Friday, August 20, 2010

Day Fourteen: You Know You're Giving Me A Heart Attack-Ack-Ack-Ack-Ack-Ack

In today's blog post, space and time will be warped. I am skipping the account of day thirteen of the epic road trip to give you all my excuse for not posting on day fourteen: emergency hospitalization (SPOILER ALERT: I am just fine). Here's the story: I was out for lunch with Mom, Ron and the boys at a local Venice pasta joint called Luna, which features walls plastered with cheeseball Italian-American paraphernalia and mementoes. Having consumed a light breakfast in preparation for Luna's legendarily massive portions (which they do not bill as "family-size" - they seem to enjoy the bait-and-switch involved in making first-time visitors think they're getting a normal plate of pasta and then GOTCHA! An entire pound!), I dug into the garlic bread with gusto. Shortly thereafter, I started feeling something like the sensation of eating a peanut butter sandwich too quickly and having it get stuck on the way down (not that this happens to me ALL THE TIME or anything). Went to the ladies' to take a breather amidst several signed "Moonstruck" posters when I started feeling like I was going to pass out. Poked my head out the door and encountered Ike, who was en route to the men's. He went to get mom and Ron, who got me into a chair and hooked me up with an ice pack, etc. At that point, I was thinking I was having some heat-related episode, since the entire state of Florida is heated with molten lava during the month of August and as you all know, I am a delicate flower. Half an hour later, I was being spirited away to the Venice ER in Ron's ginormous blue pickup truck.
So the first thing that happened was that my blood pressure was determined to be through the roof. I think it would have qualified as "through the roof" even if we had been in the Capitol Rotunda. They installed me in some sort of exam room and I spent the next hour or so laying prone, staring frantically around that the cast of thousands running all over the place and sticking enough needles in my arms to make me a suitable villain in a horror-movie sequel in which I'd be called "Pin-Arms." (this is a Wes Craven reference; try to keep up) At some point, I was informed that I had probably had a heart attack. WHA???? (Imagine record-scratching sound-effect, if you are old enough to know what that sounds like). Suddenly, the bottom dropped out and I began to think this wasn't going to be one of those IV fluids, try to eat more cheeseburgers types of doctor visits of which we ectomorphs are so fond. They had me sign a release form that started with a cardiac catheterization but also extended to angioplasty and open-heart surgery, if necessary. I am not lying when I say that I thought, "I never imagined I'd have anything in common with Dick Cheney."
So they wheel me up to the cardiac catheterization lab, which oddly-enough turned out to be my happy place. But not at first. The initial five minutes or so of my visit involved the four dudes who run the joint standing around me on the gurney and marveling at my relatively-young age for having a FREAKING HEART ATTACK. Sample quotes: "37? I thought that must be a misprint. 73 is what we usually get." and, accompanied by head-shaking, "Too young. Too young." Because I lament every grey hair and age blotch I accumulate with the passing years, the irony did not escape me that here I was, being kvelled over for being so youthful, and not only could I not enjoy it, I was not even wearing a cute dress from Anthropologie while it was happening.
They gave me a choice: hang around (indefinitely) and be "monitored," or be catheterized and "clear this thing up once and for all." I asked Head Cardiac Cath Dude (who looked like Jim Carrey, but less manic) which choice gave me better odds of getting home that night to the kids and sleeping in my own bed, and thus ended up selecting door #2. As it turns out, getting a cardiac catheterization - not so bad. They did it through my arm and I didn't feel a thing. I also got to see my blood vessels on television, which is cooler than you can possibly imagine. Add in the fact that I was sedated (YES, I did sing the Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" on the gurney; would you not have been disappointed with me if I hadn't?) and the additional plus that there was NOTHING AT ALL WRONG with my heart or blood vessels, and you have a fairly kick-ass cardiac catheterization experience all-around. No heart attack, no Cheney-stent, no swearing off cheese for the rest of my natural life.
We now move into phase two of my stay at the Venice, FL hospital. Theme song: "The Waiting Is the Hardest Part." The m.o. at this point was three-pronged: get my blood pressure down, get lots and lots of potassium into me, and incrementally deflate the very cool, Janelle Monae-esque clear plastic inflatable bracelet that was holding my cardiac cath wound shut. Prong one took the longest, but prong two was the worst. Did you know that intravenous potassium KILLS? Take my word for it. The second-worst pain I've ever experienced in a hospital, including giving birth with no anesthetic, was having a blood-pressure cuff tightened onto my filled-with-IV-potassium left arm. (worst: getting arterial blood gases taken. Avoid if possible) Also, I was seriously exhausted but could not sleep due to (a) my headache, and (b) the mechanized blood pressure machine that kept going off to alert the staff that my BP was still insanely high. I turned down the optional morphine LIKE AN IDIOT. Eventually, everything settled down and they let me go home at about ten PM, feeling wrung out but relieved. My entire epidermis is covered with every imaginable variety of medical adhesive. I have an unanticipated piece of souvenir jewelry. My kids and husband are certifiably freaked out. So what are the take-aways from this experience?
(1) The Venice FL ER does not mess around. You would have thought my swoon was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them. I had enough medical professionals in my room at one point to field a basketball team.
(2) My mom is (a) a hero for hanging with me in the hospital with no reading material for nearly eight hours, which I consider worse than what was happening to me. At least I was being distracted, and (b) such a hard-core dyed-in-the-wool conservative that she could not resist buttonholing various nurses and asking them if they didn't agree that my situation was a perfect example of why health-care reform is a terrible idea? What surprised me the most is that the nurses were all, "Oh, yes, I saw on Fox News that blah blah blah." I do not want to make my ER saga into a political discussion, but would just like to point out that after years of working for the City of Madison in a job where it is verboten for me to discuss politics with library patrons, it was very weird to hear hospital staff doing it. Even though Madison is a nearly uniform shade of blue and it's pretty safe to presume that every stranger wants to give Barack Obama a big, wet kiss, it still bothers me when library patrons put me on the spot with their political views. Even if I agree, I still try to respond with something like "It's interesting that you feel that way." It makes me feel like a therapist.
(3) For some reason, people kept asking me how tall I was. Every single nurse and doctor asked me this at some point. I am of a tallish but normal height. Plus, because my brain is warped by law school, I started thinking, "Isn't that a kind of leading question? How tall am I? Wouldn't it be more neutral to ask, 'What is your height?'"
(4) jokes of mine that fell flat in the heart-catheterization lab: (a) telling the doctors that I wouldn't object if they could come up with a medical pretext for shaving my head, since I've always wanted to see what it would look like; and (b) when the doctor asked for a "French 3 catheter" (apparently the unit of measurement for heart catheter tubing), I asked him if she shouldn't be calling it a "Freedom 3 catheter." HAR! Well, they can't all be winners.
(5) things that went though my head while swooning in the Italian-American restaurant festooned with signed movie posters: (a) wouldn't you think an Italian restaurant would not mis-spell Vincent Gardenia's last name? and (b) isn't it a stretch to consider a movie poster for "Dante's Peak" to be a piece of Italian-American memorabilia? Despite the fact that Dante Alighieri was Italian?
That is all. I apologize for the excessively long blog post but I don't want anybody to be worried about my health, which is fine. When I return to Madison, I do in fact plan to procure a book on how to format in Blogger.


Emily said...

Dude. I'm glad you're ok. Also, your blog is great.

Judy said...

OK, my heart is still pounding. (And yet I could not help observe how brilliantly you weave wit and drama and your incredible skill at creating tension.) Now I am going to go have a shot of whiskey to calm down.

amy fenn said...

You've been published to the ultimate board: the staffroom cork! A collective sigh of relief from all here. Also, I thought your jokes were totally funny! You're a super-trooper! -amy