I’m going to need a day or two to get back into the swing of normal blogging, which for me is making fun of everything else. I thought I would relate what happened to me on Saturday and the days following, not only to get it down for my own personal historical needs, but to be able to tell people “go to my blog and read what happened.” This makes repeating the story less necessary, even thought that’s what I’ve been doing since Sunday.
I had no sign this was coming. I was home from the YMCA for about 30 minutes, after what I thought was a decent workout and bike ride to and from the facility. The return ride was into a tough headwind and I had to push pretty hard in low gear, which may have been what instigated the problem.
Kelly left to meet her mother, sister, aunt and cousin for a trip to the movies. I put a piece of leftover chicken in the microwave. I turned on the TV, and finding nothing decent on, I put on TVG, the horse racing network, to see what was running. Right about the time the pain first hit me, I remember seeing the fifth at Aqueduct won by a colt named Gina’s Star and thinking what a great hunch bet it would have been, since Kelly’s visiting aunt and cousin are both nicknamed Gina (damn thing paid $22.40 to win, too).
The next thing I knew, I felt a sudden, sharp and steady pain the center of my chest. I didn’t have the common symptoms of arm numbness or pain spreading away from the center; it seemed concentrated in one area. At first, I thought it was a pocket of gas from my stomach. I remembered that I hadn’t eaten much that morning and I tend to get a bit hypoglycemic due to my diabetes, especially if I go too long without eating. I tried to burp the gas away, but it wasn’t working. The pain became more intense, and I began to realize that I might be in serious trouble.
My first thought was to find some aspirin. I went though the kitchen cabinet in vain, then went to my bathroom to look in my travel kit. I tried to stoop down to get the kit from the vanity under the sink and realized I wasn’t going to be able to stand and bend over. I sat down and searched in vain. I was sweating very hard, although my breathing seemed okay, but labored. I went back to the family room to get my cell phone to call Kel.
She didn’t answer the first time, which didn’t surprise me because the coverage near her mother’s house isn’t very reliable. I waited a moment, tried again and got her. “I need you to come home. I’m having really bad chest pains.” She told me she was on the way and hung up. A few second later, the cell rang again. “Did you call 911 yet?” Kel asked. “Should I call them?” I told her I’d call them on the house phone, since they could trace the address in case something happened while I was on the line. I hung up the cell, pulled myself into the kitchen and grabbed the phone. The 911 operator verified my address and told me to hang on as she contacted the local emergency folks.
The EMT team arrived a few minutes later, and from that point, most of what happened over the next two hours or so was a blur. As it turned out, Kelly arrived back at the house to find me on the floor and the EMT team over me. Turns out I flatlined shortly after they arrived and it took four whacks with the defibrillator to get me back. They got me into an ambulance and to a local hospital, where I was stabilized and prepared to be moved to another facility, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Jacksonville. They apparently figured out that I was going to need to have a stent inserted into an artery, and St. Vincent’s has the catheterization lab to do the work.
One bummer about the trip over to St. Vincent’s: they wanted to life flight me, but the weather was too rough to fly the helicopter. The county EMT crew put me back in their ambulance, invited Kelly to ride in the front seat and off we went.
At St. Vincent’s, they wheeled me into the cath lab and prepped me for the procedure. I asked for a priest, and the on-call chaplin came in to give me the Anointing of the Sick shortly before they began the procedure to insert the stent. That consisted of the cardiologist inserting a long catheter into an artery on my right leg, next to my groin area. He then inserted the stent in the artery. Within an hour, I was in a bed in intensive care, where I actually caught the end of the Jets-Steelers game. Scoreboard.
I later found out what I did to myself. The artery was totally blocked by a blood clot. There was muscle damage as well, and the doctor said what happened is that when the muscle tissue was damaged, my heart reacted (as it’s supposed to) by trying to clot and stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, the clot clogged one of my arteries. When the EMTs arrived, they tried to open my arteries up with a shot of nitroglycerin, but I didn’t react. After I flatlined and they shocked me back, they injected an anti-clotting agent which opened the artery back up.
I now have a giant red welt on my chest from the defib paddles, and I’m still sore in that area. I’m on a regiment of pills that you have to see to believe, and I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks in followup tests and resting before I go back to work. My parents and niece flew down from New York, and my sisters and brother-in-law will be here Saturday. Lots of family, friends and work mates have called, visited, sent cards, flowers and cooked dinner for us. I can’t describe the feeling knowing that so many people care about what happened to me.
This was life or death, folks. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes or any tunnels of light, but I suppose I got as close as one could get. Want you eyes opened about stuff? Have one of these. Better yet, don’t and take my word that it sucks.
I have more stories about this, especially about the Patient from Hell (update: you can now read that here) with whom I had to share an ICU room for a while. That’s for later; now it’s nap time.