Category Archives: Heart

Dear Heart of Mine – Part 2

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Dear Heart of Mine – Part 2
broken_heart

Your shout of pain subsided by the time I walked into the ER admitting area.   It looked like a regular reception area with a clerk behind a waist high counter.  I told her I was having chest pain expecting her to issue a call for action.  Instead she asked for my name and other demographic information.  I wanted to scream that I needed help and not an interview.

ambulatory-admittance

        I gripped the counter and looked around to verify that I had entered the correct door.  All the chairs in the waiting area were empty.  None were located near the counter.  Did I need to make a dramatic scene to get a response?  My nurse midwifery ability to appear calm was defeating me.

I made eye contact, took a deep breath and asked for a ……. chair.  That was the cue needed to summon the ER staff.  They appeared in a flurry from a narrow hallway beside the counter.  My body was eased into a wheelchair, and banded while a purple haired technician made introductions.

The smell of bleach assaulted my nostrils assuring me of the area’s sanitation and insured my consciousness.   You remained silent as my nurse yelled out our designated room number around the corner in a less odorous space.

Within minutes I was gowned, given nasal oxygen, hooked up to numerous ECG leads, blood drawn and an IV started.  The purple haired tech asked me questions about you throughout the preparations.  Your vocalizations had not returned and only my shoulders and neck felt discomfort. It was now 2:30AM.

A calm acceptance permeated my being.  I no longer felt the need to do anything.   It felt wonderful to just let go of fear and float in the cocoon of attention.

I recalled stories from humans attacked by wild animals and their description of similar feelings – as if their body secreted an acceptance drug to ease their transition.

The doctor informed me that he wanted me to be admitted to the hospital for further observation and test.   Although my initial results were within normal range, his experience predicted a delayed response from my body.

You continued to remain quiet as if you knew yelling was no longer necessary.  This medical staff spoke your language.

During morning rounds the Cardiologist visited my bedside.  He told me the test confirmed that I’d had a heart attack or myocardial infraction (MI) and described the recommended procedure to determine the severity – an angiogram or cardiac catheterization of the heart.

Depending on the results, a stent could be placed to open any blocked coronary arteries during the procedure.  If the damage were more extensive, open-heart surgery would be scheduled.

The nurse played an educational  DVD, which emphasized the low risk of the procedure.  My body would be mildly sedated so I could participate as needed.  You felt like a small child cuddled within me exchanging comfort in our silence.

And then the adventure began.

cardiac_cath_lab

         My bed was pushed into the Cardiac Catheter Lab.  The room echoed a Sci-Fi scenery of white on white walls, ceilings and floor.  Large thin screened monitors were placed around the central operating bed where I was transferred and covered with warm white blankets. The air smelled fresh and cool.

Machines monitored your rhythm and an X-ray unit hung above my chest displaying you on the screens.  The Cardiologist chose my radial (arm) instead of my femoral (leg) artery to insert the thin tube.

I watched your arteries expand with pulses from the catheter and spread open to the flow of blood. Your arteries were explored for blockage and two stents were placed to hold the vein open where the closure was severe.  It looked like a ballet was being performed to unheard music.

[This video is a visual representation of the procedure – though not mine.]

The following day we were discharged into the supportive embrace of my brother and sister-in-law for recovery in their charming country home.

Heart of mine I promise to listen to your sweet voice and honor the rhythm of life you beat out with joy.   I will be attentive to your need to rest as we stroll our life path and savor all the beats that remain.  Without you, I can’t feel life.

Heart of Mine – Part 1

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Dear Heart of Mine, Part 1

Happy Heart

         I heard your cry during my daily walk and made an appointment with my doctor to help interpret your message.

He told me to stop walking on my favorite hills and to rest when you shouted out to me.  He didn’t ask you anything and decided not to perform the standard ECG test because it would be difficult to translate.

ECG          Instead he focused on unconfirmed medical diagnoses and gave me a machine to measure my blood sugar. He signed me up for a food class without learning of my current heart healthy diet.

         Over the next few weeks you continued to shout out to me.

heartacheI responded as instructed by the doctor until I could no longer walk without your interruptions.  I reported your odd utterances to friends hoping for some insights.  Everyone advised I visit a doctor &/or contact the emergency response system – 911.

         The concept of calling 911 every time you spoke felt extreme to me and expensive ($1,000 +/ call).  You always quieted after a few minutes anyway.

I was not ignoring you.  I didn’t know it was you.

         I began searching for a new doctor – one that would listen to you.  There are only a few medical practices in my community open to new patients.  I eventually received an appointment four weeks in the future.

While waiting for my appointment, I stopped walking and reduced my physical activities.  You were quiet and I was pain free.

I also researched the emergency care facilities in my community.  I learned that Urgent Care centers did not treat chest pain and hospital emergency rooms (ER) are the destination of choice.

ER

They have the most experience in interpreting the heart’s language. I arranged for a neighbor to drive me to the ER, if needed.

Prepared, I focused on waiting to meet my new doctor.

       One evening after dinner you began protesting in a new language that felt a lot like I had eaten too much.  I took some antacids and lay down to sleep.

You woke me at 2 AM screaming.  My body felt hot, sweaty and nauseated.  Did I have the flu?

In response to my attentiveness, my chest felt a stabbing pain that moved down both arms and up my neck.

heart_attack1 

      I finally heard you and knew what to do.   It was time to visit the ER.