A year ago today, I felt like crap. That wasn’t really anything out of the norm for me. After spending three years in and out of the hospital without much hope for feeling better permanently, I had gotten used to feeling terrible.
But this time, it was a little different. Honestly, I didn’t feel any worse than I had on so many other occasions. Just… off. I wish I could describe it better than that, but that really is the best I can do. It’s a lot like driving your car. You drive it every day so you know what it is supposed to feel like. When it doesn’t run like it should, you notice. Someone else who didn’t drive it every day probably wouldn’t notice, but you do. You know something just isn’t right.
Well, my body is the same way. I am pretty in-tune with the goings on. This was different, and it was weird. Not super-alarming-weird, but weird nonetheless.
I can’t even really remember what time it was. After dark, but before super late. Normal ER hours in our household. I had really been trying to avoid the ER since my insurance had run out, but when Paul suggested it, it seemed like the right thing to do. I will give a shout out to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Katy, because their ER really never has a wait. They are super nice too, even when you are there all the time like I was. They took the normal info down, hooked me up to the EKG machine and did the vitals. I got back into a triage room quickly, where they did the standard blood work. It is also where I wait (sort of) patiently for the morphine to take the edge off the pain. There is always pain. It is just a matter of my tolerance for said pain.
Let me also say that I am not now, nor have I ever been a drug addict. Being addicted to anything sounds really time-consuming and pretty expensive, and I just don’t have that kind of drive. But, I can totally see why they keep that shit under lock and key. Damn.
Anyway, once the pain meds took the edge off, I began to drift in and out. Doctors bustle to and fro, but I don’t pay them much mind because it always takes them forever to come up with what to do next. But, surprisingly, they came in after a relatively short period to tell us that they were going to keep me. This is usually when Paul leaves to go take care of the pup, and I call him later to let him know what room I was in. It was old hat, at this point. He left and I laid around for a while, drifting in an out, until they came to move me to a different room in the ER. They told me that they were short-staffed, so a nurse from the ICU was going to hang out with me until they had a room open up. I really couldn’t be bothered with such information, as I was VERY sleepy.
When I woke up, the ICU nurse introduced herself and told me that they finally had a room ready for me. It finally clicked that they were talking about a room in the ICU! “Um… why?” This was certainly NOT standard procedure for me. I have been very sick, but never ICU sick. This began to worry me. She never really answered me. She mentioned something about “increased cardiac enzymes” but that didn’t mean anything to me.
After a day or so in the ICU, a cardiologist I had never met before came in and explained that they were going to have to do a Heart Cath on me. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is basically where they go up through a vein in your leg to your heart to take a look under x-ray things to see what is going on. He also explained that they could do the procedure in that hospital, but they couldn’t do anything invasive if something was wrong. They didn’t do that kind of thing there. Normally, they would transfer the patient to another hospital to do the procedure, but since I didn’t have insurance…
Mental Note: Never have a heart attack without medical insurance.
But, please note that at no point has anyone said the words “heart attack.” Ever. So, my dumb brain just keeps on questioning what they are really doing, and what’s the big deal.
It wasn’t until the next day that a doctor making rounds stopped in to my room (I was moved briefly to a regular room, but back to ICU when I couldn’t stop barfing) that I got my first inkling of what was really going on. “Doctor, I just feel like CRAP! Seriously, I usually feel a little better by now, but I am constantly sick!” She looked at me like I was a little looney and said, “Well, you had a heart attack, right? That usually takes some time to feel better.”
Floored. I was absolutely floored. Here’s the deal – Boatloads of pain meds mixed with anti-anxiety meds don’t lead to the quickest uptake. Seriously. I didn’t get it. Why can’t they just freaking tell you these things?
I would also like to mention that all of this was happening exactly one week before Paul and I were getting married! We had a serious conversation that we might just have to get married in the ICU with my dress thrown over me! Not great timing.
I won’t go into all of the boring details (probably too late, but oh well), but the point is that day really changed my life. I found that my condition (so rare that none of the doctors I know had ever heard of it – except the cardiologist) was 100% caused by stress. Long periods of emotional stress can cause your heart to balloon out and you can die (Google Broken Heart Syndrome aka Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy). I had no heart disease, and no blockages. I am extremely fortunate that the condition is 100% curable and manageable through stress-reducing activities.
I was released the Monday before my wedding (Saturday) straight from the ICU. It was actually really funny, because NO ONE walks out of the ICU. It took them hours to even process the discharge papers because they had never done it before. What can I say? I’m a freak! We were married six days later and ended up returning to business as usual. I can say that I have taken a lot of measures to reduce the amount of stress in my life, and I have stopped letting everything get to me.
During this month of Thanks, I am thankful for so many things, but mostly I am thankful that I am still here – snark and all. I am also thankful that we decided to keep pushing to find out what was wrong, even when most of the doctors just thought I was nuts. You know when things aren’t right – You have to be your own champion in these things. Just keep pushing and eventually, you will find the answer.