Friday, April 11, 2008

This pain in my heart...

This week is Spring Break week for our kids. Since they have been off from school, I decided that I would also take this week for vacation. We had no extravagant plans, but were doing many little 'special' things: trip to our fav ice cream shoppe, a campfire in the backyard complete with marshmallows, a trip to the BK root beer stand, a trip to the mall for lunch in the food court - things like that. I also 'hired' my oldest sons to help me prep and paint the kitchen. We were making great progress. I say "were", because Wednesday that changed.

I was painting over our sink when the first pain hit. Kind of like a knife, real sharp and painful. It wasn't consistent but 'twinged' over a period of about 20 minutes. It took my breath away a couple of times. I decided to finish the part that I had started painting and then take a breather. This pain is not new. I've experienced it several times over the last few years. Each time I thought about the fact that it could be heart-related, but would stubbornly refuse to get it checked out. This time it just bothered me a little more than usual. The pain subsided, but I was still uncomfortable for the rest of the afternoon. We had our Wednesday night activity with the teens, and it wasn't too bad - so I thought that it was the 'same old, same old'. After returning home, I was sitting on the couch and the pain started to intensify, which caused me to tell my wife. You have to understand our relationship - we think identically...most of the time. I told her what I was experiencing "just in case I woke up dead". I tend to make light of these situations... she wasn't buying in this time. She insisted that I go to the hospital and get checked out.

So I did. It's amazing what happens when you walk into an ER and tell them that you're having chest pains. All of a sudden you become the center of attention. I had barely gotten laid down on the bed when I was covered with sticky patches, hooked up to an EKG machine, being poked by one nurse for IV and heart 'markers' - all the while being interrogated by another nurse as to my health. I kept insisting it was probably 'just gas', but they weren't buying. I'm no doctor, but simply put, the nerves in your chest area are used both by the heart pain as well as gastrointestinal (right word?) areas. That being said, it's hard at times to tell if you're having a heart attack or just have eaten the wrong foods.

The pain began to fade and as time passed, the blood work was showing normal activity. My blood pressure (BP) was erratic however and somewhat high. I was being monitored heavily, and told to let the nurses know if the pain came back. They had already given me 4 chewable aspirin, and I really didn't want to take the nitro they offered. But when the pain came back, so did the nurse with the nitro. I had one placed under my tongue and it was amazing what happened. Nitro is supposed to dilate the blood vessels to allow more oxygen to the heart - (my understanding). I'm sure it did, but my heart-rate shot way up and my BP drop 30 point in just a couple of minutes. In 5 minutes the BP dropped well over twice that. It was kinda crazy, and my head hurt too. The pain in my chest went away.

I thought I'd be good to go, but they had different ideas. They were admitting me, to take blood markers every 4 hours and had scheduled a stress test in the morning. I wasn't going any where. My wife went home at my insistence, because by this point, (1:30am Thursday), I was just 'hanging out'. They transferred me to my room, and it was a waiting game from there. I tried to sleep, but couldn't. The nurses at Kosciusko Community Hospital were great... all of them. The blood work techs came in as scheduled and drew blood every four hours. By 7:00am the Nuclear Radiologist (?) came in to pump radioactive sludge into my veins. I would have pictures taken of my heart an hour later and then the stress test. The pics lasted for 12 minutes, as I laid 'perfectly still' - and when they wheeled me into the stress test room, I was getting kinda keyed up. I know they inject you with something that stresses your heart as you walk on a treadmill - and I wasn't looking forward to it. My BP showed that: 150/104. The stress test went well however and off I went to eat a "highfat" breakfast. Then an hour later, more nuclear pics.

A long story short: the doctors eliminated the possibility of heart attack, and my heart appears to be functioning well. My cholesterol is high, and again I was reminded of the need to exercise and eat well. The doctors think that the pain is simply muscle related, not gas related - and so it appears that I have to just 'live with it', which is no biggie.

I had some time to think about things as I lay in the hospital bed all covered with patches and gadgets, etc. Physical care should be a primary concern. I am blessed with a relatively healthy body, and God expects me to be a good steward of it. Also, I was reminded in a weird way about the brevity of life. I need to be a good steward spiritually as well. I won't be around forever.

I thank God for His goodness to me and my family, and I so appreciate the healthcare system we have in this country. God continues to use a variety of things to show me His workings in my life.

Well, the coffee mug is empty, and I need to get a refill. Take care, thanks for reading - and as always: brew it strong and drink it steaming hot!

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