Friday, August 11, 2006

What’s Worse Than 24 Hours in the Hospital? 24 Hours in the Hospital When You Should Be at Lollapalooza

[that there folks is a shot of my hand with two tubes sticking out of it, waiting in the ER. Attractive, no? These are just two of about 5 tubes sticking out of me over the course of a day.]

I woke up Wednesday morning with a slight pain in my chest, a tightness that hurt when I tried to take a deep breath. By Thursday morning the pain had spread to up into my shoulders. I made an appointment to see my doctor for 11 am that morning.

Fast forward to 11:30 when my doctor is reviewing my EKG with a slight look of confusion and concern. “Your heartbeat is pretty low. Are you a runner?” “No, swimmer.”

My doctor, who never takes his eyes off my EKG reading, leaves the room. “I’ll be right back.” About 3 minutes later he returns.
  • Doctor: “Based on your EKG reading, I can’t rule out the possibility that you’ve had a heart attack.”
  • Me: "?"
  • Doctor: “Now, I’m reasonably sure it isn’t a heart attack because you’d probably be in a lot more pain.
  • Me: "??"
  • Doctor: “But since you are having pain and your EKG is inconclusive, I’ve called St. Joseph's, faxed them your readings, and they’re waiting for you. Just go right to the Emergency Room and they’ll be able to do more tests to determine your problem.”
  • Me: "???"“???”
So Richard drives me off the emergency room, where they took another EKG, poked me with more needles, did an echocardiogram and had me lay around until the preliminary results came back.

All this time I knew deep down that I had not suffered a heart attack, and that this was probably something muscle-related, and that this whole things was a big inconvenience. I will be out of here in an hour, I say to myself.

The cardiologist comes in. “Your heartbeat is pretty low. Are you a runner?” “No, swimmer.” He tells me that it probably isn’t a heart attack, but my heartbeat is irregular. So they’d like to keep my for 24 hours for observation, taking blood every 6 hours to see if there’s any change.

Forget for a moment that I might have something seriously wrong with me, I’m pissed that I’m stuck here for 24 hours. But I do the math and at least I’ll be out of here by 1pm, in time to catch most of Lollapalooza tomorrow.

I’m stuck in the ER for 4 hours(!) while I wait for a bed to open in the cardiac ward upstairs. During that time I get to hear the conversation between the old lady in the bed next to me and her nurse:
  • Old lady: “Nurse, I need a vomit pail.”
  • Nurse: “Why do you need a vomit pail?”
  • Old lady: “Because I am going to vomit.”
And hese are the people that will be taking care of me tonight? This is going to be a long 24 hours.

When I get up to my room, the guy in the next bed is checking out. As he’s leaving he says to me: “This hospital sucks.” “Sorry?” “This hospital is no good. I come in here yesterday complaining of chest pains and they don’t do nothing. Now I leave and I still have chest pains.”

“OK, well, take care then.”

That evening I get more tests, more blood taken (all seems normal). It still hurts when I breathe deep, but doctors think it is probably something muscle-related (duh). But as a precaution, I’m scheduled for a stress test “first thing in the morning” and then I can go home. Which is good because if I’m out by, say, 10am Richard and I can meet up with my friend Kathleen (who is flying in from Portland in the morning) and catch all of Lollapalooza.

The doctor on call for the evening asks me a series of questions and takes my heartbeat. “Your heartbeat is pretty low. Are you a runner?” Christ, doesn’t anybody talk to each other in this hospital?

To make a long story short, the doctors couldn’t decide which stress test to give me, so every time they changed their minds, the test got delayed. And delayed. And delayed. Forget getting out at 10am, I’ll be lucky if I’m out by dinner time. By noon I am furious and impatient, hissing at the nurses, who can’t give me a straight answer about what time my stress test has been rescheduled for. Richard decides to stay with me and forgo Panic! At the Disco, a band he’s been looking forward to seeing for weeks. This makes me even more upset.

At 3pm (27 hours after I arrived) I am wheeled down to have my stress test. The nurse on call is one that was with me when I checked in.
  • Nurse: “So it looks like we’re going to get you out of here on time this afternoon.”
  • Me: “How do you figure? They said ’24 hours’ and it’s been 27.”
  • Nurse: “Well, that’s OK. Did you have somewhere you had to be?”
  • Me: “Well, I paid $150 to go to Lollapalooza, which started about 3 hours ago.”
  • Nurse (clearly not grasping how dire my situation was): “Don’t you hate it when life gets in the way of your plans?”
  • Me: “Oh, is that what it is – ‘life’ getting in the way? Because I thought it was the hospital.
My stress test consists of me running on a treadmill at full speed for 12 minutes, as the grade continues to get steeper. I am absolutely miserable now.

But by 5pm I am checked out. Too tired and pissed off to head over to Grant Park. At least I have Saturday and Sunday.

And the chest pains? I still have them, but they’re getting better (thanks to the meds). I have Pluracy, but I will be fine, just like my ticker (irregular heartbeat and all).


classyandfancy said...

Why are they assuming that only runners have the glacier-like heartbeats? Why didn't they ask you if you had a daily cocktail of sedatives and booze? Man, what kind of training are these people going through, is it a scantron test that you can write all the answers down on your arm?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

They didn't ask you if you took any "nicotine, valium, vicatin, marijuana, extacy, and alcohol" or "c-c-c-c-cocaine!!!!!!!!!"

Shaun Singapre said...

Lollapa-luracy. What a complete nightmare, my friend. I think you heart is aching because you miss lovely Rich. Glad to hear you are better. s. Burger King's share price has now recovered! :-)))

darci ann said...

holy crap! this is a terrible story. I'm speechless. what's going on the in the world??!! My roommate, who's 30, has to have her freaking gall bladder out. WTF and my niece was bit by a penguin at the zoo. We're all going to hell. I'm watching the skies for falling frogs today.

hope you're feeling better. I can't believe i have to take organic chemistry to ask someone why they need a vomit pail. Boo hiss.

Prashant Sridharan said...

Sounds like a stressful experience. It's a good thing they didn't have to amputate.

Hope you're feeling better.

BTW, Prozac has been acting funny all week long. I thought maybe it was a premonition of an earthquake because they say dogs can sense these things. Maybe it's just that the world is going to end. I figure that's as good an excuse as any to max out my credit cards with Dom Perignon and Cheetos.

Rich said...

My poor baby and his dicky-ticker! Seriously though who wouldn't have given up the first day of Lolla for a day of fun and frivolity in Hospital with you?? Considering how fetching you were in that gown! Boom chica wow wow! Missing you.

karen said...

But what I really want to know...who (while in the midst of having a possible heart attack) thinks to take a picture of themselves in the hospital. And, do you have any more? From you, I would have at the very least expected a hospital gown fashion show, detailing how to accessorize with the lovely crash cart, or how to maximize your I.V. drip potential.

Glad to hear you at least made two days of Lolla. I can only imagine what you would have been slipping into the staff coffee pot at the hospital otherwise.