was relieved that I didn’t have a heart attack, I was still not out of the woods yet.
In the Cardiac Unit, I was comfortable in my room, husband at my side. Nurses were coming and going taking vital information, hooking me up to an IV, and more medications were given. We were watching t.v. with the sound muted. I had a heart monitor hooked up that I wore in a pouch on my hospital gown. I am hoping it picks up the palpitations that I am always having. With the Mitral Valve Prolapse, it is normal for palpitations, however, they have been increasing over the past several months. I’m not sure if it could be a problem or not, with what is going on.
Around 11 pm, I had to say goodnight to my husband, who had to leave for the night. For the next several hours, I was dealing with an unrelated stressful situation which made my blood pressure spike. My heart pounded out of my chest, like I have never felt it before. I was horrified. I called for the nurse, and she immediately came in and saw that I was having trouble. My bp was at 198/110. She left the room, and seconds later returned with a pill to calm my nerves. She sat with me. Talked with me. Gave me a hug. Joked with me. Laughed with me. Watched me cry. Watched me calm down. I am so thankful for her. If I were alone, I don’t know what I would have done. I guess, matters could have gotten much worse. Thankfully, they didn’t.
For the next few hours, I tried to rest. Cat napping throughout the night. At 6:30 am they came and took me for a CT scan. Hated that. They put a dye into my veins so during the scan they could see all of my veins etc. to check for blockages. Immediately my arm got a soreness to it. I’m guessing it was normal. I did expect the hot sensation from my arm and throughout my entire body. It lasted for a few moments, and then the scan was done and I was taken back to my room.
While waiting on results, I ate a healthy breakfast. I am one of those strange people that loves hospital food. Seriously. I do. I gobbled it up. Soon after, my Cardiologist came in. He gave me good news. I didn’t have a heart attack, and I do not have blockages. I do however, have high blood pressure, and am now on bp medication. Further testing will be done in the coming weeks. I am so very relieved.
Something to think about. In the United States, as of 2013 statistics that I read online, more than 70″Million” people have High Blood pressure. (1 out of every 3). Only 8o% or so, are aware that they have it. The rest are unaware. Moral of my story that I want you to know? Don’t be the statistic, the one of 20 percent, that is unaware. Go to your doctor regularly. Eat healthy….(like I am now trying my hardest to do). Get the help you need, “Before” you Need it.
The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency to help reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Visit the American Heart Association for all kinds of useful and lifesaving information. Including WARNING SIGNS of Stroke, Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest. It just may save your life, or the life of your loved one. God Bless and take care.