“Life is what’s happening when you are busy making other plans.” I mentioned this song lyric in my first blog posting in early February and need to mention it again since I find it a very fitting statement for this period in my life. While I thought that my health problems had leveled off and it was simply a matter of learning to live with pain and how to best live my life with a spinal cord injury, I discovered last week that it’s best not to get complacent with any aspect of my life.
I found myself, once again, lying in a hospital bed with a pulse of 179 and inconsistent blood pressure readings. I was in the Emergency Room and I can honestly say that I had never seen hospital personnel respond so quickly. I couldn’t help but think back to all the hours I spent in the hospital following my spinal cord injury. I said a prayer thanking God for allowing me to be in a different hospital — eight hours and several states away — where I wouldn’t and couldn’t see Dr. Liar or any of the others who treated me so poorly during my spinal cord injury hospital stay. However, I was nervous about what was happening with my pulse and blood pressure. I guess it’s the fear of the unknown.
The Emergency Room doctor came in and gave me IV medication to try to slow down my heart rate. The doctor said it was as if my heart had run a marathon and my body was sitting still. I knew that I had been ‘winded’ for a few days, but I thought it was complications from my sinuses such as an upper respiratory infection. However, as my symptoms developed, my chest felt heavy and I could really feel my heart beating, I was sweating while sitting still and just walking to the other side of our house took much effort. Thankfully my parents had given me an at-home blood pressure monitor many years ago so I was able to check my blood pressure and pulse. I sat down and turned it on and when I read the display I knew I was in trouble. I believe this one item — a very practical gift that I am sure my parents hoped I would never need — most likely saved my life.
Round one of the heart medication didn’t work so the doctor ordered a higher dosage. In the meanwhile, the hospital’s Internist and Chief of Staff stopped by to discuss my medical history and to go over my options. It was during that conversation that I learned I was very close to having a stroke or possibly a heart attack and got a long lecture about how I need to be more in touch with my heart. Since my pulse and blood pressure wouldn’t come down following two doses of medication, the doctors decided to hook me up to an IV medication machine that could regulate and hope bring down my pulse. Unfortunately, they were admitting me to the I.C.U. and if the additional medication didn’t work they would need to shock my heart. A concept that left me speechless.
I remember thinking while I was in the hospital that this situation couldn’t possibly be happening to me. How did I end up in the hospital with heart problems? After all, I am in my 40’s and my only medical problems were those caused by Dr. Liar and my ongoing sinus problems — nothing major with my vital organs. I listened as the doctor said the words to me, but it was almost as if I saw him talking to someone else. Me, heart problems? Me, back to the I.C.U.? Not again. I didn’t think that I had it in me to experience another negative experience in a hospital, I.C.U. or with a doctor.
Before I knew it, the nurse had wheeled me down to I.C.U. and I was asked if I could move from the gurney to the hospital bed. Ah, what a relief, the hospital bed was actually an air bed that conformed to the shape and weight of your body. It was quite comfortable. It took a while to get settled due to all the wires, cords, gauges, etc., but once I did, I was able to fall asleep…for 45 minutes. Once asleep, the cardiologist came in and asked a zillion questions, a technician did an EKG, and the phlebotomist drew about 10 tubes of blood after about 10 pokes. Since I was wide awake, I looked around and took in my surroundings. The area was a cozy space and quiet for the I.C.U. I kept remembering how loud the I.C.U. was following my spinal cord injury and the screaming patient who uttered words even I didn’t know. There were no outside windows and no helicopter pad, which meant no helicopters coming and going during the day and night. For a hospital, it felt peaceful and oddly quiet.
My day nurse was truly an angel. When she said she was going to do something…she did it and did it quickly. I hadn’t had much of an appetite for a few days prior and when she found out — she paged the doctor since she said that I needed food with all the medication they were giving me. She was at the top of her game and went above and beyond. There were times when I thought I must have been dreaming. She rubbed lotion on my back, helped me brush my teeth and change into clean hospital attire. When she asked about helping me with these things I kept giving her an odd look…I believe she thought I was a little crazy. However, I had never been treated so nicely by a nurse during my stay in a hospital.
By mid-morning, the cardiologist said that my pulse rate had converted (regulated) and that I had Atrial Fibrillation and Flutter, which is a fancy way of saying that I have heart rhythm disorder that involves a rapid heart rate that is not regular. Still in denial that I have a heart problem, I asked how could this occur and how so suddenly? I was told that they were unsure and that I would need to stay in the I.C.U. until they figured that out. I remember thinking that something with the word ‘flutter’ in it couldn’t be but so bad. Butterflies and birds flutter and they are two of my favorite things!
With my Smartphone, I did a bit of research between visitors and learned more about Atrial Fibrillation and Flutter. Also called Arrhythmias, the electrical impulse of the heart is not regular. The chambers are contracting very quickly and are not in sync causing an irregular pattern. This irregularity causes the valves to open and close making the heart work harder and may not be able to pump enough blood. In Atrial Flutter, the ventricles beat very fast, but in a regular pattern.
With the seriousness of the situation, I needed to wake up and comprehend what was happening to me whether I liked it or not. I had been dealing with pain from the spinal cord injury and the side effects that go along with it for six years. I had been lied to by the neurosurgeon with whom I was supposed to respect and had sued him in court for medical malpractice and lost. And now, I was in the I.C.U., and had just been told I have a heart condition. However, I was surprisingly calm and felt no matter what happened I would and could handle it. But why? What was the difference between the last time I was in the hospital and now? It gave me something to think about during the next few days.
©My Unplanned Life and www.shakinguplife.wordpress.com 2011.